Picture This: California's Perspectives on American History is a resource for teachers and students to learn about the experiences of diverse peoples of California by using primary source images from the Oakland Museum of California's collections. Organized into eleven time periods spanning from pre-1769 to the present, more than 300 photographs, drawings, posters, and prints tell stories from the perspectives of different ethnic groups. Historical contexts are provided to offer a framework of California's role in relation to American history.
The National Archives state that primary sources, "fascinate students because they are real and they are personal: history is humanized through them." Picture This invites students to examine the historical record, encouraging them to connect history with real people and explore how images tell stories and convey historical evidence about the human experience. History becomes more than just a series of facts, dates, and events.
When students view images of California's ethnically diverse peoples, they touch the lives of those people. Examining photographs of African or Chinese Americans in California in the 1890's provides a deeper understanding of the events of the time period. Students realize that while America is a nation of immigrants. California history includes ethnically diverse people from around the world, actively engaged in responding to events of their times. The Oakland Museum of California's collections tell the story of California and, in doing so, showcase an incredibly rich diversity of perspectives; California, after Indonesia, is the most diverse place in the world.
Studying California history provides an evocative lens through which to understand the history of the United States. As Wallace Stenger writes, "California is like the rest of the United States-only more so." In the mid 1960's, California replaced New York as the country's most populated state, thereby giving us, says American historian Patricia Nelson Limerick, "a new way to think about national history." Picture This provides material specific to California's history and, more generally, how that history has influenced, impacted and reflected American history.
We invite you, teachers and students, to use these images and discover the powerful stories behind them. Through recognition, inquiry, and discussion we can realize a richer, more meaningful history of our nation.