Amelia Earhart: General Project Description And Selection Criteria

Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, is a notorious figure in American, and aviation, history. She set many aviation records and served as an inspiration to many, especially to young girls. Undeniably a great pilot, she nevertheless was not the best of her time, yet she captured the public’s heart and became a spokesperson for aviation. Ever humble, she used her fame to advocate for women’s rights as well. Through her career she set out to prove two points: that it was safe to fly, and that women could perform the same tasks as men.

The site will be aimed mainly at younger students (sixth to ninth grade), to introduce historical and biographical research methodologies. It will provide primary documents and have students piece together information to explain Earhart’s widespread influence, past and present. The study of Earhart will also inherently provide an inspiration to the students, specifically a call for humbleness and to stand up for what one believes in, although great effort will be made to present all aspects of Earhart’s life, not just the positive. Although aimed at a younger audience, the site will be beneficial to those of all ages, whether long time fans of Earhart, those simply looking for more information on her, or even older students who have not received a proper introduction into historical research.

As the main objective of the site is to provide young students with primary documents in order to form their own opinion of Earhart, a wide array of documents will be selected to exemplify the multi-faceted life of the aviatrix. Specific questions will be posed to students, such as “Was Amelia Earhart the best woman pilot of her time?” and “Did Earhart’s physical image affect her fame?”. Thus, significant documents relating to the issues raised must be provided. It should be noted here that there are not necessarily right or wrong answers to the questions posed, as they serve to engage the student and encourage them to search through the documents and face the challenges that historians face. Among the written documents will be newspaper and tabloid clippings as well as personal letters. Photographs will also be used to help students visually connect to Earhart (as she was also known for her image). Photographs will be specifically chosen to highlight her physical features, as well as any connections with other prominent figures of the time. I will use sources from the Purdue University Library, New York Times, New York Herald Tribune, the Library of Congress, the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College, and other gathered visual materials.

In order to digitize the documents, permission will be needed from the repository holding the materials. As far as copyright, permission is needed of the copyright holder. In most cases, copyright was transferred to the repository when materials were donated. However, this only applies to material authored by Earhart herself. Any documents not authored by Earhart would be held by the creator of the work, and permission must be gained by the creator in order to use the work in the exhibit. Image duplication and permission fees may apply as well.

To begin, the project will not contain an excess of written materials, as young students’ attention spans must be captured. Ten to fifteen documents per question asked seems to be efficient, as the student should be able to gain a sense of the topic through the documents selected. To start, there will be three to four questions asked with documents relating to each question, with the option of maintaining the project and adding more questions at a later date, in order to keep students interested in revisiting the site. Again, documents must be carefully selected in order to avoid a single-sided view of the question posed.

The site will serve to instill an interest in historical research by prompting the student to become a “historical detective.” Earhart was chosen as the subject as she is a compelling figure, hopefully one in which young students are familiar with, on which there is much information. While significant information will be provided about Earhart, the study of her is not the primary purpose of the site, although a welcomed secondary one. In the end, students will become familiar with the challenges that historians face in order to write history.

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