House Clues
This House
Your Visit

Go Back in Time
For the PressReading List and LinksFor Teachers Did You Know?
Using This Site with Your Class

General overview:

The focus of the exhibition Within These Walls… is a 2 ˝ story frame house from Ipswich, Massachusetts and the stories of five families who made the house their home. Covering five time periods from 1757-1945, this Web site introduces historical evidence from the exhibition and shows not only how historians researched this house, but also how you and your students can research the built environment.

National Standards for U.S. History: This site covers Eras 2, 3, 4, 6, 8

Distance Learning Program

Produced by Mass Interaction for grades 7-12, this three-part video series is designed to teach students research skills, generate ideas for uncovering historical evidence in students' own communities, neighborhoods, and families, and to suggest ways they can write about their findings. These programs address the national standards for writing and using original sources in research, and have many applications for classes studying American history and the social sciences. 

Program 1: May 15th. LIVE "virtual tour" of the original site in Ipswich, Massachusetts. 

Program 2: May 22nd. LIVE "virtual tour" of the Within These Walls... exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Behring Center. 

Program 3: May 29th. Discussion of the four types of historical evidence used by the Smithsonian to reconstruct the past: documents, images, objects, and oral history/traditions.

Classroom Activities

1. Go Back in Time Web Activity

Designed for ages 10 and older, this web activity introduces students to the Ipswich house and historical evidence relating to five families who lived in the house.


Students will be able to identify various types of primary sources used by historians to study the past. 
Students will also be able to describe life in each of the time periods, based on their observations of these sources.

Have students go through the activity either individually or in pairs. The house is presented as a time machine that transports students to five different historical periods. Students must analyze the evidence to determine which time period they have "landed" in. Each section includes historical clues--objects, images and documents--to make the point that historians study different types of historical evidence. Through class discussion or student essays, have students describe what was most memorable or informative about the activity and why. Additional activity: have students write a travel brochure for other time travelers about their favorite time period.

National Standards for U.S. History: Eras 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, Standard 1: Chronological Thinking, Standard 2: Historical Comprehension, Standard 3: Historical Analysis and Interpretation

2. House Detective: Finding History in Your Home

This printable guide shows students how to research the place where they live and can be used as a tool for individual or small group research.

Students will conduct research on their home or local building and will be able to describe their research process and summarize their conclusions based on analysis of the research.

Long or short-term project: Students should choose their home or a local building and follow one or more of the research ideas in the guide. Depending upon the amount of time available, a long-term project could include a more in-depth investigation of a topic using several sections of this guide, while a short-term project could focus on one section. A class trip to the local courthouse or office of public records would give students firsthand experience of historical research and enhance this activity.

National Standards for U.S. History: Eras chosen by student; Standard 2: Historical Comprehension, Standard 3: Historical Analysis and Interpretation; Standard 4: Historical Research Capabilities

3. How Has Your Neighborhood or Community Changed?

The built environment changes over time. The town of Ipswich, Massachusetts is featured in this Web site. The neighborhood around Elm Street, where the house in the exhibition was located, changed in many ways. This activity encourages students to think about how and why the built environment changes.

Students will be able to identify a map as a source of historical information. 
Students compare two maps of the same area and identify several examples of change over time.

Have students explore the Web site and time-machine activity. When they are familiar with the five families who lived in the Ipswich house, begin with a brief discussion of the Elm Street neighborhood in Ipswich, Massachusetts (refer to historical background below). Ask students the following question: 
- How do the five families that are featured in Within These Walls… reflect the changes that took place in the Elm Street neighborhood? 

After students have discussed how the neighborhood around Elm Street changed over time, have them look at your school's neighborhood or a particular area of your town or city. Contact your local historical society or courthouse about how best to work with their organization to obtain copies of several maps of your area from different time periods. Have your class analyze them and answer the following questions: 
1. How did different neighborhoods change over time? 
2. Where were the earliest settlements located? Why do you think they were located there? 
3. Did population and settlement patterns stay the same or change? How can you tell?

Historical background for teachers:
Ipswich, Massachusetts was incorporated in 1633 and was named after Ipswich, England in 1635. The town quickly built a mill, a place of worship and a burying ground. The neighborhood around Elm Street in Ipswich, where the house in the exhibition was located, gradually changed from relatively rural and higher income when the Choates built the house in the 1760s, to an industrial district with nearby factories on the river during the time that the Lynches and other immigrants rented an apartment in the house in the 1870s.

National Standards for U.S. History: Eras will vary, Standard 1: Chronological Thinking, Standard 2: Historical Comprehension, Standard 3: Historical Analysis and Interpretation, Standard 5: Historical Issues-Analysis and Decision-Making

4. Design a World War II Poster or Contemporary Poster

Posters helped communicate important government messages to the American public during World War II, including Mary Scott and her family in Ipswich. This activity emphasizes both the message and medium of posters created to promote the war effort in the 1940s.

Students will be able to analyze the message and design of World War II era posters and to use their observations to design their own poster.

Have students work in pairs or alone and analyze the posters from the collections of the National Museum American History and the National Archives available on the Web (links below). They should choose several posters and consider both the message each poster is conveying and the method and design used to convey the message. Then, students should identify and research a specific need during World War II and design their own poster to communicate that need. Or, have students choose a current local or national issue and create a poster to address it. Finally, have the class discuss which historical posters and student posters engaged them the most and why.

Historical background for teachers:
"World War II posters helped to mobilize a nation. Inexpensive, accessible, and ever-present, the poster was an ideal agent for making war aims the personal mission of every citizen. Government agencies, businesses, and private organizations issued an array of poster images linking the military front with the home front--calling upon every American to boost production at work and at home. Wartime posters united the power of art with the power of advertising to sell the idea that the factory and the home were also arenas of war."
- From Design for Victory: World War II Posters and the American Home Front, by William L. Bird, Jr. and Harry R. Rubenstein. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1998.

View poster images from the
National Museum of American History and the National Archives.

National Standards for U.S. History: Era 8, Standard 2: Historical Comprehension, Standard 3: Historical Analysis and Interpretation, Standard 5: Historical Issues-Analysis and Decision-Making


Ipswich Female Seminary Ipswich Female Seminary, Ipswich, Massachusetts, about 1850
Courtesy Ipswich Historical Society

The Ipswich Female Seminary, founded in 1828, gave women new opportunities by training them for professional careers as teachers. When Margaret Caldwell was a student there around 1850, curriculum ranged from chemistry to penmanship. One of the seminary's founders, Mary Lyon, later founded Mount Holyoke Seminary, considered the first women's college in the nation.