Connecting with America's past

July 8, 2022

RESEARCH & INNOVATION

As an American historian and Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities, former University of Richmond President Ed Ayers has helped connect people with America’s past. His latest project, New American History, focuses that effort on educators and is changing the way America’s students engage with the nation’s history.

New American History is an interactive tool that explores America’s past, harnessing the power of digital media, curiosity, and inquiry. It pools the resources of four projects — American Panorama, an interactive digital historical atlas of the United States out of UR’s Digital Scholarship Lab; Bunk, a curated remix of contemporary online content; The Future of America’s Past, Ayers’ PBS show; and Backstory, a wide-ranging podcast — to create free learning resources for teachers everywhere. 

In 2021 the American Association of School Librarians named New American History one of the “Best Digital Tools for Teaching and Learning.” The annual recognition honors electronic resources that provide enhanced learning and curriculum development for school librarians and their educator collaborators.

I want people to know that this is something UR is doing to help students. It’s so important that we try to help teachers of American history. When we do, we can improve the education of students all across the country.
headshot of Edward Ayers
Edward Ayers

TUCKER-BOATWRIGHT PROFESSOR OF THE HUMANITIES AND PRESIDENT EMERITUS

The project is supported by Ayers, the executive director; Annie Evans, director of education and outreach; Tony Field, managing editor of Bunk; and Rob Nelson, Justin Madron, and Nathaniel Ayers of UR’s Digital Scholarship Lab. 

“I want people to know that this is something UR is doing to help students,” Ayers said. “It’s so important that we try to help teachers of American history. When we do, we can improve the education of students all across the country.”

New American History is useful for teachers of U.S. history at all levels as it tells untold stories and shares missing pieces of America’s past. “That somebody created these incredible tools that I wished I had when I was in the classroom is just amazing,” Evans said. 

Evans engages with teachers and students across the U.S., providing educational outreach and supporting teachers in integrating New American History tools and resources — interactive maps, video, audio, and stories — into their classrooms. 

“Teachers want and need things that work digitally,” Evans said, which is why the tools are freely accessible with no paywalls or logins. “Students are hooked when they can interact with the information, and their engagement level goes up. They want choices.”

“New American History is a trusted place to learn about the complexities of American history,” Ayers said. “In the best way, it’s an endless project. There’s always new American history.”