Threads of Change in the 19th Century America

A Museum Exhibition Webquest


Your preservation company is competing with five or six other firms for a $10,000,000 contract to provide an exhibit of 19th century themes to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. This is a brand new selection concept for the Museum.
Each company has been asked to provide four ideal examples such as a quote from a piece of literature, a work of art, a piece of music or an artifact which illustrate the 19th century Threads in American History: Romanticism, Transcendentalism, Abolitionism, Feminism and Industrialism. 
Each member of your group is an expert in one of these Threads, and you feel confident that you can find just the right items to include in the exhibit and enjoy the fame and fortune of working with one of the preeminent institutions in the country.
Your company will deliver an oral presentation of  your findings to a committee from the Museum. You must be able to justify to this group that your selections are the best representations for this groundbreaking exhibit.

Which examples will your company choose to present to the selection committee?



In order to fulfill the task of the museum project, each member of your group will investigate one of the major philosophies of the 19th century. Individually you must find four examples such as a work of art, music and/or a quote from a literary selection which represents the philosophy of the Thread you are investigating.

1. Each member of your group should identify his/her area of expertise, i.e., one of the literary Threads.

2. Go to the Thread section and begin reading background information and recording ideas to develop a personal definition of the philosophy. This definition could include representative quotes and must answer the question: How did the Thread you explored influence change in the 19th century?

3.Explore the resources to find representations to include in your company's presentations to WOW the committee. All chosen images, music etc. must be cited.

5. Meet with the other members of your company to discuss your findings and assist each other in making final selections for your oral presentation.  (rubric)






developed by Vicki Seed

Humanities and Communications Magnet

Eastern Middle School, Silver Spring, Md.

last updated 1-06-03


Eureka! You've got it! Just the right examples. You and your group are ready to create your presentation which you will submit orally to the selection committee.  Meet and plan your presentation now. (rubric)  


Congratulations! Your company's presentation illustrated five of the social philosophies of 19th Century America. These philosophies influenced literature, politics, art and music as well as society's values. 

While you were watching other company's presentations, did you see choices similar to your own?  Did you see choices which you liked better than the selections your company made?
 Can you see evidence of these threads in today's society? Is change represented in similar ways in modern society?

Picture Sources:

Romanticism: Louisa Mae Alcott

 Transcendentalism: Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Abolitionism: Frederick Douglass

 Feminism: Susan B. Anthony

 Industrialism: Andrew Carnegie