Teaching tips: Using historical images
Teaching Guidance Web
(Kaiako and ākonga studying images)
This video shows ways to help students look critically at historical images to evaluate sources and perspectives.
(Historical photos and illustrations)
Photographers and artists create images to convey specific emotions, viewpoints, stories, and messages. Encourage students to consider the authorship and messages within images by asking critical questions.
(Kaiako and ākonga studying images)
Viewing a selection of images of the same historical event can offer ākonga different perspectives of a moment in time. Ask students to consider if the images tell the same story or if there are different points of view. This helps ākonga see that historical images can reflect a particular point of view or bias.
Student: “… they think they’re lower and they think they should respect their queen on purpose.”
Viewing a collection of images around a specific theme or topic helps students understand how the same issues have been experienced or reacted to differently across time and place.
Student: “The British probably would have just overrun the Māori, and be like, actually ‘we want that land too’.”
(Historical photo collection)
Adding words or concepts to the image collection can help ākonga develop deeper understandings about the images, and recognise relationships between different events. This leads to a deeper and more layered awareness of the past.
(Ākonga using laptops)
This video shows how you can use historical images to stimulate students’ curiosity about our past.
Student: “… five years after … cause I think the bridge took over cause there’s no more wakas.”
(Ākonga engaging with photographs and illustrations)
Photographs, paintings, and drawings can be used to help students launch or frame inquiries into Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories. There are many ways to facilitate students’ questioning of historical images.
“I wonder” charts can be used to capture students’ initial curiosity.
(Ākonga discussing photo)
You could ask ākonga to compose interview questions for a person in a picture.
“Would you guys wear those sorts of clothes to the beach today?”
(Ākonga collaborating on activities)
You could get students to choose part of a historical image that they want to zoom in on. As they pin a spot on an image, ask them to share what they want to know more about. Asking students to group or sequence a set of historical images can lead to rich discussions, where students share understandings, make connections, and ask questions. Historical images of your local area show how your place has changed over time and help to tell stories about the people, events, and places that are important locally.
Student: “I just recognise that hill there because now it’s filled up with trees, and my house is around...”
(Ākonga comparing historical images)
Then and now images are a powerful way of showing how our present is both similar and different to our past. Students can discuss and record these similarities and differences in various ways. Aerial photographs offer students a bird’s eye view of change over time. Ask ākonga to identify the differences between historic and recent aerial photos, noticing the new roads, bridges, housing, railways, shopping centres and schools that have been built. This can lead to deeper inquiries about the relationships of individuals and groups with the land, sea, and resources.
Historical images can be used by teachers and students to:
- introduce history topics and themes
- stimulate curiosity and questions about the past
- explore historical information through visual sources
- develop critical thinking skills by considering the authorship, sources, and perspectives of the images.
How to find historical images
Historical images can be found online and in books. The following three websites are good places to search for online images about Aotearoa New Zealand's histories:
Local sources for historical images include community museums, libraries, and art galleries. Students, whānau, iwi, and community groups might have old photos and paintings that share the history of your place.
When using historical images to support your histories programme:
- be sure to include Mātauranga Māori sources
- keep images of faces intact
- check image usage rights; most image rights don't allow you to modify the image and some require you to credit the image creator.
Curiosity cards for inquiry
These curiosity cards, developed by the National Library, use images to spark student inquiry about Aotearoa New Zealand's rich bicultural heritage. Use them to explore themes related to the He Tohu documents and exhibition, and Tuia — Encounters 250 (Tuia 250).
Each card has:
- an image of a New Zealand historic item, place, event, or person
- fertile questions to inspire inquiry about the image and its wider story
- a link for more resources to help with teaching and learning.