Museum experience brings history to life for Bemis students
Museum experience brings history to life for Bemis students
Posted on 03/31/2017
Wide shot of museumIn 8th grade U.S. History, Bemis students have had the opportunity to explore an Underground Railroad Museum, set up in the school’s Presentation Room.  

“It actually felt like a museum,” reported Colin Hertel.  Shianna Venable agreed, “The slavery exhibits gives students a chance to explore the history of slavery in a unique way.”  

During their exploration students became "experts" on 3 of the 15 exhibits that are on display.

To become an expert on their assigned exhibit, students engaged in close and critical analysis of the individual documents and photos on display.  

Harman Singh comment on the variety of resources, “The museum gave me a chance to view different anti-slavery materials.  I looked at newspapers, pictures and convention meeting papers that were made during the movement.”

Melisa Salihovic described the exhibits this way, “The stories about people fighting to end slavery were displayed. This was important to learn because it showed the perspectives of those people who struggled.”

Bradey Carson added “This museum helps me understand what happened when slavery was going on.  All of this is going to stick in my head.” 

In these activities students analyzed primary and secondary sources related to all aspects of slavery from its beginning in America, up through the Civil War.   Through their exploration of the museum, students discovered powerful images, stories of courage, and a variety of tactics used in the fight to end slavery.  

Kyla Cummings commented on the value of this learning experience, “Learning about slavery in a museum format is so much better than using a textbook.  Having sources and information right in front of you makes the world of history come alive.”  

Maddie Kolioupoulos added, “I believe the most interesting thing about the museum is the fact that it gives us students the chance to look at the information ourselves.  Also, it allows us to have more of a “hands-on” experience, which I personally enjoy.”    


Following this close and critical look at the documents displayed, students used their expertise to answer critical thinking questions.  These questions required students to cite evidence from the museum exhibits to support the claims that they made.  

Santos Kipper reflected on the story of Jonathan Walker.  Walker had his hand branded as punishment and humiliation from smuggling slaves to freedom.

“I was struck by the fact that this punishment was designed to humiliate but actually it helped Walker gain followers in the fight against slavery,” Santos said.   Zaire Mitchell-Drayton was interested in the story of Harriet Tubman.

Drayton was shocked that “She risked her life nineteen times and still survived.  She ran away and went back to the south to save the lives of others.  She became a hero.” 

See the Bemis Facebook page for more of the museum.