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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What's the best way for me to learn how to use the Minnesota Communities web site?

There are several spots to check on the site to learn more about it. You're already in the "Overview" section, which has several sections that will teach you about the site's features.

Q. What is a "unit?"

A "unit" is a set of materials based on a particular topic. The materials consist of historical sources, transcriptions, and activities.

Q. What kinds of sources will I find in the units?

There is a range of materials that make up the historical sources in the units. There are numerous paper-based materials like newspaper articles, letters, book excerpts, and a variety of documents, diagrams, and maps. There are also numerous photographs of people and places, as well as images of objects in the Minnesota Historical Society collections.

Q. Are all of the sources primary sources?

This is a tricky question to answer, as people who have worked with primary sources know. It's probably best answered that not all of the sources about a topic necessarily come from the exact time of a given topic or from an actual eye-witness. Wherever possible we chose materials created at the time by someone who had first-hand experience with the topic. Opinions can easily vary — even among historians — on whether or not a source is in fact a primary source. It will make for some interesting discussions for you and your class to consider the value of the sources used in the units, and whether or not they are "primary" sources.

Q. Are the units under the "Communities" menu different than the ones under "Themes"?

No, they are the same. There is a total of thirty units. They are organized in two ways: by where they came from (Communities); and by what they are about (Themes). This was done to make the site more flexible, so that anyone interested in a particular topic will be able to see all of the units without having to jump from menu to menu.

Q. Why don't the units cover each community's history up through the present?

While each unit can stand on its own, we have also attempted to choose topics that have some relationship to each other within a region. We selected a range of years that we used as boundaries in gathering materials about each topic. This was done consciously to allow your learners to establish a mind set without having any anachronisms slip into their thinking. For example, if the units ran through present times, a unit showing modern Hibbing transportation might contain current maps. If students carry over a mental image of highways and railways, it could undercut the experience of exploring an inaccessible region that's an important part of the Prospecting unit.

Q. Will more communities eventually be covered?

It is our hope to continue to grow the site. However, the scope of the grant that was made available to create this site provided only for developing the initial phase and the three current communities. Whether or not more communities are added in the near future depends on whether funds for further development become available.

Q. How long will the Minnesota Communities web site be available?

As there is only minimal cost associated with maintaining the site on the Internet, it will be available to you indefinitely. It was officially launched in October 1999, and there are no set plans to remove it at any particular date. The more it gets used, the better the chances it will stay around for a long time!

Q. Have the digitized images of the sources been changed at all?

Yes they have. In order to make text-oriented sources more legible, they have commonly been enlarged. Conversely, very large charts or photographs have been reduced to keep download times to a minimum. Large sources may also have been cropped to feature only the section which is relevant to the unit; putting up an entire newspaper page for example seemed unnecessary.

Q. Why are the text-oriented sources transcribed onto the unit pages?

Digitizing text-oriented materials is difficult. The resolution of the image (the number of "pixels" per inch it can display) affects how well a curved line can be displayed. Increasing the resolution, while creating a better image, would also create a larger file size that would be difficult to display over the Internet in a timely fashion. Therefore, in order to have the images download quickly, we were forced to create low resolution images with small file sizes. This affects how legible any text-oriented materials will be, especially handwritten ones. We have provided both an image of the original source and a transcription of its content. This provides your students with a readable form of the source material, but also lets them view it as it originally appeared.

Q. Won't the Activity questions be ruined if my students can get the answers by just looking at the drop-down list?

That depends on how you want to use them. The questions will not be useful to you if you are looking for an online test of your students knowledge. But remember: the glass is half full too! The questions in the Activities will help guide your students in working with the materials, posing relevant questions, then providing immediate feedback. Whenever possible the questions have also been written to be as open-ended as possible: Our answer is usually not the only answer. There's still plenty of opportunity for your students to offer their own solution and maybe even discuss it with you or other students.

Q. Why would I need to download QuickTime?

Apple's QuickTime products allow your computer to play movies and other types of visual files. In the Tours section the Communities web site has a special type of media file called a QuickTime Virtual Reality movie (QTVR). It allows you to view a 360° view of an object or location. If you visit the Tour page and get a picture, you already have QuickTime installed. If on the other hand you get no picture or maybe a message that you don't have what you need to view the page, you will need to install QuickTime. A link to installing QuickTime is provided below.

Q. What are the Tours for?

Each site has an Historical Tour (St. Anthony aslo has a QTVR tour as described above). These tours are intended to give you and your students a look at the sites as they appear today as compared to how they previously appeared. The tours offer a little more insight into the areas, plus they're fun! Of course, there's nothing like the real thing, but this is our way of bringing the community to you and your students.

Q. Can I print the pages of the Minnesota Communities web site?

In fact, we encourage you to print some of the pages of the site! You'll find it helpful to print lesson plans, and may want to print hard copies other pages to use when planning your lessons.

Q. Are there any copyright issues that I need to be aware of?

Yes there are, but as long as you are using the site materials with your students in your classroom for the purpose of education you should be fine. If you have any other questions, check the copyright link at the bottom of the site's pages to see the Minnesota Historical Society's copyright policy.

Q. How should I use the Timelines?

Like the Tours, the timelines are offered to add some extra perspective for the unit. Seeing what existed before, at the same time, and after a topic being studied can offer insight into why things happened the way they did. Seeing what was happening not only locally but both state-wide and nationally offers deeper perspective still. Though the Timelines are not directly linked to the units, they are interesting and fun pages that you may want to let your students explore as a way to introduce the units.

Q. What is the Gallery for?

The Gallery is a collection of all of the source images used by the Minnesota Communities site. It's one more way that the site presents its material in a flexible manner. Anyone interested in a particular type of source can view all of the examples the site has to offer without jumping from unit to unit. The Gallery may also be a way to get your students interested in a unit.