Sunken Slave Ship Unit Driving Question: How do artifacts and their preservation impact communities?

Uncovering the Past Lesson Driving Question: How are artifacts and stories of past lives uncovered?
1. Engage students in analyzing the difference between permanent and traveling exhibits by reviewing several examples.
  • Tell students they will consider the difference between types of exhibits that are best suited for particular types of historical artifacts. Ask students to imagine the efforts and all the considerations involved in taking a historical artifact from the water, such as the Clotilda, and preserving its many parts and the stories that come with them.
  • Distribute the Traveling or Permanent Exhibit? handout to students.
  • Have students look at the following websites:
  • Have students answer the Traveling or Permanent Exhibit? handout questions related to the two types of exhibits.
  • Explain that by looking at the characteristics of these two styles of exhibits, they can better decide whether the Clotilda exhibit they will be proposing will be best suited as a traveling exhibit or a permanent one.

2. Student groups participate in a gallery walk and collaborate to determine the similarities and differences between traveling and stationary exhibits based on their reading and personal experience.
  • Divide the class into five groups.
  • Assign one student per group as the recorder, the person who will write the group’s response on the chart paper.
  • Place five charts at different locations around the room with the headers Who, What, When, Where, Why, and the corresponding questions below:
      • Who owns an artifact, and does that play a part in whether it should be permanent or traveling?
      • What exhibitions use the location of the exhibit as an actual part of the exhibit?
      • When might some exhibits be too difficult to transport from place to place?
      • Where might it make sense that the location of the exhibit is part of the exhibit itself?
      • Why would it be valuable to move an exhibit to multiple locations?
  • Provide students with three minutes of discussion and recording time at each station before rotating to the next.


3. Engage students in making the case for whether the Clotilda and its artifacts should be a permanent exhibit (a memorial in Africatown) or a traveling exhibit shown in museums around the world.
  • Ask:
      • Should the Clotilda and its artifacts be a part of a permanent exhibit in Africatown or a traveling exhibit that could be shown in museums around the world?
      • What factors have influenced your opinion?
  • Students respond to the question providing reasons to support both sides of the argument.
  • Record responses on a class T-Chart labeled Traveling and Permanent beneath the appropriate label.
  • Have students record whether they will be supporting the development of the Clotilda exhibit or memorial as a permanent or traveling exhibit on the “Connecting to the Clotilda” portion of their Traveling or Permanent Exhibit? Handout.
  • Collect student handouts for review.

Informal Assessment

Traveling or Permanent Exhibit? Review students' responses on the handout, identifying their preference and reasoning for the creation of a traveling or permanent Clotilda exhibit or memorial. Check for understanding regarding the economic impact an exhibit can have on a community, as well as how the location (including online exhibits) can contribute to telling the whole story. If students are missing these points, make a note of them for the student either verbally or in written feedback on the handout.

Extending the Learning

Museum Observation Field Trip: Take students to a local museum and have them identify the various types of exhibits within the museum with a brief summary of each type of exhibit and clues about what type of exhibit it is. Does the museum have any online exhibits? If so, the students can tour that as a warm-up before they go to the museum in person.

Subjects & Disciplines

Teaching Approach

  • Project-based learning

Teaching Methods

  • Discovery learning
  • Discussions
  • Multimedia instruction

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.1:  Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on Grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.2:  Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.9:  Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. 
  • Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12: Comprehension and Collaboration, SL.6.4:  Present claims and findings, sequencing ideas logically and using pertinent descriptions, facts, and details to accentuate main ideas or themes; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

The College, Career & Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards

  • D1.5.6-8:  Determine the kinds of sources that will be helpful in answering compelling and supporting questions, taking into consideration multiple points of views represented in the sources.
  • D2.Civ.10.6-8:  Explain the relevance of personal interests and perspectives, civic virtues, and democratic principles when people address issues and problems in government and civil society.
  • D2.Civ.7.6-8:  Apply civic virtues and democratic principles in school and community settings.
  • D2.His.11.6-8:  Use other historical sources to infer a plausible maker, date, place of origin, and intended audience for historical sources where this information is not easily identified.
  • D2.His.6.6-8:  Analyze how people’s perspectives influenced what information is available in the historical sources they created.

What You’ll Need

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Required
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per learner

Physical Space

  • Classroom
  • Computer lab
  • Media Center/Library


Prior to the activity, prepare the Who, What, When, Where, and Why chart papers and place them in different locations around the room.


  • Heterogeneous grouping
  • Large-group learning
  • Small-group learning
  • Small-group work

Background Information

Permanent exhibits are exhibits that stay in one location. Generally, permanent exhibits are owned by the museum that houses them and are a driving force for bringing visitors to the location of the exhibit. A permanent exhibit needs longevity, meaning it should be able to engage audiences for an extended period of time.


Traveling museum exhibitions are commonly filled with artifacts that are impactful to a large group of people, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s invention notebooks or Bodies: The Exhibition. These exhibits are put on display at various locations for a set amount of time, drawing visitors to the museum before they are packed up and transported to their next location. The purpose is to extend public knowledge and bring information to people rather than waiting for them to seek it out on their own.


Whether exhibits are permanent or traveling, museums are all about stories. Artifacts tell stories. Through these stories, we can connect the past, present, and future and help visitors make sense of the objects and their importance. Everyone tells stories about themselves and uses stories to understand the world around them. Just like books, museums use storytelling techniques such as setting the scene, building to a climax, or creating a twist in the tale. When developing a storytelling museum, the curator should strive to ensure that the presentation of facts and artifacts spark curiosity and help the visitor become a part of the past through their experience. 



having to do with the study of ancient people and cultures.


study of human history, based on material remains.


display, often in a museum.


having to do with more than one country.


having to do with the area around a specific place.


having to do with the government or people of a country.


origin or source of an object, work of art, or literature, the history of ownership of a valued object, work of art, or literature.

Articles & Profiles