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Teaching with Primary Sources: Yellow Fever in the 18th Century

Instructions for Activity #2

In this activity, you will learn to search for digitized primary sources and practice reading and transcribing a handwritten document. This portion of the module can easily be done asynchronously or as an after-class activity for a synchronous session.


  1. Start by watching the Rubenstein Library’s short instructional videos [see below] that explain a bit about digital collections and give suggestions for how to best search the collections. 
  2. Next, visit the Benjamin and Julia Stockton Rush Papers Digital Collection and locate one additional document (not included in Activity #1) that dates from the 1793 Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic. 
  3. After you've located a document, try to read and transcribe the first 8-10 lines of the document. Post your transcriptions to a Sakai forum or other shared online space to compare your results and get help from your classmates.


Note: Transcribing handwritten documents from the 18th century is hard! Don't worry if you can't get all of the words - just try to get as many as you can and see if you can work out some of the others.

Watch: Digtial Collections Videos