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Portraits of History: Monarchs of the Kingdom of Hawaii

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Language Arts And English +5 Age Levels Elementary (9 to 12 years old), Middle School (13 to 15 years old)

In this collection, students will explore how portraits can be used to reveal biographical information about a subject and time period. This collection focuses on a few portraits of the monarchs of the Kingdom of Hawaii (1795-1893). Students will be asked to think critically about each portrait. This activity is based on the "Reading Portraiture" Guide for Educators created by the National Portrait Gallery. The guide can be found at the end of the collection. The collection also includes an article from Smithsonian magazine that provides a brief history of Hawaii to provide further context for the images.

One of the final activities requires students to compare the monarchs' portraits to contemporary images of Hawaii (after it became a part of the U.S.). Students will also be asked to find an image of a famous person from Hawaii to compare and contrast with the previous images. This assignment tasks the class to think critically about their preconceptions and background knowledge on this part of history.

Resources would work best in a social studies class (either U.S. or World History) in a unit focusing on Hawaii. This collection can also be revised to fit into an Art History class. To learn more about the theory behind this approach of analyzing portraits of a subject before reading their biography, please see the last resource "'Reading' Portraiture Guide for Educators."