Educators Smithsonian Education
Every Picture has a Story
Getting Started

The Smithsonian Institution was founded in 1846, six years after photography arrived in America. Today, our museums and archives house more than 13 million photographs.
This lesson plan closely examines four of the 13 million photographs in the Smithsonian.  The pictures represent four important steps in the history of the medium:

• introduction of portrait photography
• invention of a photographic printing process
• capture of instantaneous action
• advent of home photography

Through the lessons, students will see that, while not every picture tells its own story, every picture has a story behind it. 

The lesson plan has two parts:

• In the first lesson, students make observations and inferences about the pictures. 

• In the second, they use their predicting skills to try to determine the chronological order of the pictures. 

Share the background information with the students only after they complete the second lesson.

Download the Lesson Plan

View the Standards
Required Materials

Download the PDF
Photography of Model

Photography at the Smithsonian

The oldest Smithsonian-related photograph predates the oldest Smithsonian building—it is a picture of the architect’s model.

Smithsonian Institution

Websites A-Z

Adult Learning

Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access ©2013 Smithsonian Institution About UsContactSite MapTerms of UsePrivacy PolicySubscribe