15 Free Historical Coloring Books and Pages to Download
Coloring books have had a recent resurgence as a way of promoting relaxation and mindfulness, and inspired a number of scientific studies as a means of exploring how effective coloring is in reducing anxiety. In short, if you're in the market for a way to unwind while staying safe at home, why not try coloring ... with an eye toward history?
The coloring books and pages listed below vary in difficulty (which means you can browse these sheets for yourself and/or for a younger friend or family member), but all are free and offer a fun historical twist on the coloring book phenomenon. For ultimate relaxation, listen to soothing music or a podcast (such as one of the history podcasts mentioned in our article 11 Great Podcasts for History Fans) while you color a house, a national park, or a historical figure. Without further ado, here are fifteen of our favorite history-themed coloring books from our historic sites, Historic Artists' Homes & Studios program, and more:
1 The Oklahoma Historical Society has made their entire coloring book We Remember… Before and Beyond 1907 – 2007 available online. This coloring book features important African American figures in Oklahoma history, including Hannah Atkins (the first African American woman elected to the House of Representatives) and James Banning and Thomas Allen (the first African American aviators to complete a transcontinental flight).
2 Check out the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art’s printable coloring sheets, all of which are based on popular paintings from the museum’s collection, and include notable works by the Wyeth family (including N.C. Wyeth, his daughter Henriette Wyeth, and his grandson Jamie Wyeth). Also included is Horace Pippin, an artist strongly supported by N.C. Wyeth, whose work focused on slavery and racial segregation.
3 For those who prefer to color in highly detailed images, consider this coloring book (which offers a free page to preview) by Scott Clowney. It features a collection of drawings and brief historical profiles of significant buildings in Boston, Massachusetts.
4 Historic Seattle recently shared this original sketch that illustrator Robb Hamilton drew of the Showbox Marquee. Founded in 1939 at the end of the Jazz Age, the Showbox (formerly called the Showbox Theater) has gone on to host a variety of musicians, from Nat King Cole to Blondie. Show your support for the Showbox by sharing a photo of your colored marquee online and using the hashtag #SaveTheShowbox.
5 The Thomas Cole National Historic Site (home of the famous Hudson River School) created a coloring sheet based on comparative views of the Catskills in New York. One view shows the area as Thomas Cole painted it in 1837, while another shows what the land actually looked like in 1837 (allowing you to see the artistic liberties Cole took in his painting). The third and final view shows how the Catskills look from the museum today.
6 Browse these coloring pages (which vary in their complexity) from the Gari Melchers Home and Studio, home of the American naturalist painter Gari Melchers. As an alternative to coloring, explore their printable activities (which include online jigsaw puzzles and games).
7 Color in one (or all) of these five coloring book pages from the Aspen Historical Society, which feature a variety of historical scenes, specifically in relation to miners and the Native American Ute tribe.
8 Explore these activity sheets, primarily targeted to elementary school-aged children, from The Valentine, a museum that explores the history of Richmond, Virginia. Each link includes at least one coloring book page, in addition to word searches, mazes, and more.
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9 Check out this round up of twenty-one printable coloring sheets celebrating women's history. Maya Angelou, Serena Williams, and Marie Curie are all represented, as is Ruth Bader Ginsberg riding atop a unicorn in this rainbow-drenched scene (PDF).
10 Cliveden, the location for the Battle of Germantown during the Revolutionary War, has a variety of activity sheets available online. In addition to coloring pages, there are also word games, matching games, and more available to download.
11 For those with children, browse these activity sheets from the National Park Trust, which include coloring pages and a social distancing-friendly bingo game designed to keep kids active outside while staying safe. (Squares include activities such as: "identify two constellations in the night sky," and "create a nature collage from materials found outdoors.")
12 Download all eight pages of this coloring book from the Chester Inn Historic Site and Museum, which includes drawings of historic landmarks in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Support the Chester Inn Museum by posting a photo of your completed page on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #historyart.
13 Docomomo US has pulled together a selection of resources (which can be found in the “Modern Distractions” section, about a third of a way down the page) that include downloadable coloring books featuring sleek, modern architecture.14
15 Browse these nine coloring sheets depicting scenes of nature, animals, and traditional Native American practices from the Museum of Native American History in Bentonville, Arkansas. For more activities, explore the museum's virtual offerings here.