By Anna J. Clutterbuck Cook, Reader Services
Massachusetts History Day 2016, on the theme of “exploration, encounter, and exchange in history” is in full swing across the state of Massachusetts with the MHS as its official sponsor. In recent years, over 7,000 middle and high school students from across the Commonwealth have participated in MHD and — as in the past — winners from the 2016 state competition will have the opportunity to join thousands of other middle and high school students from around the country at The Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest in College Park Maryland (June 12-16, 2016).
Sabrina Panetta (Saugus, MA), discusses her submission in the Senior Individual Exhibit category, “Hidden Beneath the Surface,” with three volunteer judges. Photo courtesy of Kerin Shea, Massachusetts History Day.
“It’s like a science fair, but for history,” is how I like to describe the competition to those who have never heard of History Day before. Each year, an annual theme is announced by National History Day (NHD) within which students will select and research a topic, articulate a thesis, and present their historical analysis in one of five categories: documentary film, exhibit board, live performance, research paper, or website. The students present their work on competition day and are interviewed by volunteer judges who evaluate the quality of their historical research, analysis, and presentation.
This year’s theme of “exploration, encounter, and exchange in history” was a broad umbrella underneath which students have explored topics ranging from the economic and cultural exploitation of Hawai’i to the investigative journalism of Nellie Bly to Copernicus’ theory of a heliocentric universe.
There are many different ways to support Massachusetts History Day as individual historians and as cultural institutions. Since 2012, my wife and I have been involved as volunteer judges, getting up early on a Saturday morning to meet with junior historians to give them a chance to share their knowledge and enthusiasm.
There is still time to volunteer as a judge for the 2016 Massachusetts state competition on Saturday, April 9th!
Another option for supporting MHD is by offering special prizes for a best project in a particular topic (for example “labor history”) or type of primary source material (oral histories or photographs, for example). Since 2014 our family has been sponsoring a book prize at the district and state competitions for the best individual project in women’s and gender history. As professional historians, we are excited to encourage the work of those who will be our future colleagues and supporters – and we hope you will consider doing the same!
If you do not live in Massachusetts and are interested in NHD opportunities in your local area, find your state affiliate here. And if you want to watch the competition from afar, be sure to follow @MAHistoryDay for great competition day photos and updates.