Breaking Barriers in History

by Elyssa Tardif, Director of Education

As summer winds down and students and teachers head back to school, the MHS Education staff know it’s time to get ready for the start of the 2019-2020 History Day season! Every year National History Day® frames students’ research within a historical theme. The theme is chosen for the broad application to world, national, or state history and its relevance to ancient history or to the more recent past. The theme this year is Breaking Barriers in History.

National History Day 2019-2020 Theme
Breaking Barriers in History

At the MHS, we’re excited about the possibilities of this year’s theme. 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th amendment, which stated that U.S. citizens could not be denied the right to vote on account of their sex. Next year also marks the anniversary of the Boston Massacre, which took place on 5 March 1770. Both of these milestones are rich examples of individuals breaking barriers, and of course there are exciting local examples, too.

With the help of one of our summer interns, Sophia, we are gathering a resource list of possible topics for students that draw from the MHS collections. These topics include: Smallpox and Inoculation: Breaking Scientific and Medicinal Barriers; Vocabulary of the Massachusetts (or Natick) Indian Language: Breaking Language Barriers; Elizabeth Freeman and the Case for Ending Slavery in MA; Elbridge Gerry and Gerrymandering: Manipulating Boundaries for Political Gain, and many more!

To make sure that we remove as many “barriers” as possible for students doing research, we are excited to announce a new program this year specifically tailored to History Day students in Massachusetts. On Saturday, 5 October, from 9:30 AM to noon, we will hold a Research Open House at the MHS. We will demystify the research process for students and introduce them to the incredible resources at their fingertips in the MHS collections. For more information, please contact us at