National History Day in Massachusetts Receives State Funding

By Kate Melchior, Assistant Director of Education

Gov. Charlie Baker approved the FY22 Massachusetts state budget recently. We are thrilled to share the news that $25K is included in the budget to support National History Day in Massachusetts (NHD)!

This is really wonderful news, especially as we employ new ways to strengthen the NHD program this fall. External funding for NHD makes it possible to:

  • Reduce or eliminate registration fees for students
  • Offer high-quality professional development and curricular support for teachers
  • Make inroads in our ultimate goal of making NHD accessible to all grades 6-12 students across the Commonwealth


This spring we held the first Virtual Advocacy Day for NHD in Massachusetts and it really made an impact. So many of you called, e-mailed, and Tweeted about the importance of NHD to you and to the students and teachers in your district. And your legislators listened. Please consider writing to your legislators to thank them, especially if you received a response to your advocacy back in April.

We are so grateful to the MHS community for your continued support of this important program. We are excited to celebrate NHD 2022 and this year’s theme of “Diplomacy and Debate in History” with all of you!

Announcing the 2021-2022 MHS Research Fellows

by Katy Morris, Research Coordinator & Book Review Editor

We are pleased to announce the fellowship winners for the 2021-2022 academic cycle. Every year, the MHS administers roughly a quarter million dollars in research support to help scholars from all career stages access our remarkable collections. These fellowships range from short-term funding (4 to 8 weeks) to long-term residency (4 to 12 months).

The incoming cohort of fellows explores an exciting variety of topics. They range from studies of political history to examinations of the arts, poetry, and the gothic tradition. Others delve into histories of religion, time, and emotion. Still others are delving into histories of citizenship, abolition, women’s networks, and trade.

Congratulations to our incoming fellows – we can’t wait to learn more about your work!

Fellowships sponsored by the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2021-2022

MHS-NEH Long-Term Fellowships

  • Jamie Bolker, Post-Doc, Newberry Library, “Lost and Found: Wayfinding in Early America”
  • Patrick Bottiger, Associate Professor, Kenyon College, “Corn, Beans, and Squash: The Three Sisters Agricultural Revolution and the Remaking of North America, 300 CE to 1850”
  • Dan Du, Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, “The World in a Teacup: Chinese-American Tea Trade in the Nineteenth Century”

Suzanne & Caleb Loring Fellowship on the Civil War, Its Origins, and Consequences

  • Anne Cross, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Delaware, “‘Features of Cruelty Which Could Not Well Be Described by the Pen’: The Media of Atrocity in Harper’s Weekly, 1862-1866”

MHS Short-term Fellowships

  • Kathryn Angelica, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Connecticut (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “‘The Glorious Cause of Liberty’: Women’s Anti-Slavery and Abolitionist Activism in New England”
  • Megan Armknecht, Ph.D. Candidate, Princeton University (Ruth R. & Alyson R. Miller Fellowships), “Diplomatic Households and the Foundations of U.S. Diplomacy, 1789-1870”
  • Cameron Boutin, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Kentucky (Mary B. Wright Environmental History Fellowship), “War and the Elements: Civil War Soldiers’ Experiences with the Weather”
  • James Broomall, Associate Professor, Shepherd University (Military Historical Society of Massachusetts Fellowship), “Battle Pieces: The Imagery and Artifacts of the Civil War”
  • Jimmy Bryan, Professor, Lamar University (Malcolm and Mildred Freiberg Fellowship), “The Empire of Grim: Gothic Subversions of US Expansion”
  • Heesoo Cho, Ph.D. Candidate, Washington University at St. Louis (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “The Making of the Pacific Ocean in the Early Republic, 1780-1820”
  • Jennifer Factor, Ph.D. Candidate, Brandeis University (W.B.H. Dowse Fellowship), “Poetry Performance in Colonial New England”
  • Donovan Fifield, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Virginia (W.B.H. Dowse Fellowship), “Credit and Imperial Crises in the American Northeast, 1698-1775”
  • Sarah Beth Gable, Ph.D. Candidate, Brandeis University (Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati Fellowship), “Policing the Revolution: Massachusetts Communities and the Committees of Correspondence, Inspection and Safety, 1773-1783”
  • Christopher Gillett, Assistant Professor, University of Scranton (C. Conrad & Elizabeth H. Wright Fellowship), “Catholicism and Revolution in the British World, 1630-1673”
  • Ethan Goodnight, Ph.D. Candidate, Harvard University (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “Tongues of Fire: Religious Enthusiasm, Racial Formation, and Anti-Blackness in the Atlantic World”
  • Daniel Gullotta, Ph.D. Candidate, Stanford University (Marc Friedlaender Fellowship), “‘The Lord Preserve Us from Socinian Presidencies’: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the Transformation of American Religious Electoral Politics”
  • Joanne Jahnke Wegner, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (Benjamin F. Stevens Fellowship), “Stolen Lives: Captivity and Gender in the Northeast, 1630-1763”
  • Samuel Jennings, Ph.D. Candidate, Oklahoma State University (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “‘The Most Perfect Foundation of Her Faith’: The Virgin Mary in Mid-Eighteenth Century North America”
  • Randal Grant Kleiser, Ph.D. Candidate, Columbia University (Kenneth and Carol Hills Fellowship in Colonial History), “Exchanging Empires: Free Ports, Reform, and Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1750-1784”
  • Joshua Kleuver, Ph.D. Candidate, Binghamton University (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “Hiding in Plain Sight: Socialist Legislators at the State Level, 1899-1944”
  • Alexandra Macdonald, Ph.D. Candidate, College of William & Mary (Louis Leonard Tucker Alumni Fellowship), “The Social Life of Time in the Anglo-Atlantic World, 1660-1830”
  • Jacqueline Marie Musacchio, Professor, Wellesley College (Andrew Oliver Research Fellowship), “At Home Abroad: Anne Whitney and American Women Artists in Nineteenth-Century Italy”
  • Jesse Olsavsky, Assistant Professor, Duke Kunshan University (African American Studies Fellowship), “Fire and Sword Will Affect More Good: Runaways, Vigilance Committees, and the Rise of Revolutionary Abolitionism, 1835-1861”
  • Sarah Pearlman Shapiro, Ph.D. Candidate, Brown University (Ruth R. & Alyson R. Miller Fellowships), “Women’s Communities of Care in Revolutionary New England”
  • Anne Powell, Ph.D. Candidate, College of William & Mary (Kenneth and Carol Hills Fellowship in Colonial History), “The Antinomian Controversy: Theological Disorder Amidst Colonial Crisis in New England”
  • Helena Roth, Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate Center, CUNY (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “American Timelines: Imperial Communications, Colonial Time-Consciousness, and the Coming of the American Revolution”
  • Francis Russo, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Pennsylvania (Short-term Fellowship), “Utopian Dreams at the End of Early America: 1663-1860”
  • Chelsea Spencer, Ph.D. Candidate, MIT (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “The Contract, the Contractor, and the Capitalization of American Building, ca. 1865-1930”
  • Duangkamol Tantirungkij, Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate Center, CUNY (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “An Act of Congress: Freedom Suits and the Emancipatory Consequences of the Northwest Ordinance (1790-1850)”
  • Heather Walser, Ph.D. Candidate, Penn State (Louis Leonard Tucker Alumni Fellowship), “Amnesty’s Origins: Federal Power, Peace, and the Public Good in the Long Civil War Era”
  • Russell Weber, Ph.D. Candidate, University of California, Berkeley (Short-term Fellowship), “American Feeling: Political Passions and Emotional Identity in the Early Republic, 1754-1797”
  • Emily Yankowitz, Ph.D. Candidate, Yale University (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “Documenting Citizenship: How Early Americans Understood the Concept of Citizenship, 1776-1840”

Building Pathways to Collections for Students and Teachers

By Kate Melchior, Assistant Director of Education

Thanks to our work with the Massachusetts Civic Learning Coalition (MCLC), a collaborative of nearly 40 organizations that implement and promote civic education, the MHS has taken advantage of opportunities to raise our organization’s profile as a vital content provider not only in Massachusetts but also on a national scale.

MHS collections were featured in the Educating for American Democracy Roadmap and Report (EAD), funded by the NEH and the U.S. Dept. of Education and launched March 2, which provides educators a clear pathway to integrate civics into their teaching. The EAD site offers a curated list of civics-related teacher resources, including the MHS online exhibit “Who Counts? A Look at Voter Rights Through Political Cartoons” on its first page. This resource is now in front of thousands of teachers across the U.S., and more materials will be added in the coming months. We were also proud to note that one of our National History Day (NHD) students, Morgan G., and her teacher Jay Peledge, were featured in the nationwide broadcast with PBS NewsHour. Last year, Morgan’s documentary film on Bessie Coleman, the pioneering aviator, won Best Project in African American History at the state contest and advanced to the National competition. You can learn more about the roadmap and view teacher resources from the MHS and many other partners at

Massachusetts as a National Leader in Civic Education Reform: The Impact of the 2018 Legislation

By Kate Melchior, Assistant Director of Education

Want to learn more about the impact of civic education on students in Massachusetts? Join us for the inaugural Civic Learning Week, 24 to 30 April, organized by the MHS and partner organizations belonging to the Massachusetts Civic Education Coalition.

Massachusetts Civic Learning Coalition Presents: Massachusetts Civic Learning Week, April 26-30
Massachusetts Civic Learning Week, April 26-30.

On Tuesday, 27 April 2021, from 3:15 to 4:00 PM, award-winning National History Day student Morgan Gibson will be a featured speaker as part of a panel of Massachusetts legislators, who have championed civic education in the state. Sen. Harriette Chandler, Rep, Linda Dean Campbell, and Rep. Andy Vargas will speak about past and present legislation to improve civic education in the Commonwealth, including the 2018 Act to Promote and Enhance Civic Engagement, which made Massachusetts a national leader in civic education reform.

The legislators are joined by students who are leading or have led civic action projects in their communities. The students will share their experiences of leading civic action projects. Following their individual presentations, the legislators and students will engage in dialogue to discuss what the future of civic education in Massachusetts should look like.  Learn more and register for this online event.

See the full listing of events during Massachusetts Civic Learning Week, 26 to 30 April 2021.

Virtual Programming at the MHS

By Gavin Kleespies, Director of Programs, Exhibitions  & Community Partnerships

At a recent meeting, a MHS staff member pointed out that it had been 400 days since we closed our doors to the public. While this was a sobering milestone, it gave us pause to reflect on what we have built in this time. The MHS began offering virtual programs the first week of April 2020. Since then we have hosted 64 programs with 11,000 attendees. Attendance has increased and the geographic diversity is truly amazing. Program attendees have joined us from 1,115 different communities across America from Anchorage, Alaska to Zephyrhills, Florida. We have also had people attend from 63 foreign cities in 18 different countries on five continents.

The shift to virtual programing has given us greater access to speakers from far-flung places. In the past, a historian who lived on the west coast would need to commit to at least two days of travel in order to speak at a program. And in many cases the MHS would have been expected to pay a speaker fee or travel expenses. Now, we need only a few hours online. We have been able to have presenters from across the country, and, in one case, the other side of the Atlantic. Virtual programming has enabled us to ask experts to moderate conversations  that would have been impossible before.

The number of recorded programs has increased due to the move to online programs. Previously, we  recorded around ten events a year to make available online. Since we shifted to virtual programs, we have recorded 63 programs, 3 seminars, our biannual conference, the Gomes Prize award ceremony, and our Making History Gala as well as 8 National History Day videos. All of these programs are available on our video page and YouTube channel.

While the advantages of virtual programming can’t be denied, we very much look forward to hosting in-person programs again. In the meantime, take a look at what is planned on our online events calendar.

National History Day in Massachusetts has gone Virtual… and We Need Judges!

By Kate Melchior, Assistant Director of Education

Two NHD in Massachusetts students presenting their topic
National History Day in Massachusetts students

Deadline: Wednesday, 24 February 2021

It’s time again for National History Day in Massachusetts! Our students and teachers are hard at work on their “Communication in History” themed projects in the face of this year’s challenges. Are you looking for something to do at home? Volunteer to judge at our Virtual Statewide Competition. Not only will you support our NHD MA students but you can also learn some amazing history. We need your help to provide quality judging and a great contest experience for the students!

Our competition will be held virtually with two rounds to determine our final winners. We are looking for judges—history aficionados and novices alike. No previous experience required!

Sign up now

Judging will take place between 17 and 21 March, on your own schedule. Visit our Registration Portal to learn more and volunteer to judge today!

For more information about NHD in Massachusetts and to see examples of past projects, visit our website at or e-mail

National History Day in Massachusetts has gone Virtual . . . and We Need Judges!

by Kate Melchior, Assistant Director of Education

Deadline: Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Two NHD in Massachusetts students presenting their topic
National History Day in Massachusetts students

It’s time again for National History Day in Massachusetts! Our students and teachers are hard at work on their “Communication in History” themed projects in the face of this year’s challenges. Are you looking for something to do at home? Volunteer to judge at our Virtual Statewide Competition. Not only will you support our NHD MA students but you can also learn some amazing history. We need your help to provide quality judging and a great contest experience for the students!

Our competition will be held virtually with two rounds to determine our final winners. We are looking for judges—history aficionados and novices alike. No previous experience required!

Sign up now

Judging will take place between 17 and 21 March, on your own schedule. Visit our Registration Portal to learn more and volunteer to judge today!

For more information about NHD in Massachusetts and to see examples of past projects, visit our website at or e-mail

A Look at Some of Our Online Programs This February

Gavin W. Kleespies, Director of Programs, Exhibitions and Community Partnerships

While we certainly miss seeing our Members  and loyal program attendees, there are some advantages to holding programs online. For one, it is nice to have the ability to host speakers from across the country. The fact that there is no lengthy travel has enabled us to pair people together for great conversations and panel discussions. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to host online programs for the foreseeable future. Below are some highlights of upcoming programs we will host in February.

We are starting the month off with two great conversations. One 1 February, at 5:30 PM, Gretchen Sorin and MHS President Catherine Allgor will discuss Driving While Black: African American Travel & the Road to Civil Rights. Sorin’s new book explores the important role cars have played in African American households, allowing Black families to evade dangers presented by an entrenched racist society and, when combined with black travel guides including the famous Green Book, presenting opportunities to resist oppression and to enjoy the freedom of the open road. On 11 February, at 5:30 PM, famous Civil War historian James Oakes and renowned legal historian Randall Kennedy will talk about The Crooked Path to Abolition: Abraham Lincoln & the Antislavery Constitution. They will discuss whether Lincoln and the Republican Party can be faulted for moving slowly due to a long standing conservatism on abolition and race or if they were adhering to a clear antislavery strategy founded on the Constitution itself.

We will also have two panel discussions in February. We will hold the first of five programs in a series called Confronting Racial Injustice. The first program is scheduled for 18 February, at 6:00 PMSlavery, Wealth Creation & Intergenerational Wealth, with Nicole Maskiell, Elon Cook Lee, and moderator Jared Hardesty, will explore Massachusetts’s connections to slavery and the slave trade, the wealth–and the poverty–slavery created and bequeathed, and how the legacies of slavery are reflected in injustices that haunt Massachusetts to this day. This series is planned in partnership with Northeastern University Law School’s Criminal Justice Task Force. On 25 February, at 5:30 PM, we will revisit a discussion we had three years ago that explored how marginalized groups have used protest and agitation to advance their rights. Protest & Citizenship: Revisited will feature Crystal Feimster, Hasan Jeffries, Stephen Kantrowitz, and Chad Williams. They will look at the ways in which protest has been used to highlight injustice and change the citizenship rights of certain groups. They will also reflect on how has this conversation has evolved in the wake of the high-profile demonstrations triggered by the murder of George Floyd and what can we take from the past to understand our current political and social climate.

Visit for more information on these and other upcoming programs and to register.

A Guide Through History Day: Supporting Teachers and Students

By Lillian Nunno, MHS Education Intern

This blog post originally appeared in Archives & Public History at UMass.

Every year, grade 8-12 students and teachers across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts participate in the National History Day (NHD) contest. History Day students create projects centered around that year’s theme. These projects can take the form of a paper, an exhibit, a website, a documentary, or a performance. Past competition themes have included “Conflict and Compromise” and “Triumph and Tragedy.” This program allows students to learn about history they are passionate about, and develop strong research, argumentation, and analytical skills. The education department at the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) runs NHD  in Massachusetts; they organize the regional and state competitions and provide resources for students and teachers to help them along in the process.

For my internship project with the MHS Education Department, I created a teacher’s guide for National History Day in Massachusetts teachers. This guide will provide teachers with materials to help guide students from topic selection through competition. Making the guide involved poring over materials developed by other states across the country to find the most useful worksheets and resources. I also looked at how other states structured their materials and what they included. At the same time,  I kept in mind the needs of students and teachers. I wanted to create a guide that wasn’t overwhelming for teachers, but covered each project stage. I tried to prioritize creating a guide that was easy to use because this guide is for teachers who are new to the NHD program.  I also wanted to choose worksheets that are useful to students and not overly long or detailed.

I also developed ideas for original materials for the guide. My research revealed that many states have a resource that highlights local history topics for student projects. So I proposed creating a Massachusetts Topic List of people and events related to the state’s history. This resource will help connect students with research materials and sources from the MHS and other local institutions.   Local topics can be more accessible than national topics, as students can visit historical institutions to do primary source research. While students may not be able to do that this year because of the pandemic, they may still have some digital access to these institutions and collections. In developing this list, I tried to highlight some lesser-known Massachusetts figures and events and those often absent from larger historical narratives.


NHD parade of students
National History Day in Massachusetts students walking in the NHD parade at the national competition

I am also creating a resource for teachers to help students with “difficult history” topics. Students often want to explore complex issues and events to which they have some personal connection. Because of this, students may encounter historical topics that are upsetting and hard to process. So I reviewed materials created by other organizations that focus on helping students understand and process more complicated issues. I also consulted educational materials that focus on social-emotional learning, which are used in classrooms to help students develop self-awareness and emotional maturity. Teachers, who bring experience in these areas, are especially important resources for my work.  NHD allows students to grapple with more difficult moments in history–a strength of the program–but tools to help them understand and confront this history are also needed.

I came to this project with some prior experience as an undergraduate, in one of the nation’s biggest NHD programs. In my two years of mentoring students and interacting with teachers, I observed the needs and challenges that arise, and I became invested in the program as I witnessed students’ work on their projects. This background has helped me in developing materials, and in collaborating with my supervisors. Luckily the need to go remote did not impact the structure of my internship, but it has made contacting teachers more challenging since they are currently dealing with a different teaching experience.  On the other hand, this remote internship has helped me keep in mind the virtual aspects of learning in today’s classrooms as I assemble the guide. Working on this project has deepened my appreciation and admiration for the NHD program.

This internship has helped me understand how historical institutions can help teachers and students in this remote and hybrid learning era when teachers are dealing with more than ever before. Historical institutions can create materials for classrooms that can support teachers by providing resources for in-depth and meaningful history education. They can also help students understand “difficult history” and connect to their communities’ pasts. As someone with an interest in improving history education from outside the K-12 classroom, this experience has shown me a possible path for my future career.

National History Day in Massachusetts students

Celebrating Archivists Working During Covid19

by Rakashi Chand, Senior Library Assistant

Though the MHS remains closed to the public due to the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic (learn more), our library staff has been able to provide various reference services. Below, several Reader Services staff members offer insight into what it is like to work–both in the building and remotely–during the pandemic.

How has the MHS adjusted and continued to serve its researchers?  

Elaine Heavey, Director of the Library, and Dan Hinchen, one of our Reference Librarians, describe how operations in the Library Reader Services department were amended to accommodate the restrictions posed by COVID-19:

In the aftermath of the state-wide shutdown in mid-March, the library reader services (LRS) staff had to develop new ways to serve our researchers. Of course, as a manuscript repository holding one-of-a-kind materials, serving researchers without direct access to our collections proved difficult. Still, the LRS staffers worked from their various remote locations to provide as much access as possible to those we serve.

In the early stages of the pandemic, we tackled a project to locate digital versions of every title in the Dowse Library and compiled the links so that we could easily share them with researchers.  The LRS staff also created a Reference Services During Covid-19 Closure page, providing links to various print publications in digital format, MHS online resources and collection highlights, and a list of commercial databases that feature MHS content ,all in one place.

In addition to concerns about collection access, communication became more challenging.  Although e-mail remains our primary method of contact with remote researchers, we found we had lost the ability to work with remote researchers in the moment via telephone.  To meet that challenge we sought new means of communicating with researchers. Through our Virtual Reference and Chat Services page researchers can ask questions instantly via chat (Mon., Wed., Thurs., Fri. 10AM to 4PM; Tues.1PM to 7PM), or request a research consultation with a member of the library staff via Zoom. Now, anyone interested in speaking an LRS staff member “face-to-face” has that option.

In July, when our library staff regained access to the building, we began tackling the sizable backlog of reproduction and reference requests that accumulated over the four months we were away from 1154 Boylston. Of course, in keeping with the trends of life this year, staff use of collection material became more complicated when we found ourselves navigating the creation of new collections handling polices aimed at mitigating the health risks of working with shared materials.  Determining best practices around issue like quarantine times, thinking about how to safely quarantine materials, and adjusting our workflows to allow for quarantine between uses, proved to be a moving target as new information about Covid-19 transmission and the time Covid-19 lives on library materials (especially those that cannot be sanitized) became available. We recently extended our quarantine times based on new industry findings, but we will not let that slow us down.

Despite the difficulties the shutdown threw at us, our library staff has worked hard adapting to the situation and strives to continue providing our researchers the best possible remote service until we are able to welcome them back into the library again.

How has the COVID19 state of emergency impacted your work as an archivist and how did you overcome the challenges presented?

Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, one of our Reference Librarians, not only found ways to overcome the restrictions imposed by remote work and COVID19, but also found ways to assist fellow archivist during this difficult time:

As a reference librarian who works in a special collections library, moving first to an all-remote work environment in March and now a partially-remote, partially-on site (but still with no patrons in the building) work environment this fall really impressed upon me how much of my job is having conversations with people. All day long, I engage in conversations with my colleagues and with researchers about the work we are doing together or the work they hope to undertake using our collections. And those conversations can take place, and be fruitful, whether I am at the reference desk  or at my dining room table.

I have also been acutely aware of the way that COVID-19 has impacted archival workers unevenly. Those already precariously employed in our field (part-time, contract, student, grant-funded, etc.) have often been the first to see their hours cut or their positions eliminated. During March, a group of archival workers – including myself — came together to establish the Archival Workers Emergency Fund, currently administered by the Society of American Archivists Foundation, which issues cash grants to archival workers in financial crisis due to COVID-19. As of September 15th we have disbursed over $130,000 to over 150 archival workers who are struggling to pay the bills. This has been a major part of my involvement with the wider archival community since March, and gave me something concrete to do to address the suffering that people across the country are experiencing because of the pandemic.

Hannah Elder, our Reproductions Coordinator, saw her role expand as reproductions became the sole source of collection access for undigitized collections:

While working from home, I managed the incoming reproduction requests; contacting the researchers, keeping track of their requests, and helping them find already digitized materials when available. I also worked with my colleagues to develop temporary reference reproduction policies and pricing that enables us to provide our researchers with the resources they need. Find those new policies here! (

Now that the staff have some access to the building, I spend my time at 1154 Boylston Street in a flurry of activity, scanning items, photographing volumes, and going through microfilm. I spend my time at home processing the images the reproductions team and I made in the building and sending them off to researchers, while also managing incoming requests, staffing the chat services, and planning for my next rotation through the building.

We will continue to share stories with you throughout Archives month and look forward to answering your questions through our virtual reference and chat services.

Until the next installment, be well!