National History Day: National Competition 2023

By Kate Melchior and Simbrit Paskins

On 11 June, for the first time in four years, a team of 61 middle and high school students from across Massachusetts set out to the University of Maryland, College Park, for the 2023 NHD National Contest. There they joined a group of over 3,000 students representing all 50 United States, Washington, D.C., Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and international schools in China, Korea, and South Asia.  Can you picture it? A sea of young people, on a college campus, excited about history and ready to take Nationals by storm!

Image shows the backs of several students walking towards a building. Students are wearing red t-shirts and black drawstring bags with a white MHS History day logo imprinted.
Massachusetts students at NHD National Contest

Once at College Park, students spent the week presenting the documentaries, website, exhibits, performances, and papers they’ve worked on all year; traded state pins and stories with students from around the world; and shared in the incredible experience that is National History Day.

During their four-day stay in College Park, students experienced life on a college campus, staying in dorms and eating in the school dining halls with students from around the world. They viewed the exhibits and performances of other students and explained their own topics of research to new friends. They also participated in a variety of activities just for fun with their Massachusetts cohort, including a monument tour of D.C., a New England board game night, and an ice cream party. Finally, on the last day they participated in a massive parade and award ceremony in the UMD Stadium.

Image shows hundreds of students wearing different colored t-shirts and holding a variety of props to represent their state, marching in a circle around a large auditorium.
NHD parade in the UMD Stadium

We are incredibly proud to highlight the following achievements from our National History Day Massachusetts team:  

Gold Medal and National Endowment for the Humanities Scholars

Winner(s): Harry Liu, Alexander Lay, and Spencer Carman
School: Ottoson Middle School, Arlington
Teacher: Jason Levy
Junior Group Website: “PARC v. Pennsylvania: Pioneering the Right to Education for Children with Cognitive Impairments”

Special Prize: Outstanding Project in Discovery or Exploration in History

Sponsored by the Library of Congress, this prize is awarded in the junior and senior divisions for an outstanding project in any category on American or international discovery or exploration. 

Winner(s): Ruthanna Kern
School: Somerville High School, Somerville
Teacher: Adda Santos
Senior Individual Performance: “Broken: The Treaties of Fort Laramie and the Myth of the Frontier”

Outstanding Affiliate Awards: Massachusetts

Junior Division Winner(s): Cora Dutton, Nadia Hackbarth-Davis, Jiwan Ryu, and Elena Zaganjori
School: Ottoson Middle School, Arlington
Teacher: Jason Levy
Junior Group Documentary: “Now I’ve Got The Pill: Oral Contraceptives and How They Changed The Lives of American Women”

Senior Division Winner(s): Jake Bassinger and Sofia Brown
School: Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School, Wenham
Teacher: Anne Page
Senior Group Performance: “CURIE: a radioactive frontier in science”

We’d also like to extend a special shoutout to our Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year Nominees Gail Buckley of Willow Hill School in Sudbury and Barbara Sturtevant of Marshall Simonds Middle School in Burlington. Congratulations to them and to all of our student historians and the teachers, families, friends, and communities who supported them.

If you are interested in learning more about NHD or joining us as a teacher, student, or judge for National History Day in Massachusetts 2024, please visit our website at

National History Day: Debate & Diplomacy in History

By Kate Melchior, Assistant Director of Education

The National History Day annual theme logo, which shows white lettering over blue lines in an abstract design with a purple background. Text reads National History Day 2022, Debate & Diplomacy in History: Success, Failures, Consequences.
National History Day 2022

We’re now halfway through the fall semester and Massachusetts students are hard at work on their National History Day® projects! National History Day (NHD) is a year-long historical research and inquiry project for students in grades 6-12, and the MHS is proud to be the affiliate coordinator of NHD in Massachusetts. Every year NHD frames students’ research within a historical theme with a broad application to world, national, or local history. This year’s theme, Debate and Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences, seems particularly relevant as students explore important historic moments during which multiple perspectives either clashed or came together for the common good.

At the MHS, we’re excited about the possibilities of this year’s historical theme. MHS’ Hannah Wilson in Library Reader Services created an incredible resource list highlighting different themes of Debate and Diplomacy within MHS collections, including debates over the ratification of the Massachusetts constitution, protest and resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act, conflict over women’s suffrage, and the papers of senator and diplomat Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. Students are invited to explore questions such as “What are the strengths and limits of diplomacy?” and “Whose voices are included in debate, and who might be left out?” Our partners at the Boston Athenaeum, the Gibson House, and the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center and many other organizations have also created theme pages to help NHD students explore Debate and Diplomacy in their collections. You can find these pages and many others on our National History Day Massachusetts website.

Portrait of Abigail Adams as a young woman. She is wearing a blue dress with a lace trim and wears white pearls around her neck, and has a serene expression with a small smile on her face.
Abigail Adams by Benjamin Blythe

This year’s theme also offers the chance to highlight the continued resonance of another important figure from the MHS collections, one who just celebrated her 277th birthday! Born on 22 November 1744, Abigail Adams was the second First Lady in American history. Adams played a key role as advisor, diplomat, and public figure alongside her husband John Adams throughout his political career and presidency. In 2019, MHS John Winthrop Student Fellow Ella Amouyal created an online exhibit exploring Adams’ diplomatic work in France and England from 1784-88 and its impact on Adams’ views on patriotism, economics, and education. We anticipate that the Adams Family Papers at the MHS will serve as another rich resource for our NHD students as they explore the role of Debate and Diplomacy in the early years of US History.

The 2019 Season of National History Day in Massachusetts

By Elyssa Tardif, Director of Education

The 2019 season of National History Day in Massachusetts is nearing its end, and we are so proud of the 5,900 students who participated across the state as well as their incredible teachers! This year’s theme was “Triumph and Tragedy,” which inspired students to tackle some of the more complex historical moments and figures in history. Projects ranged in topic and include an exhibit on the Harlem Hellfighters; a website on Comfort Women and the Creation of the Korean Council; a performance on the friendship between Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren; and a documentary on the Woburn Cancer Cluster.

This year, 791 students competed in the regional competitions in March, and 333 students competed at the state competition in April. There are 70 students who will compete at the national competition which will take place in College Park, Maryland, in June.

Students presenting at National History Day in Massachusetts
National History Day in Massachusetts student participants

We are very pleased to report that 64 schools participated in the NHD program this year. This is a 20% increase from last year! With generous funding from the Mass Cultural Council and Mass Humanities, we have been able to expand the program by offering introductory workshops to new schools and will continue this work next year to reach even more students and teachers.

We celebrated the National History Day program at the Massachusetts State House on 22 April, in commemoration of the beginning of public education in America that took place in 1635 with the founding of the Boston Latin School. The State House event was sponsored by Rep. Chynah Tyler, and we were joined by our partners at Mass Cultural Council as well as Sen. Jason Lewis, Rep. Alice Peisch, Rep. Elizabeth Poirier, and Rep. Peter Capano.

Photo of 22 April 2019 event at the State House
National History Day celebration at the Massachusetts State House, 22 April 2019

We welcome members of the public to learn more about the NHD program.  There is no better way than to serve as a judge at one of our competitions! Please contact us at for more information.