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National History Day in Massachusetts

Research Links

This page contains a selection of local and national resources to help with your primary and secondary source research. But don't limit yourself to online research! Some of the best places to start your research include your school or town library (and don't forget to ask your librarians for advice). Many local colleges and universities will let you access their archives if you contact them in advance. You can also do research in historical societiesmuseums, and historic sites--a place itself can be a primary source.

Quick Digital Research Tips

Need help finding what you're looking for? These Quick Digital Research Tips videos offer great tips on how to search online archives effectively. You can find more helpful research videos at the NHD YouTube page.  And don't forget: your best resource is always to ask the librarian directly.

Massachusetts Historical Society

Founded in 1791, the Massachusetts Historical Society has millions of primary sources on U.S. history and on Massachusetts history in particular. Their new resource hub, the History Source, has primary source sets on a variety of topics. Search the "NHD 2023" theme tag on the site to find them! Additionally, MHS online exhibits and digital collections include topics like the Adams FamilyRevolutionary EraSlavery in Massachusetts, the 54th RegimentSuffrage and Anti-Suffrage, and Voting Rights and Political Comics. Explore their NHD theme page or use their Ask a Librarian chat! The MHS is the state affiliate sponsor for National History Day in Massachusetts.

The Boston Public Library

Another important resource to Massachusetts students is The Boston Public Library, which is free for all Massachusetts residents to use. If you don't already have a BPL card, you can register for a virtual card online and start browsing immediately. In addition to books from libraries all over Boston, you will have access to the Norman B. Leventhal Map Centeronline article databases including scholarly journal archives like JSTOR or Gale Scholarly Resourcescurrent and historical newspapers like the Boston Globe, and much more.

"Turning Points in History" Theme Pages

These lists have been created by institutions to highlight parts of their collections that relate to this year's theme, "Turning Points in History":

Or check out these NHD Partner Resources Pages to see theme lists from organizations across the country!

Massachusetts Libraries and Archives

Massachusetts is home to countless incredible resources for your NHD projects. The following sites are reliable and contain excellent digital resources on a wide variety of topics. This is by no means an exhaustive list of Massachusetts archives, and we encourage you to check out your local archives in your city/town and region.

We also remind students that many organizations are working to digitize their materials right now. Even if they don't have what you're looking for online, they may be able to make a copy for you.

Harvard University Libraries: The Harvard University library system has an incredible range of sources available, including extensive digital collections. Explore their Hollis Image collection or browse digital collections like Iranian oral histories, US 18th-20th century immigration, and much more. Ask for advice using their Ask A Librarian feature. Or check out one of the Harvard's specialty libraries like the two listed below.

Harvard Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America: Browse the Schlesinger Library's massive collections on women's history by starting with their subject guides, or some of their more recently curated collections like Hear Black Women's Voices, The Long 19th Amendment, or the #MeToo Digital Media Collection.  Or get help by Asking a Schlesinger Librarian.

Harvard Countway Library's Center for the History of Medicine: This library also has extensive digital collections available to the public, where you can see items like a microscope slide of the Spanish Flu or explore online exhibits like "This Abominable Traffic": Physicians on Slavery or Conceiving the Pill. Or head to Ask Countway to talk to a librarian.

The Mary Baker Eddy Library: Interested in religious history, women's history, or journalism? Mary Baker Eddy was an American religious leader and author who founded The Church of Christ, Scientist, as well as publications like the Christian Science Monitor, a Pulitzer prize winning secular newspaper. Questions? Contact their archivists here!

The American Antiquarian Society: The AAS houses the largest collection of printed materials through 1876 in what is now the United States.  Explore digital collections like the history of American news media, children's literature, Victorian Valentines, the Tuskeegee Institute, or the Caribbeana Project.  Email them with reference questions here!

The John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum: The JFK Library houses primary-source materials in all formats that document the life, career, and times of John F. Kennedy and his administration.  Browse their digital collections for oral histories, film, photographs, broadcasts, White House papers, and more.  Ask an Archivist for more help!

The Center for Lowell History: The Center is a repository for educational, cultural, and historical archives of the Greater Lowell area.  Explore the history of the textile mills, or find rich local gems in their digital collections and oral history archives on the Cambodian, Greek, and Portuguese communities in Lowell.

The Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center: Explore the history of Jewish life in New England by checking out their theme page and visiting their digital archives. Or contact their archivists here!

Northeastern University: In NU's digital collections, you'll find great examples of their local community collecting. Their Beyond Busing collection contains over 4000 sources on Boston school desegregation, and their collections on Boston's Latinx, Asian American, and Lower Roxbury Black communities are incredible repositories of local history.  Contact NU's Librarians with any questions!

National Libraries and Archives

Library of Congress:  The Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, with more than 120 million items, and is a great place to start your primary source research. The Library’s website has a great search engine and numerous online resources.  Highlights include Chronicling America, an extensive collection of historic newspapers.

National Archives: “The nation's record-keeper” houses general American documents, military service records and naturalization of immigrants. Check out their NHD theme page, their list of subject areas in American history, and their online exhibits and searchable databases, with highlights like the World Digital Library for world history and DocsTeach for important historical documents. For local assistance, contact the National Archives' Boston or Pittsfield branches.

American Archive of Public Broadcasting: WGBH Boston and the Library of Congress have partnered to preserve the most significant public television and radio programs of the past 60 years.  Explore thousands of television programs, local and national news broadcasts, music, interviews, and more.  Start with their NHD theme page or their introductory webinar, and email AAPB staff for help finding what you need!

World History

These are just a small selection of digital archives for World History research.  Don't see the region you're interested in?  Email us and we'll help you find some good archives to explore!

The World Digital Library: The WDL is run by the Library of Congress, created with the support of UNESCO, and contains a variety of materials from worldwide libraries and collections, related to various time periods, topics, and cultures. Also includes various timelines and maps.

Internet History Sourcebooks Project: This project by Fordham University offers links to a wide variety of historical texts from around the world broken down by time frame and region. Sources range from Ancient Greek texts to modern American history. Great for world history topics!

World History Sources: Run by George Mason University, this site contains links and scholarly reviews of thousands of online primary source archives from all around the world.

Digital Library of the Caribbean: With 60 contributing partners, the DLOC contains digitized resources pertaining to Caribbean history and culture from libraries and archives around the region. Includes maps, newspapers, law & legal materials, and more.

South Asia Open Archives (SOAA): In partnership with JSTOR, this site is a free, open-access resource that includes historical and contemporary materials (books, newspapers, magazines, census data, documents), including ones held at archives, libraries and institutions in the region.

EuroDocs:  Contains digitized primary and secondary sources organized by country and sorted by time period or event.

Africa Online Digital Archive: The AODL is an open access digital library of African cultural heritage materials created by Michigan State University in collaboration with museums, archives, scholars, and communities around the world.

Archives on Specific Topics:

Digital Transgender Archives:  Based out of Worcester's College of the Holy Cross, the DRA is an online hub for archival material on a broad and inclusive range of non-normative gender history.

Umbra: Search over 400,000 resources available on African American history.

International Encyclopedia of the First World War: This archive is the result of an international collaborative project involving more than 1,000 authors, editors, and partners from over fifty countries.

The Avalon Project: Produced by Yale Law School, contains documents in law, history and diplomacy,  from 4000 BCE to the present. Documents are grouped by century and listed alphabetically. Full text, and source of document listed at the end.

Medieval Digital Resources: from the Medieval Academy of America, this database contains peer-reviewed resources and digital collections of resources from the Middle Ages.

Slave Voyages:  This website, run by the Emory University Center for Digital Scholarship, draws upon international scholarship and archives from around the Atlantic world on the history of slavery and slave trade.  The site includes Trans-Atlantic and Intra-American slave trade databases and a database of African names, as well as manuscripts and images, maps, and essays. 

Massachusetts Historical Societies, Museums, and Historic Sites

National and International Museums