Once you understand the rules and the theme for National History Day and have chosen your historical topic, it is time to choose how you want to present your work. But what are the categories? And how are they different?
Start by checking out the NHD Contest Rule Book for an overview of each category and for specific details about requirements. The National History Day Massachusetts state contest is the qualifying contest for National History Day, so the rules are the same. You can also check out examples of past projects in each category for ideas, and the annual NHD MA Juneteenth exhibition has even more projects to get inspired by.
Here are the five project categories:
A documentary is a ten-minute film that uses media (images, video, and sound) to communicate your historical argument, research evidence, and interpretation of your topic’s significance in history.
A documentary should reflect your ability to use audiovisual equipment to communicate your topic’s significance. The documentary category will help you develop skills in using photographs, film, video, audio, computers, and graphic presentations. Your presentation should include primary source materials and also must be an original production. To produce a documentary, you must have access to equipment and be able to operate it.
- Documentary Project Checklist
- Documentary Evaluation Form
- NHD New England Webinar: Documentary Production in the Classroom. Learn how to use video editing tools to create a documentary from start to finish! Presenter slide show.
- Additional Documentary Examples and Resources
An exhibit is a three-dimensional physical and visual representation of your historical argument, research evidence, and interpretation of your topic’s significance in history.
Exhibits use color, images, documents, objects, graphics, and design, as well as words, to tell your story. Exhibits can be interactive experiences by asking viewers to play music, look at a video, or open a door or window to see more documents or photos.
A paper is a written format for presenting your historical argument, research evidence, and interpretation of your topic’s significance in history.
A paper is a highly personal and individual effort, and if you prefer to work alone this may be the category for you. Papers depend almost entirely on words to tell the story, and you can usually include more information in a paper than in some of the other categories. Various types of creative writing (for example, fictional diaries, poems, etc.) are permitted but must conform to all general and category rules.
A performance is a dramatic portrayal of your historical argument, research evidence, and interpretation of your topic’s significance in history.
The performance category is the only one that is presented live. Developing a strong narrative that allows your subject to unfold in a dramatic and visually interesting way is important. Memorizing, rehearsing, and refining your script is essential, so you should schedule time for this in addition to research, writing, costuming, and prop gathering.
- Performance Project Checklist
- Performance Evaluation Form
- Performing Perspectives: Who Tells Your Story? This webinar offers great tips on how to approach your Historical Performance. Includes short highlight segments on how to avoid cultural appropriation and harmful stereotypes, researching historical clothing, and more.
- Additional Performance Examples and Resources
A website is a collection of interconnected web pages that uses multimedia to communicate your historical argument, research evidence, and interpretation of your topic’s significance in history.
A website should reflect your ability to use website design software and computer technology to communicate your topic’s significance in history. To create an NHD website project, you must use NHDWebCentral®.
Important 2023 Announcement for Websites:
Students working on websites this year should plan to create their projects using the NHD web builder found at NHDWebCentral. In the past, we have allowed students to use Google Sites as an alternative website host for the Regional and State contests, then convert them into Web Central for the National contest. However, at regional and state contests there have been many difficulties in terms of permissions and access, often making the evaluation of the sites by judges outside of the students' school domain challenging. To avoid this, we are now asking students to use the NHD web builder for the regional and state contests, which has significantly improved in usability, accessibility, and student friendly design! Please reach out if this is going to pose a difficulty for you/ your students so that we might figure out how to support and/or accommodate. Click here to access detailed NHDWebCentral Instructions!