Supporting National History Day Researchers

By DPLA, September 24, 2015.
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In 2015, DPLA piloted a National History Day partnership with National History Day in Missouri, thanks to the initiative of community rep Brent Schondelmeyer. For 2016, DPLA will be partnering with NHDMO and two new state programs: National History Day – California and National History Day in South Carolina. For each program, DPLA designs research guides based on state and national topics related to the contest theme, acts an official sponsor, and offers a prize for the best project that extensively incorporates DPLA resources. 

In this post, NHDMO Coordinator Maggie Mayhan describes the value of DPLA as a resource for NHD student researchers. To learn more about DPLA and National History Day partnerships, please email

Show-Me History

Each year more than 3,500 Missouri students take part in National History Day (NHD), a unique opportunity for sixth- through twelfth-grade students to explore the past in a creative, hands-on way. While producing a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, or website, they become an expert on the topic of their choosing.

In following NHD rules, students quickly learn that the primary sources they are required to use in their projects also help them to tell their stories effectively. But where do they start their search for those sources? How can it be manageable and meaningful?

Enter Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). Collecting and curating digital sources from libraries, museums, and archives, the DPLA portal connects students and teachers with the resources that they need. For students who cannot easily visit specialized repositories to work with primary sources, DPLA may even be the connection that enables them to participate in National History Day.

National History Day in Missouri loves how DPLA actively works to fuse history and technology, encouraging students to use modern media to access and share history. Knowing how to use new technologies to find online archives, databases, and other history sources is important for future leaders seeking to explore the past.

Seeing the potential for a meaningful collaboration in which students uncover history through the DPLA collections and put their own stamp on it through National History Day projects, the Digital Public Library of America became a major program sponsor in 2015.

Additionally, DPLA sponsors a special prize at the National History Day in Missouri state contest, awarded to the best documentary or website that extensively incorporates DPLA resources. The 2015 prize winners, Keturah Gadson and Daniela Hinojosa from Pattonville High School in St. Louis, pointed out that DPLA access was important for their award-winning website about civil rights activist Thurgood Marshall:

We found that the sources on the Digital Public Library of America fit amazingly into our research and boosted it where we were lacking… the detail we gained from looking directly at the primary sources was unmatched…DPLA sources completed our research wonderfully.

National History Day in Missouri is excited to continue this partnership in 2016, and we look forward to seeing what resources students will discover as they focus on the 2016 contest theme, Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History.