National History Day

Examine collections of the Museum's key resources on major themes in American history and social studies teaching.  Additional resources can be found in the main search areas of the website.

National History Day

Working on a project for National History Day? These resources are designed to help you. Be sure to check out these websites, too, for great primary sources: Galaxy of Images from Smithsonian Institution Libraries; Smithsonian Collections Search Center (select "search" then "only return results only with online media")

The Object of History

Grade Range: 9-12
Resource Type(s): Lessons & Activities, Primary Source, Interactives & Media
Date Posted: 11/2/2009

This resource includes an introductory essay entitled Looking at Artifacts, Thinking about History, 6 sections that each focus on an object from the collections of the Museum, an archive of curator commentary, and an online tool with which students can create virtual exhibits. Also included is a section of teacher's materials, lesson plans and resources revolving around the themes that are highlighted throughout the website. 

The Object of History is a cooperative project between the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History and George Mason University's Center for History and New Media. 

The following objects are included in The Object of History: Thomas Jefferson's desk, the gold nugget that launched the Gold Rush, Mary Todd Lincoln's dress, a voting machine, a short-handled hoe from the Braceros migrant worker program, and a segment of the lunch counter from the sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The materials on the site are designed to improve student's knowledge of standard topics in U.S. History and to improve their ability to understand material culture objects as types of historical evidence. 

History Explorer Podcast: National History Day

Grade Range: 6-12
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media
Duration: 18 Minutes
Date Posted: 3/15/2011

In this episode of the History Explorer podcast series, learn what it takes to develop a great National History Day project from museum staff members who have judged the website, exhibits, and essay competitions at national level. National History Day is an annual competition that engages students in the past through their own well-researched projects.

Understanding Historical Photos

Grade Range: 9-12
Resource Type(s): Primary Source, Lessons & Activities, Reference Materials
Date Posted: 8/5/2008

This resource will help students understand how to analyze historical photos to better understand the intentions of those who took them. Every photograph is both truthful and deceptive. These images were selected to illustrate some of the intricacies in reading historical photographs. This activity is included in the online exhibition entitled Whatever Happened to Polio?

Understanding and Using Primary and Secondary Sources in History

Grade Range: 6-8
Resource Type(s): Lessons & Activities, Primary Source
Duration: 90 Minutes
Date Posted: 11/19/2008

Learning to use primary and secondary sources correctly takes practice. In this classroom activity, students will understand the difference between primary and secondary sources. After class discussion and a written assignment based on primary sources, students will also be able to explain the importance and limitations of using primary sources for historical research. This activity is included in the online exhibition entitled The Star-Spangled Banner: The Flag that Inspired the National Anthem.

History Explorer Podcast: Investigating Portraiture

Grade Range: K-0
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media, Worksheets
Duration: 15 Minutes
Date Posted: 5/15/2011

In this episode of the History Explorer podcast series, Curator Shannon Perich discusses how portraiture can be used in historical research. Shannon presents three historical portraits (including Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother), describing the historical context of each, while also providing information on how curators and researchers look for clues within historical photography.  The resource includes audio and image enhanced podcasts, a teachers guide and student worksheet, and related images. 

Resources for National History Day Research

Grade Range: 5-12
Resource Type(s): Reference Materials
Date Posted: 2/14/2011

This resource sheet is designed to help students conducting projects for National History Day locate primary documents, advice from curators on research and exhibition development, and on locating secondary sources. 

History Explorer Podcast: In the Field--Researching the Food Exhibit

Grade Range: 6-12
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media, Worksheets
Duration: 15 Minutes
Date Posted: 3/27/2013

In this episode of the History Explorer podcast series, Sarah Coffee hears from Rayna Green about how curators working on the exhibit, Food:Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000, got out of the museum and did field research to capture the stories of ordinary Americans. The resource set includes a student worksheet, teacher guide, and images.

History Explorer Podcast: Backstage at the Museum

Grade Range: 5-8
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media, Worksheets
Duration: 15 Minutes
Date Posted: 11/16/2010

In this episode of the History Explorer podcast series, students will hear from Xavier Carnegie, the Museum’s Creative Director and one of the lead actors for the “Join the Student Sit-Ins” theater program about the research he conducts to develop and enhance his performance.  The teacher guide includes discussion questions and a student worksheet.

Want to suggest a different theme topic?

Visit the Contact us page to request a theme that would help you in your classroom.