Massachusetts History Day

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Judgingin progress at the Northeast District contest March 2014.

Begun in 1981, Massachusetts History Day is the state affiliate of National History Day, a highly regarded academic research competition for students in grades 6-12.  National History Day is a national competition, similar to a science fair, but for history.  It is focused on thorough research and in-depth analysis of a specific ,historically-significant topic.

Over 10,000 students competed in Massachusetts History Day in 2015.  We sent 36 entries to the National competition in Washington D.C, the maximum allowed under the rules.  Of the 36 entries, 5 made the National finals. One Senior Group Website came in third in the country.  One project was even displayed at the Smithsonian!  When you figure the half-a-million plus students who begin the process in September, this shows how successful our Massachusetts History Day students are!


How old are the students?  Students are divided up into 2 divisions: junior (grades 6-8) & senior (grades 9-12).

How do they compete?  Students may create a paper, performance, documentary, exhibit, or website.  A student may work alone or in a group.  While the physical rules vary from category to category, the underlying rules (historical accuracy, relation to theme, quality of bibliography, etc.) are the same across the board, from historical research papers to websites.

Where do they compete?  Regional contests are held simultaneously across the State at four district contest sites.  The districts are Northeast, Greater Boston, South Shore & Central-West.  The top 3 projects from each category then compete at the state finals competition.  The 2016 state competition will be held at Bedford HS on April 9, 2016.

Is there a theme?  There is a national theme.  The theme for 2016 is Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History.  Read more about the theme HERE.

Who are the judges?  We have judges from all walks of life - educators, librarians, historians, museum personnel, national park rangers and even History Day alumni.  Judges are always needed.  Anyone who loves history, research or even just the pursuit of knowledge is more than welcome to judge.  Hundreds of judges are needed for the four District contests.  Please contact us if you are willing to encourage the love of history & research in the historians of tomorrow!

2013 Massachusetts History Day students at Nationals


National History Day: It's not just a day.  It's an experience. 

National History Day is more than a day - it is a year-long process for a student.  Students begin researching & crafting their projects in the fall.  Some schools make it part of the curriculum & have a school History Day contest to determine who competes at the district level.  Others just have an after-school club which then sends kids on to the district level.  Some kids are home schooled & do it on their own!  After winning at a school level, District level, & State level, students compete in Washington D.C., alongside students from other states, as well as students from Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, Italy, Germany, Canada, China, Southeast Asia & Korea.  All 50 states competed last year!


                                                      Student historical performance

Massachusetts History Day is an all-volunteer organization.  Since 2012, Massachusetts History Day is generously co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Historical Society.  These other wonderful organizations & institutions also generously support MHD by donating judges or special prizes.  (If you are interested in donating a special prize, please contact us.  Prizes can be monetary, a book, a gift certificate to your museum store, admission passes, etc.)   Encourage the historians of tomorrow!  

  • AHL Worcester Sharks
  • American Antiquarian Society
  • American Textile History Museum
  • Clara Barton Birthplace Museum
  • Concord Museum
  • Enterprise Rent A Car
  • Essex National Heritage Area Commission
  • Fruitlands Museum
  • Langley-Adams Library, Groveland, MA
  • Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies
  • Massachusetts Geographic Alliance
  • Merrimack Valley Council for the Social Studies
  • Museum of Russian Icons
  • National Archives and Records Administration of Waltham, MA
  • National Maritime Historical Society
  • New England History Teachers Association
  • Old Sturbridge Village
  • Rand McNally Educational Publications
  • Spellman Museum of Stamps and Postal History
  • Tsongas Industrial History Center
  • USS Constitution Museum
  • Willard House & Clock Museum
  • Worcester Art Museum
  • Worcester Historical Museum


National History Day motivates students to discover research by:

  • Cultivating interest: students research a topic of their choice
  • Developing research skills: students act as historians discovering how to uncover primary sources, build context and form interpretations
  • Becoming experts on their research topic: presenting their research to teachers, students, and historians
  • Achieving success

- The shy student gains confidence when speaking about a topic he/she has researched.

- The apathetic student gains passion by choosing a topic of personal interest.

- The high achieving student increases his/her ability to articulate their learning through presentation.


For more comprehensive information on the National History Day program, please visit or