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Do’s and Don’ts for Archivists

Page history last edited by Shaun Hayes 10 years ago

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So You're Interested in Hosting NHD Students


Congratulations on taking the first step towards engaging young students in the study of history! We hope you will find this process enjoyable and that students will benefit from use of your collections. Please find below some tips for making sure that you and the National History Day (NHD) students get the most out of working together. Most of the tips are pretty applicable for working with patrons in general, but there are some that are NHD-specific. Enjoy!



  • Follow the National History Day Annual Guidelines (2015 Theme book) and pre-select relevant collections. 
  • Consider developing a web page for NHD participants with links to relevant collections and resources (see Best Practices: Some Examples).
  • Work with your state coordinator  to coordinate class visits and visits by individual NHD researchers.
  • Assign a staff member to act as a liaison with your various NHD groups.
  • Communicate directly with the teacher to plan a class visit.
  • Refer teachers to sources you have highlighted on your webpage, a list of topics for student research, or to any social media presence you have (see History Topics Examples).
  • If your finding aids are online, ask teachers to have students identify materials of interest and have teachers email call slips for each student.
  • Pull materials in preparation for a class visit.
  • Consider this an opportunity to share your archives with younger users.
  • Try to find college age interns or retired teachers to volunteer during class visits/project time.  Train volunteers to bring any unresolved questions to the archivist.
  • Come up with creative ways to use original documents and images without adding to wear and tear—use plastic sheet protectors, make surrogate reproductions, or create digital versions.
  • Encourage students whose research topic has no holdings to check secondary sources to find new topics or search terms.
  • When students do find good stuff, create a "History Day topic" for it so you don't have to repeat the search.
  • Educate your users about primary and secondary sources.
  • Be flexible and accommodating with students who cannot visit on-site.
  • Be patient with both parents and students.
  • Ask students questions to clarify their thinking. You'll need to adjust to their entry-level research abilities, but you will have a wonderful opportunity to make an impact.
  • Share your excitement for the past with teachers and students by talking about different ways to look at the selected topic.
  • Forget to assess the experience of your NHD researchers.



  • Expect NHD students to know how to do research or search for materials.
  • Expect NHD teachers or students to understand what a finding aid is.
  • Do the research for the student.
  • Forget to communicate to home-school networks in order to reach a broader audience of students.

Society of American Archivists Reference, Access and Outreach Section's National History Day Committee| Credits

The Society of American Archivists does not assume responsibility for the opinions and views published on this auxiliary site.


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