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Do’s and Don’ts for Archivists

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on May 26, 2011 at 6:22:34 am




  • Follow the National History Day Annual Guidelines and pre-select relevant collections.  http://www.nhd.org/images/uploads/2010rulebook.pdf.
  • Consider developing a web page for NHD participants with links to relevant collections and resources.  (See Best NHD practices )
  • Work with your state coordinator (http://www.nhd.org/Coordinators.htm) to coordinate class visits and individual NHD researchers.
  • Assign a staff member to liaison with your various NHD groups.
  • Communicate directly with the teacher to plan a class visit.
  • Refer teachers to your webpage or list of topics for student research for certain topics.  (See History Topics Examples)
  • If your finding aids are online, ask teacher to have students identify materials of interest and have teacher 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.
  • Hang a sign that says "History Day Help.”
  • 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 or make surrogate reproduction or 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 Topic” for it so you don't have to repeat the search.
  • Educate your users about primary and secondary sources.
  • Ask students questions (adjusted to their level) to help them clarify their thinking.
  • Be flexible and accommodating with students who cannot visit on-site.
  • Be patient with both parents and students.
  • Know that the time you take when talking with or emailing students has a great impact.
  • Ask students questions to clarify their thinking. You'll need to adjust to their entry level into research 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.




  • 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 home-schooled students.
  • Leave out assessing the experience of your K-12 users.



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