Utilizing Historic Sites for National History Day Research

Highlighting Women’s Contributions to History
Lesson Prepared By
Michael Sandstrom; Chadron High School Social Studies; Chadron, NE
Grade Level
6th
7th
8th
9th
10th
11th
12th
Description

This questionnaire allows students to interview the staff at any historic site that focuses on women’s contributions to the past.  The questions can also be adapted each year to other historical sites that focus on other topics and new National History Day themes.

Time

Depending on the distance from the site and access to technology, interview set-up will vary.

  • Interview Time: 30 to 60 minutes
Objective
  • Students will be able to identify historic sites that highlight women’s contributions to our collective past.
  • Students will be able to interview the staff from historic sites to inform their National History Day projects and other research.
Procedures

In order to build interest and contextualize a National History Day Project, it is important to visit historical sites whether in person or digitally.  Learning in place and walking (or viewing) the same ground as people from the past can be critical.  The first step is to identify the sites that meet the needs of a particular project.  Students need to consider their topic and the year’s theme.  Overall, this resource is for students with topics relating to women and women’s history.

(Note: If students cannot travel to these historic sites, they can still contact the staff by email or telephone.  Also, some sites offer websites with virtual tours.)

 

List of Potential Historic Sites:

This list contains well-known and lesser well-known historic sites from around the country.  The list is not fully exhaustive as there are hundreds of sites across the United States.  Even locations that do not typically fall into traditional conceptions of women’s history will now provide interpretation on women.  Students interested in other topics can use the template at any site, especially local points of interest.

  1. Belle Boyd Home – Martinsburg, WV
  2. Brown Building – Manhattan, NY – Location of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911
  3. Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum – Washington D.C.
  4. Clara Barton National Historic Site – Glen Echo, MD
  5. Harriet Beecher Stowe House – Hartford, CN
  6. Harriet Tubman House – Auburn, NY
  7. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway – Cambridge, MD
  8. Ida B. Wells-Barnett House – Chicago, IL
  9. Jane Addams Hull-House Museum – Chicago, IL
  10. Kate Mullany House – Troy, NY
  11. Lowell Massachusetts Historical Park – Lowell, MA
  12. Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site – Richmond, VA
  13. Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site – Washington D.C.
  14. National Women’s Hall of Fame – Seneca Falls, NY
  15. Rankin Ranch – Avalanche Gulch, MT
  16. Pauli Murray House – Durham, NC
  17. Rosa Parks Arrest Site – Montgomery, AL
  18. Rosa Parks Bus located at the Henry Ford Museum – Dearborn, MI
  19. Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park – Richmond, CA
  20. Susan B. Anthony House and Museum – Rochester, NY
  21. Willa Cather House – Red Cloud, NE
  22. Women's Rights National Historical Park – Seneca Falls, NY

 

Women’s Historic Site Interview Template:

Once the site or sites have been identified, it is critical to adjust the questions to the year’s theme and the student’s particular topic.  The interview questionnaire is a general template that should work at almost any historic site, but certain students may want to bolster their projects with questions specific to their research.  The template is included in this resource guide along with a sample interview with Monticello staff on the enslaved women held on the plantation.

 

Completing the Interview:

A personal visit and request for an interview is always preferred, but that is not always feasible due to travel or transportation limitations.  In those cases, an internet search should reveal a telephone number or email address.  Contact the staff and complete the interview in a manner that suits both parties.

 

Using the Interview Responses:

Interviews can help students in a variety of ways.  First, staff members are experts on primary and secondary sources related to that topic.  If students are struggling to find quality sources, the survey responses should provide a place to begin their search.  The site might also hold objects that students can use and photograph for their bibliography.  At times, seeing an object in place can have a profound effect on students.  Next, the student might be able to fully grasp the context that surrounds their topic.  Finally, historic sites are about perpetuating memory.  Students can learn a lot from the staff about how the historical actors that they commemorate have been remembered over time.  In the end, visiting historic sites and interviewing their staff is only the first step to a successful NHD project.  After the interview, students need to find and incorporate primary and secondary sources into their project.  Yet, an interview can be an excellent place to see what is possible with historic sites and let them walk the same ground as the subjects that they are studying.