Minnesota History Day!

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Interior of Science Teaching and Student Services Building, University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus, with Minneapolis skyline

For the last four springs, I have participated in a very interesting, humanity affirming type of event, the Minnesota branch of National History Day contest. Just the sort of thing you help out with in order to feel more connected to the community. A program for grade and high school students to research and present upon a historical topic, Minnesota seems to have a particularly strong following with thousands of students from schools across the state choosing a topic and exploring its importance in history. Thanks to the Minnesota Historical Society and the Univeristy of Minnesota, among other sponsors, Minnesota History Day is a great way to get involved! A general “feel good” type of situation that really warms my library history major heart to see so many diverse youth interested in the importance of history, exploring such things as the labor movement in Minnesota, civil rights, and environmentalism.  Among many others, I volunteer as a judge, to evaluate the student’s works for the national events later in the year, and help them to brush up their analysis and presentations. As always, one of my favorite things is learning all of the totally new things every time I judge, in such a wide variety of topics and I never know what interesting ideas will be presented next.

Last Saturday, the final State History event convened at the University of Minnesota. I love having the chance to visit the campus of my old alma mater. Most of the exhibits and presentations are held at Coffman Union, where I judged in the past, but this year I was judging websites for the first time, which turned out fascinating. These were hosted in the shiny new Science Teaching and Student Services Building, which a few years ago replaced the frumpy little Science Classrooms Building I remember from my time at the U. I can admit to a certain, deep seated sense of nostalgia and melancholy that often comes over me whenever I have an excuse to hang out on the U campus, I thoroughly enjoyed the years I spent at the U of M, taking history and philosophy classes over on the West Bank, than strolling across the Washington Avenue Bridge, checking out the student group murals along the way, to take Latin or Scandinavian Folklore on the East Bank. There is much that has already changed since my time at on the campus, the new Science Teaching Building just one thing.

Well, to get back from speaking of my own history to History Day, there is always a theme in National History Day. This year, it was “rights and in history,” which made for some very heady presentations. It was very cool to see how students interpret the use of the internet to tell their stories. It is particularly interesting for me as a librarian to see where students go for their information- they do seem to hold books in high regard, still, especially when they discover that they don’t even have to buy them! Quite revolutionary, eh? It is all worth the cool free T-shirt or coffee mug you get for helping out!

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