A Division of William Francis Galvin, Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

History Day

The Commonwealth Museum and Massachusetts Archives can help you create your History Day project.

About History Day
Massachusetts History Day—part of National History Day—is a contest designed to encourage students to produce papers, projects, performances, and media presentations based on their own original research. Students can and should use original documents and historical records to help them create their projects. Using historical records is part of the History and Social Science Frameworks of Massachusetts.

  • Massachusetts History Day is a program of the Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies. Go to their website for entry information.
  • Each year there is a new theme.
  • The contest is for students in two divisions: grades 6-8 and 9-12.
  • There are three levels of competition: District, State, and National.
  • An entry fee is due at the time of registration. Go to the National History Day website for contest rules, theme, and curriculum guides.

Help from the Commonwealth Museum and Massachusetts Archives

Using the Massachusetts Archives

The collections of the Massachusetts Archives are public records and are open to all for research. The reference staff is available to help patrons find the information they need. Please note that some materials may be restricted from use for reasons of privacy or the condition of the document.

For information contact the Massachusetts Archives reference desk at 617-722-2816.

Topics in Massachusetts History

Here are some examples of topics on which the collections the Massachusetts Archives can help.

  • King Charles I Charter of 1629—How did Puritans use this vague document to establish a government in a new land? [Charter of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay, 1629 (SC1-23x); Proceedings of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay (CTO-1700x) a.k.a. Court Records vol. 1-5]
  • Overthrow of the royal governor, Sir Edmund Andros, upon news of England’s Glorious Revolution (1688-89) [Massachusetts Archives Collection, volume 107 (SC1-45X)]
  • Witch Trial Records—What reactions to the witch trials can be seen in laws and legislative records? (Note: The main body of archives on the Salem witch trials can be found in Salem, MA.) [Massachusetts Archives Collection, volume 135 (SC1-45X)]
  • Puritans—their laws were intended to reform behaviors [Shurtleff Court Records; Proceedings of the Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay, vol. 1-5 (CT0-1700X)]
  • American Revolution: Stamp Act crisis, Boston Massacre, etc. [Acts and Resolves of the Province of Massachusetts Bay; Massachusetts Archives Collection (SC1-45X)]
  • George Washington in Massachusetts during the Revolutionary War [Massachusetts Archives Collection (SC1-45X); George Washington in Massachusetts Exhibit Information
  • Massachusetts’ constitutions—compare the rejected state constitution with the one ratified or examine the constitutional conventions. [Proceedings of state constitutional conventions; Massachusetts Archives Collection, volumes 156, 160, 276, 277 (SC1-45X)]
  • End of the slave trade in Massachusetts; emancipation in Massachusetts [Massachusetts Archives Collection (SC1-45X); judicial records]
  • School Busing in the 1970s [Court records]
  • Changes in Boston neighborhoods over time (racial/ethnic make-up) [Register of Federal Census, 1850-1880 (SC1-113X); Register of the 1855 State Census (SC1-213X); Register of the 1865 State Census (SC1-214X)]
  • Immigrants and Immigration Laws—Where were people coming from? [Registers of Passengers Arriving in Massachusetts Ports, 1848-1891 (HS3.02-1990X); Returns of Naturalization, 1885-1931 (SC1-145X); judicial records] What laws were made or considered in reaction to the influx of immigrants in 19th-century Massachusetts? [Acts and Resolves of Massachusetts; Passed Acts (SC1-229); Passed Resolves (SC1-228); House Unpassed Legislation (SC1-230); Senate Unpassed Legislation (SC1-231); Board of Alien Commissioners (HS2)]
  • King Philip’s War—Was this a revolt of the natives, an attempt by colonists to reform natives? [Shurtleff Court Records; Records of militia units and military activities during war; Massachusetts Archives Collection, volumes 67-69 (Sc1-45X)]
  • Shays’ Rebellion, 1786-1787 [Massachusetts Archives Collection, volumes 189-192, 275, 311, 315, 316, 318, 319 (SC1-45X)]
  • State hospitals, almshouses, and other institutions as early models of reform [Human service records: Board of Alien Commissioners (HS2); Board of State Charities (HS3); State Almshouse at Bridgewater (HS3.04); State Almshouse at Monson (HS3.06); State Almshouse at Tewksbury (HS6.11); State Hospital at Worcester (HS7.11); Massachusetts State Prison (HS9.01)]
  • Educational Reform in Massachusetts—Horace Mann, etc. [Board of Education (ED1); Department of Education (ED2)]
  • Reactions in Massachusetts to the Brown v. Board of Education decision: were there court cases/laws here? Look at earlier school desegregation laws.
  • Mill workers and labor laws—Fight for a ten-hour workday, child labor laws, etc. [Acts and Resolves of Massachusetts; Passed Acts (SC1-229); Passed Resolves (SC1-228); House Unpassed Legislation (SC1-230); Senate Unpassed Legislation (SC1-231); State Board of Conciliation and Arbitration (LA4); Bureau of Statistics of Labor (LA2)]
  • Attitudes towards African-Americans—What attitudes are evident in legislation passed? [See Collections of the Massachusetts Archives: Civil War Records, pg. 12, 55, 60, 69]
  • Voting Laws—Examine the changing requirements to vote in Massachusetts from colonial times to the present. [Shurtleff Court Records; Acts and Resolves of Massachusetts; Passed Acts (SC1-229); Passed Resolves (SC1-228); House Unpassed Legislation (SC1-230); Senate Unpassed Legislation (SC1-231)]
  • Civil War in Massachusetts [Refer to the guide Collections of the Massachusetts Archives: Civil War Records]

Collections of the Massachusetts Archives

Review the archives' collections to come up with your own ideas.