Each year, over 7,000 Utah students, from grades 4-12, embark on a research project for Utah History Day, part of the larger National History Day contest. Students choose a historical topic related to the annual theme, and then conduct primary and secondary research in libraries, archives, and museums. The final projects are presented in one of five ways: an exhibit, documentary, performance, paper, or website. The 2020-2021 theme was Communication in History: The Key to Understanding. Themes are chosen for broad application to world, national, or state history so that each student can find a topic that piques their interest.
History in Government Prize
As a repository that holds millions of primary records, the Utah State Archives and Records Service Division loves to participate in Utah History Day! We sponsor a special History in Government prize, which looks to highlight projects that relate to local, state, or federal government policies and political leaders. This year we had 37 nominations – a record number of projects to review! A group of five staff members were this year’s judging team and they were very impressed with the submissions. Jim Kichas, Assistant Director of the Division and Archives Section Manager, stated “It is INCREDIBLY hard to pick two…these kids are crazy talented! I judged on subject, execution, argument, and alignment with the award we are giving.” In the end, two projects took home top honors and the award of a $100 prize.
Absence of Understanding: Consequences of Miscommunicating the Native American Experience
The winner of the History in Government prize for the Senior Division is a Group Documentary by Kate Topham, Kate Willis, and Paige Topham. Titled the Absence of Understanding: Consequences of Miscommunicating the Native American Experience, this documentary explores how government choices and policies throughout US history have affected Native American lives. In their award nomination, the students note “Our documentary shares a pattern of miscommunication by political and military leaders, intentional and not, both during events and after, that resulted in systemic, long-lasting misunderstanding with Native Americans.” This well researched documentary utilizes primary sources like newspaper articles, letters, proclamations, speeches, legal documents, photographs, and paintings. The students also emailed a total of 192 people including professors, historians, authors, and Native Americans to request interviews. They conducted 23 interviews and include parts of these recorded conversations in the film. The judges were impressed with the time and attention to detail the students gave to this important topic.
Leading the Way to Women’s Suffrage
The winner of the History in Government prize for the Junior Division is an Individual Documentary by Cambria Merrill. This documentary, titled Leading the Way to Women’s Suffrage, makes the historical argument that Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were crucial players in the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the United States. Cambria ties her topic to the annual theme by showing how important communication and planning was to the Suffrage movement. She uses examples such as the rallies, books, letters, and speeches the women used to get word out of what they wanted.
Congratulations to all the winners! We look forward to many more successful years of projects with Utah History Day!