I just got back from Rochester where I presented History Day to about 60 librarians, archivists, museum educators and teachers at the Rochester Regional Library Council’s 2007 Archives Month Conference.   I gave an introduction to the program, and the fantastic teaching team at Victor Junior High School talked about how they work together to implement the program for their entire 8th grade.

The school has been participating in New York State History Day since 1985!  And they have developed an impressive system that involves Language Arts, Social Studies, Computer and Library Media Center teachers.  They cover all the bases, from developing strong topics based in quality primary source documents, to writing strong introductory paragraphs and thesis statements, to creating top-notch projects.    

One of my favorite things that they talked about was the customized learner contracts they create with each student.  Because all eighth graders participate in developing a History Day research project, they are given the option to compete.  I love that!  At the beginning of the year, the teachers meet one-on-one with each student and work out a learning contract.  They’ve made this fun by structuring it as a menu or a tic-tac-toe board where students pick and choose the options they want.  I am telling you, these teachers are amazing.  

The other amazing thing a discovered at the conference is an incredible new online resource on the abolitionist movement in the greater Rochester area.  Developed by Larry Naukam and a staff of hard-working digitizers from the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County, this new resource, which is called Many Roads to Freedom: Abolitionism and the Civil War in Rochester “includes images and information on abolitionists, the local Underground Railroad, slave narratives, anti-slavery speeches, and abolitionist newspapers, as well as Civil War era news on the war effort and local military units. All items included in the tour are from the collections of the Central Library’s Local History & Genealogy Division.” 

No description I can attempt will do this site justice.  They have digitized everything from 150 years of City Directories, to complete slave narratives, to political cartoons from the era and more.  What makes this site so great is that they have organized the collection thematically.  In addition to a general war timeline and a map of Civil War Rochester, the site breaks the topic into three date-related parts.  Each clickable link contains a text overview of the collection and its relevance to the abolitionist movement.  Part 1, called “Rochester, Abolitionism, and The Road To War, 1830-1861″ includes biographies and photos of abolitionists, copies of abolitionist newspapers, and anti-slavery song sheet music.  “Rochester and The Civil War , 1861-1865,” which is Part 2 of the site, includes a soldier photo gallery, a complete digitized collection a local newspaper that chronicled the war, and a comprehensive political cartoon section.  The last section, “Rochester and the Aftermath of War, 1865 and Beyond,” includes regimental histories and images of local monuments and landmarks.  What impressed me most about this site is the breadth and depth.  For example, if you click on an image in the political cartoon section, it takes you to a detailed catalog entry that not only provides publisher information, but also a detailed contextual explanation of the cartoon’s meaning and impact.  Wow!  I encourage you all to get to the site and just play around.  There are hundreds of possible History Day topics in there!  

I am so serious about this, that I want to provide the URL to you again:

Happy exploring!


1 Response to “Roch-cha-cha!”

  1. 1 libraryn October 29, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    Thank you! That’s what we made it for.

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