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Theme Information

Each year, National History Day® frames students’ research within a historical theme. The 2022-2023 theme is Frontiers in History: People, Places, Ideas. Your topic may focus on any geographic area, historical period, event, group, or individual, but it must relate back to the annual theme. Understanding the historical significance and context of your topic will help you draw a connection to the theme. Use the resources below to learn more about this year’s theme.

2023 NHD Theme Book

2023 NHD Theme Narrative

2023 Theme Graphic Organizer (NHD)

NHD Theme Page

 

Yellow and blue theme logo

Topics

What makes a "good" topic?

  • Narrow
  • Significant
  • "In History"
  • Sources
  • Theme Connection
  • Interest

You won't be able to tell your audience everything about your topic. A narrow topic is specific enough to be presented within the limits of your Michigan History Day project. The worksheet below may help you find the best topic for your project.

Rightsizing Your Topic

Additional Resources

2023 Michigan Topics 

Check back here often to see topic ideas and resources from museums and historical organizations across Michigan. 

 

Economics

The Impact of George and Frank Glazier on the Development of Chelsea

George and Frank Glazier - father and son businessmen- influenced the frontier of commerce in Chelsea.  George established the first bank in Chelsea in 1868. Frank established the "Best and Brightest" Stove Company that produced oil stoves shipped all over the world.

Resources: Pictures, articles, and documents at the Chelsea Area Historical Society & Museum. chelseahistory.org

Contact Information: Email president@chelseahistory.org or call 734-476-1020

Government

Native American Programs 1974-1976

Materials from Bradley H. Patterson’s work on legislation and policies concerning Native Americans, and his work as a White House liaison between Federal officials and tribal organizations. The files portray the living conditions of Native Americans and legal, social, and economic problems of specific tribes and reservations. Patterson's efforts to channel complaints to appropriate federal officials, monitor legislation, and arrange meetings with national and regional Indian organizations are well documented. 

Resources: https://www.fordlibrarymuseum.gov/library/guides/findingaid/pattersonfiles.asp

Contact Information: Email Richard Weld at Richard.Weld@NARA.gov.


Women’s Rights Collection – Gerald Ford Presidential Library & Museum

The Ford White House faced multiple issues pertaining to women’s rights during the 1970s. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Digital Library has multiple sources for the following topics:

  • Equal Rights Amendment
  • Title IX
  • International Women’s Year
  • Abortion
  • Betty Ford
  • Women in Government and the 1976 Election
  • Military Academy Admissions
  • Property Law

Resources: https://www.fordlibrarymuseum.gov/library/exhibits/women/women.asp

Contact Information: Email Richard Weld at Richard.Weld@NARA.gov.


George Washington and Mount Vernon

Staff from Mount Vernon has created a webpage with resources from their collection that connect to this year's theme.

Resources: https://www.mountvernon.org/education/for-students/national-history-day-support/

Innovations

Gamwell Fire Alarm

An idea that changed history was the Gamewell Fire Alarm. People used to run around and yell for help or ring bells but that didn't tell you where the fire was. It was very slow and houses would burn down. When the Gamewell was commercialized and bought by fire departments, suddenly using a fire box at your street corner brought in the fire department to the correct location. Many lives and property were saved.

Resources: There is a Gamewell alarm at the Antique Toy and Firehouse Museum in Bay City. There are docents available to explain the history and work with the student to see an old Bay City artifact located in the City Hall museum.

Contact Information: Email info@toyandfirehousemuseum.org.


Horse Drawn Fire Engines

The invention of the Steam-powered, horse drawn fire engine changed firefighting forever. It introduced a way to pump water on a fire with a system that did not rely on people providing the power. Prior to that, people pulled a cart and then hand-pumped water. The problem? The engines were too big for people to pull or push! Horses solved that problem, and they were much faster. They also paved the way for the motorized fire truck. The first idea to break through that frontier was the horse drawn fire engine.

Resources: The Antique Toy and Firehouse Museum houses many of the horse-drawn fire apparatus (on loan from the Castle Museum of Saginaw County). There are docents available to show the artifacts and explain the history to the student.

Contact Information: Email info@toyandfirehousemuseum.org.

Native American

Native American Programs 1974-1976

Materials from Bradley H. Patterson’s work on legislation and policies concerning Native Americans, and his work as a White House liaison between Federal officials and tribal organizations. The files portray the living conditions of Native Americans and legal, social, and economic problems of specific tribes and reservations. Patterson's efforts to channel complaints to appropriate federal officials, monitor legislation, and arrange meetings with national and regional Indian organizations are well documented. 

Resources: https://www.fordlibrarymuseum.gov/library/guides/findingaid/pattersonfiles.asp

Contact Information: Email Richard Weld at Richard.Weld@NARA.gov.

Oral History

Using Oral History for your MHD Project

Most Michigan History Day projects will be enhanced by interviewing an expert in the field or someone who experienced the event. Learn to ask questions and interact with community members.
Resources: Senior citizens, librarians, archivist, museum workers, and even parents may know some interesting details about your topic. Visit michiganoha.org/ to learn more.

Women's History

Women’s Rights Collection – Gerald Ford Presidential Library & Museum

The Ford White House faced multiple issues pertaining to women’s rights during the 1970s. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Digital Library has multiple sources for the following topics:

  • Equal Rights Amendment
  • Title IX
  • International Women’s Year
  • Abortion
  • Betty Ford
  • Women in Government and the 1976 Election
  • Military Academy Admissions
  • Property Law

Resources: https://www.fordlibrarymuseum.gov/library/exhibits/women/women.asp

Contact Information: Email Richard Weld at Richard.Weld@NARA.gov.


Women’s History Resource Guide – Archives of the Midland County Historical Society

Various collections document the history, activities, and impact of the women of Midland County through records of organizations, clubs, and personal papers. Some of the collections include:

  • Church Women United Records
  • League of Women Voters - Midland Area Records
  • UNICEF Club of Midland Records
  • Midland Federation of Women's Clubs Records

Use the MCHS Archives Women's History Resource Guide for a complete list.


Thank you to the following contributors!
Jan Bernath, Chelsea Area Historical Society
Jim Cameron, Michigan Oral History Association
Sarah Eck, Antique Toy and Firehouse Museum
Richard Weld, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum