Are you participating in History Fair this year? Does your teacher expect you to conduct historical research? Are you wondering where and how to begin? Are you looking for primary resources or images for an exhibit board, website or documentary? At CPL, we can help you with all of these.
After you’ve selected your topic, start with a catalog search for your topic to see what books are available. Make sure to keep a list of call numbers and the libraries where the books are located. Also note whether you can check the books out because some books can only be used in the library. Make sure you plan research time to take notes or make photocopies. Next, build on your book search using one of our History Fair online resources. You can use these from home with your library card or use them at the library.
Primary Resources and Archival Research
Although your catalog and online resource searching may uncover some primary sources, you may also need to visit an archive or special collection.
At CPL we have four special collections, two at Harold Washington Library Center (Special Collections and the Municipal Reference Collection), the Northside Neighborhood History Collection at Sulzer Regional Library and the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection (temporarily located on the fifth floor of Harold Washington Library Center and serving researchers by appointment only; please email firstname.lastname@example.org for details).
You can look at finding guides for each collection using the library’s Archival Collections. Finding guides are lists of items in collections and will help give you a general idea of what you can find in the special collection. Before you visit, make sure you check the hours as each special collection has different hours.
Archival and primary source material can sometimes be found online, too. Make sure to look at CPL’s Digital Collections and search Explore Chicago Collections, a website that allows you to search hundreds of collections in more than 20 libraries across Chicagoland.
Historical research isn’t always easy. Librarians are here to help you navigate collections and find resources on your topic. Don’t be afraid to ask questions in person or online at Ask a Librarian. If you need help putting together your documentary or editing photos, YOUmedia is a great resource that high school students can use.
Make sure to look at information on the Chicago Metro History Fair website. This organization runs the local History Fair competitions and has pulled together tips for using archives across the city, as well as rules and guidelines for the competition.
History Fair can feel daunting, but knowing where to start can make it easier to “Make History!”