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Monday, December 17, 2012

Announcing the Martha Plassman Prize and Generally Celebrating Chronicling America

As one of my colleagues is fond of saying, old newspapers are the closest thing we have to a time machine. That’s why Chronicling America—a national, ever-expanding newspaper digitization project—is one of my favorite resources.

Thus far, as part of this project, Montana has digitized selected ranges of nine different newspapers, with twenty-four more titles to come in over the course of the next year. See the list of titles here.

To encourage folks to discover this treasure trove, we created the Thinking like a Historian lesson plan, which outlines a way to engage students in in-depth research, but also offers options for shorter forays into the historic newspapers.


We’ve also included lessons using Chronicling America in the Girl from the Gulches Study Guide (see, particularly Lessons 5 and 7) that can be used as part of a unit on Mary Ronan or as stand-alone lessons.

That’s the old news. The NEW news is that we’ve just created the Martha Plassman Prize. This prize will award $500 and a certificate from the Montana Historical Society at the State National History Day competition to the student project that best uses Montana’s newspapers digitized on Chronicling America.

If you are participating in National History Day, please let your students know about this opportunity and encourage them to take advantage of it. Of course, we hope that students research a Montana history topic (see here for topic ideas), but that is NOT part of the prize consideration. To be eligible to win the Martha Plassman Prize, students researching a national topic can look in Montana newspapers to see how their topic was covered here at home.


if you aren’t participating in National History Day yet, there is still time. (Contact Tom Rust at trust@msubillings.edu for more information.) We’ll even be giving a training to help new teachers get started in Billings, February 6 and 7 as part of the Montana University Systems Professional Development Offering: Literacy for the Common Core.


P.S. You can find out more about Chronicling America and access additional links to Chronicling America teaching resources here and here.

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