Local History Day winners get help from Pequot librarians


Southport residents Annabel, Quinn and Pierce Barry (shown here), as well as Jaden Esse of Orange and Isabella Altherr of New York City, won third place in the National History Day competition.

Southport residents Annabel Barry, Quinn Barry and Pierce Barry, as well as Jaden Esse of Orange and Isabella Altherr of New York City won third place in the National History Day competition at the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park on June 13.

National History Day (NHD) is an academic program for elementary and secondary school students. Their original performance, The Tet Offensive: Turning Point in Vietnam, Turning Point in Journalism, explored how the Tet Offensive caused journalists to be more cynical of the government, during and after the Vietnam War. They did much of their research at Pequot Library.

With help from Pequot librarians, they completed extensive research and wrote their play. The youth used Pequot Library’s Auditorium/Concert Hall for their rehearsals.

“Working with Annabel was a delight,” said Leslie Mahtani, Pequot’s reference librarian. “She’s a bright young woman, she asked good questions, and was focused. She clearly thought through her goal.”

Reference librarians start with a reference interview, hone in on subject, goal and key words. Mahtani stated,

“In addition to online research from prominent sources such as universities or the Smithsonian Institute, we encouraged them to physically browse the book shelves,” Mahtani said. “Pequot has open stacks like all public libraries do. Browsing the shelves is critical for serendipity.”

Each year, more than half a million students, encouraged by thousands of teachers nationwide participate in the NHD contest. Students choose historical topics related to a theme and conduct extensive primary and secondary research through libraries, archives, museums, oral history interviews and historic sites.

After analyzing and interpreting their sources and drawing conclusions about their topics’ significance in history, students present their work in original papers, websites, exhibits, performances and documentaries. These products are entered into competitions in the spring at local, state and national levels where they are evaluated by professional historians and educators.

The 2013 NHD third place winners presented their performance in the Senior Group Performance category. They first won first place in both the Connecticut and Fairfield contests.

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