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New Position with Chicago Metro History Fair

I'm excited to have begun a new position at the Chicago History Museum a couple of weeks ago now. I am a "History Fair Program Specialist," meaning I help run the Chicago Metro History Fair.

The Chicago Metro History Fair (CMHF) is an annual, regional competition where middle and high school students in and around Chicago research a historical topic of their choice and create projects (exhibit boards, websites, documentaries...) that show off their hard work. Volunteer judges from around the community help provide feedback on the students' work, and winning entries can advance to state and national level competitions (administered by Illinois History Day and National History Day, respectively).

The Chicago History Museum
So far, my work has primarily been in preparing for weekend "Palooza" events, where volunteer coaches (often history teachers, faculty, graduate students, etc) and librarians assist students with their History Fair projects. The regional competition will take place in April, so this is a busy time of the year.

While I'm still learning what my day-to-day work will entail throughout the year, I'm really thrilled for this opportunity to work with students again. Helping students make connections and watching them become excited about a topic that sparks their interest was always one of my favorite opportunities as a teacher, and I will definitely experience that in this position (already I've spoken with students who have worked hard on projects discussing the "Double V" campaign, World War I's impact on classical music, video game history, and the experience of Mexican-Americans during the Great Depression).

Though I won't interact as consistently with students here as I did when I was teaching full-time, the trade-offs in terms of a better work environment and the chance to work with a wider range of students are well worth it, and I feel great about making this position my next move after leaving teaching to pursue my MA. My only misgiving is the lack of focus on the digital in this new role, and I am also considering the idea of doing some DH freelance work to help scratch that digital itch in a way that this History Fair position will not.

If you've never been by the Museum, I urge you to check it out! And just like you don't need to be an industrial scientist to enjoy MSI or a marine biologist to enjoy the Shedd, you don't need to be a historian to enjoy the Chicago History Museum. As the Museum's VP for Interpretation and Education John Russick said to me last week, even if no one who comes into the museum all year becomes a history major, that's fine with him. I agree! Though the Museum does have some great resources and collections for serious scholars, the primary goal of the Museum is to let anyone connect with their history and the history of our city.

If you're interested in participating as a volunteer judge, find more info on the CMHF "judging" page or download and complete this form, and return to historyfair@chicagohistory.org

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