After a 2014 break, I returned to help judge the National History Day DC event last week. Each time I attend, the event has become more and more sophisticated.
This year, I judged websites again. Weebly's themes are even better this time around. It's been interesting to see Weebly earn a reputation as a legit website builder, if not a reputation as a full CMS. When I first encountered Weebly as NHD's web partner, it seemed kind of hokey. Now, because of the stylish theme presets, students' websites are starting to actually look attractive.
A new (at least since 2013) website category rule is another welcome change. This rule is for crediting images. Students love to populate their site with historical pictures and photographs and have these count as their primary sources. The trouble is, the web (in both amateur and student work) can tend to lead to unattributed sources. It's just too easy to post something without crediting the creator or the museum or archive from which it came. Because students know that they could be penalized for not crediting their images, the student work I saw last week was pretty good about providing source credits. There is still room to improve this rule, however. It is vaguely worded and students can bury the credits within a bibliography. Students also still struggle with identifying the original source of texts and images, as opposed to the secondary or tertiary site where they found it.
Another exciting thing about last week's contest is that the National Archives special rotating Twitter account, "This is Archives," promoted the event on social media. I hope this earned them some publicity. NARA deserves credit and attention for playing a role in promoting history among the local community.