Gopherbaloo: An Action-Packed and Fun-Filled Day of History!

By Andy Wilhide, DCL Research Assistant

On a cold, wintery Saturday afternoon, I followed some unusual visitors into Wilson Library: teenagers. They streamed in—by themselves, in pairs, in groups, and in families—talking excitedly and carrying books and bags with them. What brought them here on a weekend afternoon? Gopherbaloo, an annual event sponsored by the University of Minnesota Libraries and the Minnesota Historical Society’s History Day program. The afternoon included power conferences with History Day experts, research sessions, project workshops, and presentations on archives. Oh, and pictures with the History Day Moose—I got one too! There were raffles where students could win large exhibit boards, t-shirts, and other History Day swag.

The real prize was the opportunity for students to get some feedback on their History Day projects and to discover new resources that could help make their projects stronger. That’s where I came in—I was there to show off the Digital Content Library and help students, parents and teachers explore this unique archive.

This year’s History Day theme is “Taking A Stand.” Several students stopped by my table to check out the DCL. With the topics they had chosen, it was a bit hit and miss, but we did find some interesting materials, including dance photographs from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, photographs and documentaries about Susan B. Anthony, a documentary about the L.A. Race Riots in 1992, and various materials connected to Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo—the scientists behind the theory of heliocentrism.

In preparation for the event, I made media drawers of potential History Day topics. These drawers are available to anyone who is logged into the DCL. One media drawer is dedicated to this year’s theme of “Taking A Stand.” Using the keywords “demonstrations” and “protests,” I found records ranging from a Communist rally in New York City (1930) to the Soweto Uprising in South Africa (1976) to the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington D.C. (1968) to Tiananmen Square Protests in China (1989). Many of these images came from the Department of History and the Department of Art History. One set of materials caught my eye—a series of photographs of the Iranian Revolution in 1978, taken by William Beeman, a professor in Anthropology.

Most History Day students rely on Google to find their images and resources, but we did find some materials that were not easily available through a Google search. Students, parents and teachers left my table excited to explore more of the treasures in the DCL, but from the comfort of home. Herein lies a challenge in sharing the DCL with public audiences: while public viewers can see most of what is on the DCL, they cannot download any of the images. This can be a deterrent for History Day students who need those images for their projects, which may be an exhibit, a documentary, a website or a performance. This is our first year connecting the DCL to History Day. We’ve made guest accounts for users outside of the U of M to access the DCL. We’ll see how it goes and report back!

The History Day State Competition will be held on the University of Minnesota campus, April 29, 2017.

Thank you to Lynn Skupeko and Phil Dudas from Wilson Library and the Minnesota History Day staff for inviting us to be part of Gopherbaloo. We hope to come back next year!

@MNHistoryDay [Twitter]

The DCL is available to anyone with a U of M x500 account. If you know of someone who is not affiliated with the U of M but would like a guest account to access the Digital Content Library, please have them contact Denne Wesolowski,

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