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The White House Historical Association (WHHA) offers many different resources for students working on National History Day projects.

JFK Addressing the Press During the Cuban Missile

Robert Knudsen, White House/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum/NARA

Project Starters

The 2019 NHD Theme is Triumph & Tragedy in History. Trying to decide on a topic? Check out a few White House history topic ideas:

  • Burning of the White House – War of 1812: On August 24, 1814, British troops set fire to the White House, along with several other important buildings in the capital. Following the war, the American commitment to rebuild the White House on the same grounds marked the triumph of the young nation.
  • Mrs. Kennedy’s Restoration of the White House: In 1961, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy embarked on a restoration project to preserve important artifacts and improve scholarship on the White House. This project set a standard for future designs and preservation efforts at the White House.
  • The 19th Amendment: For decades, American women lobbied, advocated, and marched outside the White House for their right to vote. In 1920, the states ratified the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote.
  • The Truman Renovations: In 1948, President Harry Truman began a four-year renovation of the White House to provide necessary modernization and repairs to the House. With the exterior walls remaining in place and the interior completely changed, President Truman connected the past with the present to honor the original house while moving into modern times.
  • Edith Wilson: Edith Wilson was the wife of Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States. After President Wilson suffered a stroke, Mrs. Wilson began to monitor and screen many important duties at the White House, earning her the nickname “the Secret President.”
  • Presidential Deaths and Assassinations: Eight American presidents have died in office. Four from natural causes (Presidents Harrison, Taylor, Harding, and Franklin Roosevelt) and four from assassination (Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy). Following every death, the White House and the American people came together to mourn the loss and find ways to move on.


There are many more NHD topics to research with connection to White House history. Explore these within our online resources.

  • Classroom Resource Packets – covering 30 different topics including:

    • Designing the White House
    • Presidents and the Press
    • African Americans in the White House
    • The White House and War
    • Western Expansion and the White House
    • Space Exploration and the White House
    • Technology and the White House
    • Protest at the White House
    • Security and the White House
    • Diplomacy and the White House
    • Lost Features of the White House
  • Short Resource Videos – quick and compelling visual narratives of White House history.
  • The 1600 Sessions Podcast – contains interviews and stories from historians and former White House staff.
  • WHHA Digital Library- provides a wealth of primary source images from many different presidential administrations.

View a project from one of the 2018 White House History Prize winners — Tyler Kaus from Chadron Middle School in Nebraska. He created “Raze or Renovate” — a junior division, individual documentary about the President Harry S. Truman renovations to the White House.

Courtesy of Tyler Kaus

White House History Prize

The White House Historical Association also sponsors a prize at the National Contest.

The prize is given for an outstanding project that documents and analyzes White House history through such subjects as individual presidents, first ladies, residence staff, White House art and architecture, or important events that took place in the White House.

Two awards are given each year – one for each division (Junior and Senior). These winners can be in any category and come from either a group or individual project.

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