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

This is a black and white photograph of President-elect William Howard Taft and his family in a touring car. The White Company loaned him the car for a pre-inaugural vacation in Augusta, Georgia during the winter of 1909. In the backseat of the vehicle are President Taft and First Lady Helen Herron Taft. The two older Taft children, Robert A. Taft and Helen Taft sit in the middle seat while Charles P. Taft sits besides the driver.

White House Historical Association

Project Starters

The 2023 NHD Theme is Frontiers in History: People, Places, Ideas. Trying to decide on a topic? Check out a few White House history topic ideas:

  • Technological Innovation and the White House: Presidents and the White House have made use of innovative technology since the first Aquia Creek sandstones were cut for the building itself. From Thomas Jefferson bringing the first bathrooms to the White House to Richard Nixon making a phone call to astronauts on the moon, many technological innovations we take for granted in our daily lives were pioneered by presidents and their respective administrations, opening new frontiers of advancement for the American public and the world.
  • Space Exploration and the White House: The Space Race that emerged from the end of the Second World War and the dawning of the Cold War put the United States and the Soviet Union on a path to the stars. With strong leadership and inspiration from the White House, Americans turned their attention to “the final frontier” and set foot on the moon as John F. Kennedy promised and pushed even further, bringing about many scientific and technological advancements, and enhancing the understanding of the universe for all mankind.
  • Western Expansion and the White House: When President George Washington chose the location for Washington, DC, the new capital city in 1790, most of the nation’s population was situated nearby on the Atlantic seaboard. But the country quickly grew westward, and by 1860 the nation spanned the continent to the Pacific Ocean. Through the western expansion of the United States, indigenous peoples faced displacement and violent conflict. The quest for “new frontiers” to the western United States brought about armed conflicts with native tribes, quarrels over the expansion of slavery into new territories, and even war with Mexico.
  • Environmental Frontiers: Both the President of the United States and the White House and its grounds have become symbols and stages for society’s growing interest in environmental stewardship. Thomas Jefferson used the Entrance Hall to display specimens and materials collected from the Corps of Discovery (Lewis and Clark Expedition). Theodore Roosevelt established public lands for conservation efforts and laid the foundation for the National Park Service. Jimmy Carter, amidst his national campaign to conserve energy, installed solar panels on the roof of the White House, with Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama later adding their own panels, among other environmentally friendly measures on the grounds.
  • Protest at the White House: Amendment I to the United States Constitution ensures, among other things, that the public has the right to peaceably assemble. For over a century, the White House has been a stage and audience for public protest, often in pursuit of new rights and new frontiers for humanity. From the first protests by suffragists, to civil rights advocates, to anti-war protestors and more, many activists used the White House to communicate their messages and bring greater awareness to many domestic and international issues.
  • The President as Chief Diplomat: The President isn’t just Commander-in-Chief, but also the United States’ Chief Diplomat. As Chief Diplomat, it’s the President’s job to host and attend State Dinners, foreign tours, high-profile global summits, and relaxed negotiations at presidential retreats like Camp David to achieve peace, and potentially open new global frontiers. Global frontiers can mean many things: opening borders, creating new alliances, or collaborating toward a shared goal.

Resources

There are many more NHD topics to research with connections to White House history. Explore them within our online resources:

  • LibGuide: Frontiers and the White House. Coming Soon!

White House History Prize

The White House Historical Association is proud to sponsor special awards at the National Contest as well at the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia affiliate contests.

The White House History prize is given to an outstanding project, in both the junior and senior divisions, 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. We encourage students to consider lesser-known and even untold stories in White House history!

The winners can be in any category and come from either a group or individual project.

Explore a few of the winning projects from the 2022 theme “Debate and Diplomacy” here:

Washington, DC Contest

Virginia Contest

National Contest

  • Coming soon!

2022 Paper Showcase

During the 2022 National Contest, the White House Historical Association hosted a showcase of student papers on topics related to the Presidency and/or the White House.

Explore the showcase here!

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