March 26, 2008

SIUC to host regional history fair on Saturday

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinoisans are proud of their region, and that pride starts early. It shows up in the topics students from the area choose for their entries at the Southern Illinois Regional History Fair, held at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The history fair is open to the public beginning at 1 p.m. with an awards ceremony at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 29, in the SIU Arena. Approximately 150 projects – from research papers to museum-styled displays, from computer mediums to history-by-performance – will be on display.

"Kids identify with their region here (in Southern Illinois)," Peter C. Harbison of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency said. Harbison is the western region coordinator for the Illinois History Fair, and is also one of the All Illinois History Exposition organizers. "We see local history referenced in many of the history projects students in this region choose.

"You know the idea of the history fair is working when you see how excited and proud the kids are of their projects," he added.

Harbison said the Illinois History Fair began in the late 1940s and began accepting projects other than research papers in 1963. SIUC is a strong partner, he said, in promoting the history fair in Southern Illinois.

Jo Ann E. Argersinger, professor of history at SIUC, is co-coordinator for the Southern Region along with Michael Batinski, chair of the SIUC History Department. She said it isn't just the students who feel the buzz – it's the volunteer judges as well.

"When I sent out an e-mail to recruit judges, I had 20 responses in five minutes. That's not an exaggeration," she said.

She noted that, while the history fair provides an excellent opportunity for students to learn the history of their state, it also teaches them skills that will be helpful later, including time management and how to select a manageable topic.

"It's a trigger for creativity," she said.

More than 20 schools in the area participate in the regional fair. Those students whose work merits a score of "superior" are eligible to participate in the All Illinois History Exposition set for May 8 in Springfield.

For more information, contact Batinski at 618/453-4391 or by email at or contact Harbison at 217/782-2981 or