How to Host a Research Sprint

Are you a librarian, archivist or educator seeking new ways to engage your community with collections? If so, Hosting a History Unfolded Research Sprint is for you.

What Is A Research Sprint?

A History Unfolded research sprint is a organized event during which groups of citizen historians gather to research one or more History Unfolded events in a specific collection of newspapers. Usually, research sprints are held for a few hours at a library, archive, or historical society where newspaper collections are readily accessible. Occasionally, groups engage in “virtual sprints” where participants agree to research a specific event or events during a defined time period using online collections. Sometimes, sprints combine both approaches.


Why Research Sprints?

The first History Unfolded research sprint was pioneered by Dr. Matthew Delmont at Arizona State University, and since then, we have found that educators and organizations implement research sprints for a number of reasons:

  • Well-organized sprints provide an excellent experience for History Unfolded participants. Participants come together in-person (and often online) at the same time for a common purpose. They meet others who are passionate about historical research and learning the lessons of the Holocaust. They get to share their experiences with others during the event and afterwards.
  • Sprint organizers can set group goals for their event — aiming for a target number of articles and/or research from newspapers published in particular states or counties. Such goals are great motivators for project citizen historians and exciting opportunities for organizers.
  • Sprints organizers may create “themes” for their sprint with a focus on particular years in history and/or History Unfolded events.  Organizations can dove-tail their own objectives with those of the History Unfolded project, invite guest speakers or experts to answer participant questions, etc.

July 2016 Library of Congress “Hawaii-themed” research sprint, designed to help us learn more about newspaper coverage from the Aloha state. Participants featured (left to right) are Morgan K, Taylor H, Kate R and Erin K.

What Do You Need To Get Started?

The two most important ingredients for a successful research sprint are advanced planning and making use of our research sprint materials. Here is everything you need to get started

  1. Main Hosting a Research Sprint Guide
  2. Event Modules (available to print out as needed)
  3. Researcher Instructions
  4. Research Template (for completely information on a discovered newspaper article)
  5. Research Tips
  6. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo/Video Release for Adults and Photo/Video Release Form For Minors (we would love to showcase photos from your sprint; email us: historyunfolded [at] ushmm [dot] org)
Malea Walker (on left) is the Reference Specialist at the Library of Congress' Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room. She has been a wonderful supporter of our project.

Malea Walker (on left) is the Reference Specialist at the Library of Congress Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room. She has been a wonderful partner in organizing sprints every few months for DC area citizen historians.


We make sure to have all sprint documents set up beforehand and ready to go for our participants.

We set up an "Ask the Historian" table for our sprints at the Library of Congress.

Staffing is important. We set up an “Ask the Historian” table for our sprints at the Library of Congress, and we encourage participants to ask questions about the articles they find.


The Library of Congress has multiple microfilm readers which are Internet-connected, allowing researchers to upload images directly to the History Unfolded website. At least 15 people can perform research at the same time. What assets and limitations does your host site present?