Hyde Park students excel at state and national history fairs

Staff Writer

Nicola Han and Meghan Hammond are two local students whose projects were submitted to the Chicago Metro History Fair and then went on to the statewide History Fair.

Han, an incoming senior at the University of Chicago Lab School, wrote a paper on William H. McNeill, who was a historian and pioneer in the field of world history. She was selected to represent the state of Illinois in the National History Fair that was held last week in Washington D.C.

Han was inspired by the work of McNeill whose work was essential to the field of world history at a time when the subject was focused on the history of Europe and its past and present colonies. McNeill’s work was centered on the connections and exchanges between civilizations.

“He pushed this idea of world history forward,‚” Han said. “He took a stance in a way where he continued to advocate for his beliefs. I’ve always been interested in this idea of a global point of view. To focus on sort of the international interaction between other countries and how it establishes the basis for everyone else.‚”

McNeill attended the University of Chicago and taught at the university for 40 years.

He was The Robert A. Millikan Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in History and wrote more than 20 books.

McNeill was awarded the Erasmus Prize in 1996 and National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama in 2010.

He passed away last July, he was 88-years-old. As Han was conducting research on the project, she was able to look over his research at the University of Chicago. She also was able to speak to members of his family.

“This project has been such a big part of my life since November or December,‚” said Han. “I’m really happy with how it turned out. I’m disappointed it didn’t place higher than I thought it would.‚”

Han’s project made it to the national competition but did not place in the top ten.

Hammond, a Hyde Park resident and eighth-grader at South Loop Elementary School, said her project came to be as she and her mother were watching a British television series called “Mr. Selfridge‚”.

The television show is a drama series that portrays the life of Harry Gordon Selfridge, who was a famous businessman, and his wife Rosalie Amelia Buckingham.

As Hammond and her mother completed the series they realized that some elements of the show were true.

Buckingham was a member of the wealthy Buckingham family of Chicago. In 1883, she purchased land on Harper Avenue between 57th and 59th streets in Hyde Park, which are known as the Rosalie Villas.

The Rosalie Villas are still in existence today just three blocks away from Hammond’s home.

“The Rosalie Villas are a series of villas in Hyde Park on Harper Avenue that were built by Rose Buckingham to serve as houses for artisans who basically didn’t have homes to raise their families,‚” Hammond said.

Buckingham was independent at a time where roles were different for women and that inspired Hammond to craft a history project based on the Rosalie Villas.

Hammond presented her project at the Chicago Metro History Fair and the state competition in Springfield, Ill.

Hammond did not move on to the national competition but her project received a superior ranking in the statewide history fair.

Last year, Hammond also qualified for the state history fair.

Hammond graduated from eighth grade last week and will be attending Lab School in the fall.

Han and Hammond received recognition from the Hyde Park Historical Society at a program on Saturday, June 17, where they presented their projects to members of the community.