Documentary History Project for Youth

The Documentary History Project for Youth is an annual after-school, weekend and summertime digital media production workshop for middle and high school students. Each year, youth participants create short documentary films as a way to explore some aspect of the social, political and cultural history of Philadelphia. In past years students have focused on policing, African American history, and local folk music traditions. APPLICATION for the 2017 Documentary History Project for Youth. 

Information Sessions: Wednesday, February 1, 6:30 PM
                                   Wednesday, February 15, 6:30 PM

                                    at Scribe Video Center, 4035 Walnut Street
                                    RSVP here

The subject of the 2016 Documentary History Project for Youth was Justice, an examination of fairness and equality in our society. The filmmakers tackled issues ranging from gun regulation and voter suppression to abuse in the foster care system and education funding. The works premiered last fall at the University of the Arts. 

Up to 12 young people will be accepted into the program. Participants will talk with scholars and experts, explore historical archives, and learn the basics of documentary filmmaking. Students gain solid skills in media production, including planning, scripting, camera and sound recording, video editing, and exposure to varied media production software – FinalCutPro (video editing), AfterEffects (titling & special effects), HTML (websites) and Audacity (sound editing). The Documentary History Project for Youth program helps young people learn about the process of studying and presenting history through archive research, field interviews, data collection and analysis, constructing narratives and fact checking.

Youth enrolled in grades 8 – 12. No prior video making experience is necessary.

Interested applicants must be willing to commit to 5 hours per week during the school year and up to 10 hours per week in the summer. Participants are paid an honorarium for their participation.


Over the years, the student filmmakers have completed many documentaries, several of which were broadcast locally on public television stations such as WHYY and WYBE. These include Struggles in the Shadows, an exploration of the lives of free African youth in Philadelphia prior to 1860; Todo El Mundo – Dance!, a look at Latino and African social dance; Something to Wear, which examines the interplay among youth culture, fashion, and political movements; and The Broad Street History Project, ten short videos examining the history of Philadelphia’s longest and oldest thoroughfare. The series was selected as one of twelve films selected by the Council on Foundations’ 38th Annual Film and Video Festival.

The 2005 Documentary History Project for Youth produced From a Seed to This: A History of Fairmont Park, which was honored by the Council on Foundations’ 39th Annual Film and Video Festival. The 2006 Documentary History for Youth Project was an examination of young people and the military from the Civil War to the present, with an emphasis on local history. The 2007 project, The Movement: A History of Philadelphia's Settlement Houses, was a history of the Settlement House movement in Philadelphia. The 2009 project, Roots, Rhythms, and Stories, is a collection of short videos about Philadelphia's diverse folk musical traditions and included a website created by the student workers.


Move by Mei Mei McDowel from the 2011 Project City of Sound


Storytelling from the 2009 Project, Roots, Rhythms & Stories


The Documentary History Project for Youth is made possible by support from the National Endowment for the Arts:Art Works; Lincoln Financial Foundation; Rosenlund Family Foundation; Hamilton Family Foundation; and the Henrietta Tower Wurts Memorial.

For the 2017 Application, CLICK HERE.