A recent article in the Washington Post reports on the use of primary sources in the classroom at Stuart-Hobson Middle School. Nothing new there — except that the primary source materials are school records, dating back to 1926. Use of these records (processed using funds from IMLS) puts students in direct contact with elements of history with a personal connection. The records document segregation, integration, socioeconomics, and even fashion.
This is a reminder that hidden special collections are everywhere we look, not just in libraries, archives, museums, the stalwart custodians of cultural heritage. They are in the basements and attics of all kinds of organizations. Last summer we held a symposium on Digitization and the Humanities and one of our speakers, Douglas Reed (Department of Government, Georgetown) recounted his own travails in gaining access to school records in Alexandria, Virginia. These records provided key evidence for his research but were not easy to gain access to, and certainly were not to be found in WorldCat. (Doug’s presentation, “Of Locker Rooms and Silos,” and our report on the symposium can both be found on our webpage for the event). For every Stuart-Hobson Middle School, there are dozens if not hundreds of schools that have a hidden collections problem.
Thanks to L’Archivista for blogging about this article.