Seattle School District Archives

Did you know the district has an extensive archive (complete with a trained archivist)?  They do and it's a valuable resource.  They have all manner of memorabilia - bound volumes of School Board minutes, uniforms, yearbooks, letters to the School Board, newspaper clippings - you name it. 

Archivist Aaren Purcell would be more than glad to look at what any school, group or individual has to offer the archive.  I asked her about limits and she said, "I'll look at anything."  She recently received boxes of materials from Ingraham that had been sitting in some closet for years.   I myself helped to organize the archives at Roosevelt High and they have some pretty amazing artifacts.

I put out this information for a two-fold reason.  One is that rarely are these items being stored properly at schools and will deteriorate much more quickly if stored improperly.  Two, you have no idea how important any one item might be historically. Even though the district has a great dedicated space for its archive, many schools keep their own artifacts.  I don't think keeping yearbooks is a bad idea for most schools but other items should be in the safest place possible and I think that is the district's archives.  If you know of items in some closet at your school, suggest they be sent to the district's archives.

Keep in mind that nothing that is generated by the PTA can be donated without the PTA's permission (and that might have to come at a state level).  When my sons were at Whittier, they had PTA minutes back to 1915 that were amazing and yet were being stored at the back of a file cabinet.  I often wonder what happened to them.

One of the fascinating items that Aaren showed me was the file on Halloween.  Did you know in the early '50s they were quite considered about Halloween and what young people were doing?  They had the Inter-High Student Council working on it.

From a letter in 1957 from Superintendent E.W. Campbell:
"You are aware also that there is evidence of a growing trend towards irresponsibility and lawlessness among some of our young people today."

What was amazing was that the Inter-High Council produced the entire "citywide fun program for all 86 elementary, junior and high schools."  Impressive.

There was a memo after Halloween 1957 which said this:
"Twenty years ago none of us would have dreamed that this reducation of vandalism was possible, but here is real proof that there is a great desire for responsible citizenship among our young people."
The SPD reported only 56 prank phone calls (remember those?), Parks had 6500 kids at fieldhouse parties with "no incidents" and the Fire Department reported only 5 false alarms and no hydrants opened.

There was also one fascinating letter from a mom complaining about Halloween in the schools.  She said that " if the Catholics wish to teach their children this doctrine of evil spirits, witchcraft, ghosts, and evil" that they have their own schools.  She asked, "What about the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, the Bapists" etc? 

You can contact Aaren at 252-0797 or archives@seattleschools for an appt.  Here's the website.

One last thing - I was telling Aaren that I was taking a genealogy class and that yearbooks are really great sources of information about relatives.  She agreed and said that they have had a couple of instances where Homeland Security has come in to look at some. 


Anonymous said…
Very cool!


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