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Historical Resources Available in the Community

This section describes the variety of historical records and other resources available for researching the history of local schools and suggests where to locate them. Some, like yearbooks and school newspapers, may be found in the school library. If the school published its minutes and annual reports, the local public library may have copies. Attendance records, unpublished minutes of the Board of Education meetings, and other school records should be located in the school's files. Institutions and people in the community can provide other historical records and informational resources.

Printed Sources

  • Textbooks. Some schools retain copies of textbooks used in years past. These can be useful for comparison to modern texts on the same topics. 
  • Yearbooks. School yearbooks are wonderful sources of information on local school history. They provide a graphic view of school life, ranging from how students looked to what they did in extracurricular hours. 
  • School newspapers. Like yearbooks, school newspapers are a form familiar to students. They reflect the range of school activities, issues of importance to students, and the attitudes of students toward those issues. They are often a lively and amusing resource for student research. 
  • Student handbooks. Handbooks show the variety of past rules and regulations. They reveal society's changing social mores through statements on appropriate conduct, proper dress standards, and general behavior requirements. 
  • Curriculum. Copies of required State curriculum identify the subjects considered important during a given time period. They show what skills were considered necessary to a young person's development.

School Records

  • Minutes of Meetings of Board of Education or Trustees of Common Schools. These minutes summarize proposals, motions, resolutions, and all other matters formally considered and voted on. They provide identification of members of the board, school officials, and teachers. They may also contain information on school district boundaries; location, construction and maintenance of buildings; qualifications for admission; rules of student behavior; and statistics on attendance. The minutes, often in book form, may be supplemented by petitions, contracts, and reports. Minutes also exist for Boards of Cooperative Educational Services and County Vocational Education and Extension Boards.
  • Financial reports. Reports and summaries of receipts and disbursements show the changing costs of maintaining schools, and the varying products and services needed by schools.
  • Annual reports. These reports, usually in narrative form, summarize attendance statistics, fiscal status, major events, and special projects.
  • Payrolls. These provide the names of employees and show the wages paid. They are useful for comparing salary levels with those of today.
  • Annual budgets. Budgets include information on school tax rates and estimates of revenues, and on maintenance and operating expenses.
  • School censuses. Censuses are taken to obtain important data on students to use in planning for facilities, programs and services. They can be used to identify students by name, age, sex, level of attainment, and their parents or guardians.
  • Building plans. Original construction and subsequent structural modifications can be traced through building plans.
  • Attendance registers. These are official documents recording student attendance and tardiness. Like school censuses, they are a good source of information on individual students.
  • Course curriculum material. In some schools, it may be possible to locate copies of old State Education Department curriculum materials, notes and lesson plans used by teachers, and essays and other papers submitted by students.
  • Tests and class assignments. Copies of tests and homework assignments also indicate the levels and kinds of knowledge valued at certain times. Varying emphasis on skills such as memorization, critical thinking, and physical and moral training tell much about contemporary social values.

Other Historical Records

  • PTA records. Minutes of meetings and newsletters from this type of organization show the issues of concern to parents and the activities they conducted to support the school. 
  • Teachers' union records. A variety of teachers' concerns can be found in the meeting minutes, newsletters, and informational pamphlets from local unions.
  • Letters, diaries, and other personal records. Letters or diaries written by students or parents often describe classroom experiences, school events, and community developments involving schools.

Other Community Resources

Several other sources that can usually be found in the community may be useful.  These include:

  • School memorabilia. Many people keep a variety of remembrances from their school years. Class photographs, school play programs, concert programs, sports or academic awards, and club activity programs reflect various aspects of school social life.
  • School work. Other common personal resource materials are copies of theme books, written assignments, tests and reports, kept by former students. They show student learning activities, interests, and capabilities.
  • Personal recollections. An interesting way of obtaining individual perspectives and other important information is to conduct "oral history" interviews. Students can interview school graduates, teachers, and administrators. People often recall and will share information that is not recorded on paper about past events. These interviews, whether taped or written, are rich resources for understanding the educational system.
  • Local newspapers. Articles frequently appear here on school activities, Board of Education meetings, and a variety of educational issues. The newspaper can reflect contemporaneous opinions on a variety of social and educational topics related to the school. Newspaper files also sometimes retain photographs taken or used by the paper's staff.