School archives officially open


Alison Isko , Staff Writer

Although the Horace Mann Archives contain a wealth of information about the history of the school and its alumni, many students are unsure of what they are.

Still, the archives are a powerful resource to which students have access. “The Archives are an important facet of the history of our school. They reveal quite a lot about who we were as a school at specific historical moments, and who we wanted to be as we looked forward in time,” Head of the History Department Dr. Daniel Link said.

The archives can also be used as an educational tool. Items in the Archives that show the school’s past students’ perspectives on global events can help us see how similar or different our viewpoint is today, English teacher Rebecca Bahr said. “Looking at the past helps deepen your perspective on the present.”

“Archives are a great way to make our past feel more alive because you can have hands on interactions with historical materials in a way you don’t get to at museums,” School Archivist Hillary Matlin said. “I was really excited to work on the Archives at Horace Mann because I had previously seen how excited students could get about their school history from archival materials.”

However, Matlin wasn’t the first person at the school to work on the archives. The Class of 1946 had originally wanted the archives to be part of the school, so librarian Rachael Ricker, as well as various members of the faculty and staff, had worked on the archives’ “first arrangement” years ago. Once Matlin came to the school, she helped to create the current version of the archives, taking the space that many archive materials were stored in and assisting in turning it from a storage closet to the museum-like space.

The process was aided by Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly and Library Department Chair Caroline Bartels, Matlin said. It was made possible because of “a generous gift from the Class of 1946,” Kelly said

Now, the archives are easily accessible to students, containing information dating from the 1880s, including printed materials, handwritten work, photographs, slides, videos, audio tapes, and memorabilia. “The scope of the archives include all aspects of the school from the Board of Trustees and overall administration down to Nursery Division classwork,” Matlin said.

The archives contain items that show how the school is connected to the rest of American history. For example, an alumnus of the school was the creator of the Uncle Sam Wants You character, Kelly said.

While Matlin didn’t reach out to alumni for items during the process of creating the Archives, the school “frequently gets alumni donations of papers, photos and other materials throughout the year,” many of which can be found in the archives, she said.

But although the archives will be able to offer many new resources for research projects, students aren’t sure how successfully the resource will be implemented into curriculum. “I do not know exactly what I would find there, so it seems easier to go to the library and go through one big book on a certain topic,” Abigail Morse (11) said.

On the other hand, Emily Salzhauer (9) is confident that she would use the archives for a research project. “I think that I could use the archives if I ever need to do a research project on an HM alum. Also, if I’m doing a research project, I can use the HM archives to help me put it into perspective of what was going on at HM at that time,” she said.

Paul Wang (12) and Jayer Yang (12) would have used the archives outside of class and wished they had the opportunity to do so as underclassmen.“In my US History Class, we learned about how Horace Mann’s vision for a universal public education was not initially mirrored in the school named after him,” Wang said.

“More recently, however, the school has been prioritizing accessibility and leaning towards the hope that Horace Mann had. Although this wasn’t for a specific assignment, I could have visited the archives to continue learning about the school’s changing culture in the past decades.” Yang would have used the archives when he was a student ambassador, he said. “It would have been fun for both the tour group and me to find out the school’s history and its famous alumni. It would have also been interesting to point out how the school has changed over the years,” he said.

An email sent by Matlin earlier in the month referred to the archives as a place containing “treasures from the school’s early history.” And the archives do– there’s no other place in the school that contains such a unique view into the school’s history, yet many students still don’t know about the archives. “I feel there has been little effort put into educating the school and community about the purpose of the Archive room,” Madhav Menon (11) said. “There is still much that remains unknown by the student body about the archive room.”

The archive room is unquestionably a valuable addition to the school, as it offers a variety of information about the school’s history. But unless students learn more about the archive room, the incredible resources that it contains will continue to be overlooked.