Lessons Learned in Archives - News & Photos - McDonogh School

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Lessons Learned in the Wilson|Young Archives

Third graders explore the artifacts in the Wilson|Young Archives and Special Collections. (More photos are below.)


If you envision archival research as sifting through dusty boxes of documents hidden away on attic shelves, then a visit to McDonogh's Wilson|Young Archives and Special Collections is sure to broaden your perspective. Opened in fall 2023 on the second floor of Lyle Building, the airy and inviting space has already welcomed a variety of visitors from four-year-olds who are learning how the campus, rituals, and uniforms have changed over time, to alumni who lived through those changes. 

Visitors to the Archives are greeted by display cases and shelves filled with McDonogh School artifacts. One side of the public space features the glass-walled Kiplinger classroom, and the other is the Stackhouse Reading Room. Here, visitors can view yearbooks, bound copies of The Week, and other McDonogh-related publications. Long tables provide plenty of space for students and others to carefully pour over photographs and documents. Behind the scenes are shelves filled with 150 years of McDonogh history that continues to be sorted, processed, and cataloged.

In addition to the never-ending job of organizing boxes of documents, photographs, publications, and memorabilia, Archivist Christine Ameduri supports faculty in all three divisions by gathering relevant materials for classes eager to learn the history of McDonogh in the context of their studies.

“People may think the Archives are only relevant to English and history classes. But we’ve also had students using the resources for a French class and even robotics,” Ameduri says noting that research requests also come from alumni and the general public doing genealogy research.

  • Soon after the new space opened, Ane Lintvedt’s senior Research and Methodology class visited the Archives multiple times to learn about the campus, buildings, and landscape. Then, in honor of the School’s 150th Anniversary, they shared their knowledge through PowerPoint presentations tailored for each division.
  • Among the other early visitors were the third graders eager to see various primary source materials—photographs, The Week, and yearbooks to learn about McDonogh Station, the train stop that connected early students to their homes. The visit served as inspiration for the 96-square-foot train garden built in the lobby of Elderkin Hall which captured the attention of the entire Lower School and became a division-wide project.
  • Over two months, Keith Ridgeway’s French 5A class, Icons of France, visited the Archives multiple times and used primary source material to research the people who played a defining role in the School's history. Working in groups, they then wrote a short biography, which they then presented to the class in French.
  • Since the opening of the Archives, Special Projects Coordinator Jon Aaron '72 has worked with the youngest and oldest students and everyone in between. When Daryl Burch’s eleventh grade U.S. History class was studying the Vietnam Era, they met with Aaron in the Stackhouse Reading Room where they learned about McDonogh’s military tradition while viewing archival photos, spread out across the tables, of competitive drill and the infantry/cavalry carrying colors. Then they compared the images to a 1970 Legacy yearbook photo that illustrated the dissolution of the military. Taking full advantage of the space, they moved to the Kiplinger classroom for a slide presentation on how political cartoons, Pulitzer Prize-winning photography, and art (memorial designs and sculptures) helped the nation confront the complexity of the Vietnam War. 
  • The enthusiastic Aaron also met with prekindergartners during their Social Studies Unit of Inquiry called: Past, Present, and Future; Where We Are in Space and Time, and shared slides that illustrated the evolution of McDonogh including the campus, traditions, and the uniform. Students were thrilled to be able to try on the jackets and caps once worn by cadets who were their size.
  • The Middle School Robotics Club, under the guidance of Aisha Bryant, also enjoyed an introduction to the new space where they learned what goes into the development of the archives, and how artifacts are managed. They discussed ideas and possible projects including creating innovative ways for museums to bring their exhibits to life and reach as many people as possible.
  • Most recently Jennifer Smith's fifth grade social studies classes studying World War II visited the archives to research: What was life like on McDonogh's campus during World War II? As students explored letters, yearbooks, school newspapers, and even a World War II ration booklet, they also learned how to handle documents, and the importance of being caretakers of McDonogh's history. The final piece of the project will be to record a video about what they learned for inclusion in a small "video museum/library."

Ameduri is thrilled with the scope of learning taking place in the Wilson | Young Archives and Special Collections and points out other valuable lessons being absorbed by the students. “Working with and handling primary source materials is a skill set that they will use in college. We use the same tools and resources used by colleges and universities, so they will be well-prepared,” she says.

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