For Teachers: How to make your own Archive

An archivist opens the rolling archives at Seven Stories

Archives at Seven Stories

© Culture Street

    • Archives are collections of information - records. They can include letters, reports, minutes, registers, maps, photographs and films, digital files, sound recordings. And they are, of course, invaluable windows into the past.

      Most of us already have our own archives– whether it’s a photo album, or the shoebox you keep your birth certificate and old letters in or all the things you’ve ever posted on your Facebook page.

      Making a school archive

      Establishing and maintaining a school archive is a great way to develop pupils’ history skills, while building a sense of ownership, pride and identity around themselves and their school. By collecting, recording, storing and organizing their chosen archival materials, pupils develop historical skills in enquiry, chronology and using primary and secondary sources. Not to mention digital, literacy and other skills across the curriculum. They will also create a unique, relevant and fascinating resource both for themselves and for pupils of the future.

      Follow these steps to making your own archive – and involve the pupils in as much of the developing, maintaining and decision-making as possible.

      1.    What do you already have? Most schools have a collection somewhere of old photos, registers, newspaper clippings or reports from the past. You could expand this collection by asking teachers, ex pupils and local people if they have anything to donate or by recording and collecting their memories as an oral history. The Oral History Society have some tips on how to do this. You could develop a website to showcase your collection and invite others to donate and contribute to it. My Brighton & Hove is a great example – it’s run almost entirely by a very small number of volunteers and most of the material was uploaded by external users.
      2.    Recording the present. How will you continue to build your school archive? Before you start, it’s a good idea to agree on a ‘collecting policy’ stating what you will collect and what you will leave out. This will be shaped by the record you wish to build of your school, how comprehensive you want the record to be and by practical considerations – all archives need to be kept somewhere and to be looked after by someone! It is often just as interesting to record and collect the ordinary and everyday as special events.

      You could collect:
      •    Annual class registers and photos
      •    A snap shot of children playing in the playground once every term
      •    Snapshots of aspects of the school day: assembly, eating lunch, playtimes, working in the classroom, the school office
      •    Letters to parents
      •    Films and photos of school trips
      •    Sporting events
      •    Plans for new buildings
      •    Minutes of staff and school council meetings
      •    Teachers’ lesson plans
      •    Photos and films of special visitors to the school
      •    One/five/ten pieces of work from every class each year
      •    Examples which record and follow a pupil through their school life
      •    Momentous moments of change or development
      •    Interviews with staff and pupils

      Care should be taken, of course, to make sure parents have given their permission to include images and other records of their children in the archive.

      3.    Storing and conserving: archives can take up a lot of room. The archive at the National Maritime Museum occupies over four miles of shelf space! Decide where and how you will store your records. Because so much is now produced and stored digitally, space is becoming less of a problem. You may still wish to keep original copies of things though. Paper-based records and photos can easily decay, especially when handled regularly, the National Archives has some great advice for storing and caring for them. Digital records should be backed up of course - and kept in formats that are not obsolete!

      4.    Organising: decide how you will organise your records. They are only useful if someone can search, find and access what’s in them. This can be done digitally using a simple database.

      5.    Accessing: You could develop a website for your archive or use a social media or blogging site like Pinterest or Tumblr to showcase your collection and make it accessible to others. It’s never been easier to digitise and upload photographs, letters, sound and film, everything can easily be recorded and transferred using a smart phone or tablet. If you want to restrict access to the school community only, choose a platform with privacy settings – most social media and blog sites have these.

      Here are some examples of school archives which can be accessed online– some well-funded and long established, others run on a shoestring by volunteers

      Manchester high school for girls
      Iveagh primary school
      Porstmouth Grammar School
      Wetherby schools
      Woolsery primary school   

      6.    Staffing: individual pupils, classes and year groups can be given different tasks, roles and responsibilities for developing, maintaining and helping others to use their school archive. This is a great way to make direct, meaningful, real world links to their learning across the curriculum.

      Whatever you decide to include in your archive and however you decide to manage it, be realistic about what is possible and sustainable. With just a handful of records updated termly or yearly you will quickly build up an amazing resource which will fascinate now and in the future.

      Find out more here and follow links to some interesting, nationally relevant archives to inspire your own collection. You can search for your local archive here.

      Curriculum links

      Learning can be enriched and supported across the curriculum.

      Historical enquiry

      -    Identifying and using useful primary sources
      -    Gathering, selecting, assessing and presenting evidence
      -    Questioning
      -    Assessing reliability and bias
      -    Looking at multiple perspectives – was everyone’s experience the same..?
      -    Thinking about what/which voices might be missing?
      -    Developing and substantiating an answer, argument or narrative

      Creative and critical thinking
      -    Generating ideas
      -    Questioning assumptions and exploring possibilities
      -    Innovating, testing and adapting
      -    Creating


      -    Developing language and vocabulary
      -    Persuading and arguing
      -    Qualifying and justifying
      -    Discussing and debating
      -    Communicating in different forms for different purposes

      -    Effective searching
      -    Analysing
      -    Selecting
      -    Evaluating
      -    Presenting
      -    Repurposing
      -    Combining multiple applications

      Personal development
      -    Working collaboratively
      -    Taking responsibility
      -    Planning

      Artsmark and Arts Award

      Artsmark is a nationally recognised sign of commitment to high quality arts and cultural education. It enables education settings to evaluate, celebrate and strengthen a quality arts offer and contributes to the cultural aspect of Ofsted’s requirement that a school promotes students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. Using museums and galleries to support classroom work, or developing you own museum, gallery, archive or exhibition is a great way for your school to gain Artsmark.  Find out more about Artsmark and its impact here.

      Arts Award is a range of unique qualifications inspiring young people to connect with and take part in the wider world of arts, heritage and culture through different challenges at different levels. Through Arts Award young people gain a nationally recognised qualification enabling them to progress into further education and employment. Find out more here and how museums and galleries can support young people in gaining Arts Award.

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