Pamela Nye 2015-05-22 12:39:55
The Westminster Schools is an independent K–12 school in Atlanta, Georgia. The fifty-year-old Upper School Library underwent a major renovation with generous support from the Parker- Fraser Foundation and the Lewis H. Beck Foundation and reopened for students on March 16, 2015. The archives were established in 1989; with the fortieth anniversary of the school approaching, leaders recognized the need to preserve and make available the school’s history. Westminster was founded in 1951, but the school is made up of two legacy schools: the North Avenue Presbyterian School (NAPS) (1909–1951), and Washington Seminary (1878–1953). Their history became part of Westminster’s history, and their alumni are now proudly part of the community. When I began my position of director of archives at Westminster in August 2012, planning for the new space had already begun. I was pleased that I would be able to give my recommendations, as I had appreciated giving my input as a staff member during the planning of the Georgia Archives building. Like many archives, ours started in a space that was not originally meant to house an archives: a converted textbook storage area. It was also between floors on the mezzanine level. Not surprisingly, some knew we had an archives, but didn’t know where it was located and had never been there. During summer 2013, the library and the archives were moved to the basement of Askew Hall, one of the original classroom buildings on campus. It was a tight fit—I was allotted about one-and-a-half former classrooms—but we made it work. I had almost no room to do processing work or take in current records, but a larger storage closet helped to store oversized boxes, the photograph collection, and the flat file cabinet. The new Lewis H. Beck Archives is a dream come true for a school archivist: Now I have a processing room (which can double as a research room for a few researchers as needed), a receiving room where I can clean incoming records, a small office for this lone arranger, and, most importantly, a drastically enlarged stacks area. During construction, tracks were laid down for mobile shelving units so that I could take full advantage of the space the archives now occupies. The collection measures about 850 cubic feet of records, and there will be plenty of room for years to come. The Carlyle Fraser Library, which opened in 1962, was also given room to grow—it was expanded by twelve feet and was given a full third floor. In the old archives, there were records on top of the shelving, almost touching the ceiling, as well as on tables and the floors of the research/processing/office room. The archives was bursting at the seams, and faculty and staff across campus were holding on to records because I had no room to take them. It was hard to continue to wait for those records while the archives was in the temporary space, but now I am starting to receive newspapers, posters, flyers, performing arts recordings, programs, and other materials that document the life of the school. My current favorite task is giving tours of the new space for parents, administrators, teachers, students, and visitors. For some visitors, this is the first time they have seen an archives space, so they have no frame of reference for how incredible it is to find this kind of facility in a K–12 school. I now not only have room to house collections, I will also be able to bring in students and teachers from across campus to teach them about Westminster history, primary sources, and archives in general. While we were still under construction and I was in our temporary space, I had to go to the classrooms and bring items with me, instead of students coming to the archives. Now I have the ability to really give them a sense of the collections, storage, and history of the school. I also hope that some of these students will consider becoming archivists, especially after they see how cool it really is.
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