Chris Livingston 2017-11-13 13:00:35
“So . . . This isn’t Spanish?” This was a response one of Mike Warner’s students gave after he covered the course content on the first day of a new class called “Archiving” at East Bakersfield High School (EBHS). One of three such programs in the Kern High School District in Bakersfield, California, this program seeks to connect the area’s youth with their past and instill a sense of civic responsibility. Another priority of the program is to connect students and staff to the history of their school. The idea for the program originated with Ken Hooper in 2001. Hooper, a history teacher at Bakersfield High School (BHS), explains that the Archiving Academy classes are “two senior-level classes that conduct and assist in research for businesses, authors, reunion committees, genealogists, news organizations, schools, and historians while maintaining the history of the school.” Students Create the Record Over the years Hooper and his students have participated in some amazing community projects. Perhaps the most extensive was a four-year effort to identify service veterans killed in action for a planned Veterans Memorial. Early on, Hooper noticed a host of discrepancies, including incorrect information regarding time, place, and manner of death. Using a variety of newspapers and other sources, Hooper and his students identified 1,020 area veterans for the memorial. (1) Hooper and his students were so successful that he teamed up with Mike Warner for an oral history project targeting World War II and Korean War Veterans. The interviews were conducted by students and will be deposited at the Library of Congress’ Veterans Oral History Project. When students aren’t busy with special projects, they have plenty of other activities to accomplish in the school archives. During a recent class visit, I witnessed his students at work. Standing under a portrait of former Supreme Court Justice and BHS alumus Earl Warren, Hooper explained the definition of ephemera to his students. The project for the day was to sort through new donations of school ephemera. Senior Gabriel Esquivel, who plans to major in architectural engineering, worked intently, sorting through his assigned box. When asked why he enrolled in the class, he reflected that he wanted to know more about BHS’s 124-year history. He went on to say that he sees himself playing an important part in “preserving school tradition.” Sister Programs Four miles east of BHS, EBHS’s similar program was established in 2009 by Mike Warner. He moved on to an administrative position and was replaced by Elise Sotello. Since Sotello took over the class, it has expanded to include journalism and media production. In a typical day, she covers basic guidelines such as the “dos and don’ts” of historic preservation, basics of record organization, and artifact care and handling. Her students are also learning to conduct oral histories with a focus on school alumni. On the significance of the program, Sotello said, “It’s important to preserve the history of the school and surrounding community for generations to come. Where else would students know the achievements and contributions others have made over the last eight decades?” Warner adds that “in a history class, the students are students. In an archiving class, the students are historians.” The “new kid” on the block is located another four miles east of EBHS. Foothill High School’s Pat Carlotti explains that their archiving program began as a committee within the school’s history club with the goal of preserving the school’s history, mainly through oral history. Through these efforts a formal class was established in the 2017 school year. Currently, Carlotti’s students are focused on tasks related to oral history such as researching backgrounds, formulating questions, interviewing alumni, and transcribing interviews. He notes, however, that they are developing their program much in the same way as Ken Hooper’s class at BHS. Future in Archives The Historical Research Center and Archives (HRC) at the Stiern Library on the campus of California State University, Bakersfield serves as an important resource for the faculty and students at these three high school campuses. Over the years, HRC has provided training and advice in selection, appraisal, description, digitization standards, and oral history methods. Many of the students that have gone through the programs at BHS and EBHS participate as students and volunteers in the HRC, and many have gone on to pursue archival studies. With these programs in place, young minds are shown the importance of historical preservation and their sense of civic responsibility is nurtured. These teens could have a future in archives. Notes (1) Originally, the state of California listed thirty-six men killed in WWI alone. Hooper’s students’ research showed that seventy-eight were killed in action. They noticed that other names were missing related to other wars. To see the extent of the work visit https://www.kernvets.org/.
Published by Society of American Archivists. View All Articles.