An institution’s history begins as soon as a mission is conceived. From that moment on, its plans, dreams, setbacks, and movement forward should be documented, in official records, minutes of meetings, photographs of land, building projects, and people, and even in reminiscences of those involved. An Archive is the collection of that documentation, providing definition and nuance to that history.
Laurel School is fortunate in having a fairly well-documented history. As is the case for many archival items, this documentation was scattered in various files in different offices or closets around the school. The important thing is that it was there. In the wind-up to the School's Centennial in 1996, Laurel called on Kim Sanborn Phillips '76 for help organizing the material into a cohesive whole. She gathered records, preserved them in acid-free archival folders and boxes, and described them so that they could be used. In the ensuing years, others helped the effort to retain files and keep the collection growing.
Thanks to the generous bequest of Frances T. Bourne ‘35 the Archives was made possible during the construction of the Crile Library and Ruhlman Resource Center in the late 1990s. Miss Bourne attended Laurel for 12 years and went on to graduate cum laude with a degree in history from Bryn Mawr College. She earned a master’s degree in history from Western Reserve University and while a graduate student worked on the WPA (Works Progress Administration) library service project in Cleveland. A professional archivist with 30 years of service, she first was appointed to the U.S. National Archives in 1942 and retired as the chief of records management for the U.S. Department of State in 1968 though she continued to work on special projects for the State Department for a number of years. Her support was critical in bringing appropriate attention to the School’s archival needs and her dedication and generosity to Laurel made her vision for the space possible.
With the advent of the School’s 125th Anniversary, the Archives was assessed and the records are in good order. The Laurel Archival collection reflects decisions taken at the Board and Head levels, and has good publication and alumnae records. It also contains a wealth of photographic material. What would greatly enhance the history of the school would be minutes and records of new initiatives, files at the programmatic level, dean level, and faculty committee level. The other looming challenges are the digitizing of the photographic material and the preservation and description of digital records.
It is good to remember the importance of all of these records since the next history of the school will rely heavily on them. In honor of the 125th and during this time when physical access to the Archives is not possible, we share with you an online Archives highlighting some of its treasures. We thank all those who preserved the items that carried great meaning to them from their Laurel days and who in turn donated them to the Archives for future generations of students to learn from and enjoy.
Ruth Connell, Archivist