Happy American Archives Month

Beverly (MA) High School is a happening place!  Last week BHS graduate Angie Miller, an American Idol finalist visited.  And the day after, AOTUS spent the day—the first time since June of 1963!

As I said many times during the day, it was not the same Beverly High School that I left.  I was tremendously impressed with the seamless integration of technology throughout, the active participation of the students in the learning experience, and the excitement of the students hosting a visitor from Washington.

AOTUS at classroom at Beverly High School
David Ferriero visits student classrooms at Beverly High School. Photo by The Salem News

I got to visit classrooms, chop onions and garlic in a culinary arts class, and speak to hundreds of students in an afternoon assembly.  I wanted to make my time with them as meaningful as possible so suggested that we do some crowdsourcing of questions in advance.  Lots of great questions arrived which sorted neatly into four categories:  the records, the job, the institution, and personal questions.

What type of documents do you archive?  Do you read all of them? What happens if you touch an historical document?  What is your role in government?  What are your daily duties?  What is your salary?  How do you keep it all organized?  Is there very tight security in the archives?  What do you wear to work?  Have you ever been emotionally attached to any documents?  And, my favorite, Do you like President Obama?

It was a great opportunity to educate a group of young people about the importance of archives and many of the questions at the end of my remarks dealt with how does one become an archivist, what kinds of courses should they take, what kinds of college programs exist, etc.  A line of students formed at the end of the assembly with a series of one-on-one conversations about the student’s love of history and wanting to know more about archival work.

And the next day a wonderful letter arrived from Jack, a BHS freshman.  Jack made my day!

“I thought your presentation was really awesome and you are very fortunate to have the job you do.  Like you, I really enjoy American history so I found your stories and your slide show to be very interesting…I’m not exactly sure what I would like to do for a career but I got lots of great ideas from hearing you talk about NARA…”

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate American Archives Month than recruiting the next generation!