March 06, 2018

Chronicling school days

PA archives allow students to open pages on the past
by Rita Savard

Frank Townend ’29 had a collector’s eye and he used it deliberately. A book with blank pages and some glue in between was his vehicle for documenting life and times at Andover. Each page of Townend’s DIY biography offers a new amusement: among them, a copy of the Thanksgiving Day menu at the Andover Inn (known as the Phillips Inn in 1927), dance cards marking rare occasions PA boys were allowed to socialize with girls from Abbot, grades, clothing receipts, black and white photos of friends and scenes from outside his dorm room window (including one of a mule hauling cement to build the library), yellowed newspaper clippings, train tickets to Boston, and more.

Although Townend’s is one of the most detailed scrapbooks that Andover archivist Paige Roberts has seen, it doesn’t stand alone. There are 112 alumni scrapbooks on file in PA’s archives, allowing students of today’s digital age to still hold traces of history in their hands.

“The scrapbooks and the rest of the collection is for current students and other researchers, including non-PA people researching family history,” Roberts said. “But they are mostly used by students in English, art, and history courses and they really enjoy working with them.”

In Kate McQuade’s English class, students use scrapbooks to dig deeper into the single story of an Andover student and compare and contrast their own Andover experience against the visual biography.

Through cutting, pasting, and collating, early 20th-century students could pause from the rigors of studying and use scrapbooking as a social activity with friends or on their own as quiet time for reflection. Either way, McQuade said scrapbooking was a popular way to archive pictures and memorabilia, to maintain connections with friends, to record intellectual and political thoughts, to show off tastes and talents, to balance the private with the public, lay claim to membership in certain groups, and to generally sculpt the narrative of an identity.  

“One of the reasons I wanted my students to work with the scrapbooks was to help them recognize that students have always curated identity, and although technologies they use today are new—Instagram, Snapchat, etc.—the desire to reflect an identity through excerpts and images is very old.”

 

A list of alumni scrapbooks can be viewed at www.noblenet.org/paarchives under the collections tab.

 

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