Building Your School Archives

Resource Guide for Building a School Archives

During a school year, schools produce documents, photos, and artifacts that reflect a particular time and place. These items constitute the raw materials for a School Archives.

Creating a School Archives is an ongoing process. It can also be a learning opportunity. Students who participate in building a School Archives acquire unique knowledge and skills. They also gain satisfaction from knowing they are preserving a legacy that will benefit future students, and their school in general.

The purposes of a School Archives are:

  • To be a repository for historically valuable documents and artifacts.
  • To provide resources for celebrating a school’s heritage.
  • To be a resource for teaching research-related and communication skills to students.

(Note: a distinction is made between a school archives which provides public records of heritage value, and school records which are private and maintained for legal and administrative purposes.)


 Suggested Guidelines for Creating a School Archive

(How these are used will depend on the current status of the existing collection, and the level of interest within the school.)

  • Establish a committee of interested personnel to guide the development of the archives.
  • Prepare a brief statement of the form the archives should take to fit with the overall school goals.
  • Identify the person(s) who will oversee the development of the archives and the duties they will perform to coordinate its operation.
  • Select a location within the school to serve as the archives. Ideally, it should be dry, cool, light-tight, and secure. It need not be large – a locked closet or cabinet in the library may be sufficient.
  • Establish connections with those in the local community who have access to historical documents and artifacts (local archives, historical societies, former teachers and students).
  • Identify the roles students can perform in collecting, scanning, cataloguing, preserving and displaying materials. Also, consider their role in conducting oral history interviews and recording special events and performances.
  • Compile an Inventory of existing archival and heritage materials in the school. List these by categories such as PHOTOS, VIDEOS, ARTIFACTS and DOCUMENTS. File an extra copy of this Inventory in the school office files.

 Memory Boxes

A ‘Memory Box’ (donated to each Vancouver school by the BCRTA) is intended to serve as a collection point for heritage materials for the current school year.

Items for consideration can be old or new. They can be collected for immediate preservation in the school archives or be put on display.

Selection should be based on whether an item is judged to have real or potential heritage value.

Avoid putting materials such as photographs and paper documents on display for lengthy periods as light will degrade these materials.

Suggested items to collect in the Memory Box:

  • Photos, videos featuring school life, events, student performances.
  • Audio or video recordings of students, staff, grads, members of the local community.
  • Articles about the school in local newspapers.
  • Student newspapers, yearbooks.
  • Special awards received by the school.
  • Curriculum guides, learning material.
  • Sample documents of the current year (reports, special programs, school calendars, staff lists, etc.)
  • Architectural drawings, floor plans.

For photos and paper documents, use standard file folders. They are acid free and are therefore suitable for archival use.

** Remember that today’s events will be tomorrow’s history **