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Archival Adventures: Queries, Quandaries and Quests

“Once upon a time, teachers and parents conspired together. They fantasized that children might want to go to school.” -Rosemary Fetter, Climb Every Mountain: The Story of Graland School 
“Anyone could have done it, but the whisper came to these.” -Ruth Gorham, Graland Country Day School: The First Fifty Years 
Rosemary Fetter and Ruth Gorham’s thoughts on Graland’s earliest days have inspired, if not guided me, as I have striven to honor the Herculean efforts of Ruth, Betty Clarke, and Renee Rockford; these women began the process of gathering and organizing boxes of materials – from photos to tapes; from newspaper clippings to school publications from the 1930s. Without their prescience, my job would not exist; without Mrs. Gorham who delighted in regaling me with Graland stories, I might be less obsessive about the importance of the school’s history. These days, I live in their shadows and hear not only their whispers, but the voices of the founding mothers and fathers who realized the importance of dreams and supported Grace Laird, Virginia Braswell, and Georgia Nelson. 
In the last year, I have answered many questions about my position as an archivist. Just in case anyone might be wondering, here are my answers. 

“What is an archivist?” 
According to the Society of American Archivists (SAA), an archivist is “responsible for appraising, acquiring, arranging, describing, preserving, and providing access to records of enduring value.” As I analyze the impact of such a definition, I would classify myself as a fledgling archivist and rabid student of the school’s history. 

“What does an archivist do?” 
The task assigned to me is to organize the collection, to decide what is germane to the history of the school, and to begin the process of digitizing part of the collection. 

“Do you enjoy your job?” 
Deciding what we should digitize has engaged me, and while schlepping boxes to my office, I have reveled in learning even more about the history of the school; I remain in awe of the Georgia Nelson era. Also, finding examples of students’ projects or old brochures or the wooden yearbooks (created by Miss Nelson) or programs from Mr. Riley’s Gilbert and Sullivan operettas have thrilled me. Also, there have been times when I while away an afternoon reliving, for example, all the graduation programs. 

“What is the most interesting part of your job?” 
Even though I delight in the on-going process of deciding what should be digitized, sharing the school history with colleagues, alumni, and Graland friends on Facebook and the Graland website seizes my attention more than the solitary, quiet part of my day. Needless to say, writing anecdotes about my life that pertain to the entries makes me smile. Of course, the archival displays energize me, for they provide a visual of the past that in some ways, forgive the cliche, speaks louder than words.

“Where are the archives?” 
Boxes and files are currently housed in the basement storage area in the Georgia Nelson Building and a small sample is on display in the Corkins Center. Thanks to a generous donation, the digitizing project will continue. I want alumni to relive their days as Graland students when they see pictures of their former teachers and their classmates, to laugh at their ninth-grade musical, and to shed a tear or two at the memory of great traditions: fifth grade knighting, the kindergarten rodeo, and the sixth grade Estes Park trip. 

And my favorite, “Did you study to be an archivist?” 
I plan to enroll in an online course sponsored by SAA. This guy must continue his education. 
Often, students talk about their education at Graland as if it were a piece of paradise. Each step we take as we bring the school history to the students, parents, and teachers associated with Graland will pay homage to the whispers and the voices I hear every day. This may sound crazy, but I believe that Ruth Gorham and Betty Clarke are smiling. 

With more than 40 years of history at Graland, Master Teacher Phil Hickey was recently awarded the Ruth Gorham Alumni Award for his dedication and service. Before becoming Graland’s archivist, he taught English and Latin to scores of middle schoolers. Follow facebook.com/Graland.alums for more Graland history snippets from Phil. 

To donate in support of the archiving project or in honor of Phil Hickey, please visit graland.org/givenow. 

Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.