Library Reveals Wilson Archive



Five years ago, as Wilson prepared to move from “old Wilson” to UDC, Librarian Pamela Gardner came across two locked metal cabinets filled with Wilson history. There were hundreds of yearbooks, old issues of The Beacon, scrapbooks, and class photos dating back to Wilson’s opening in 1935. When current Communications Director Lena Frumin started working in the library last year, she took interest in the 70+ years locked in a closet and helped initiate the Digital Archives Project, which was launched Monday.

Over the last four months, the digital archives committee chose two categories to focus on, “girls athletics” and “Wilson in wartime.” Frumin formed the committee with Wilson alumni, current and former faculty, and a humanities scholar from the Library of Congress. The group applied for and won a $1,500 scholarship from the Humanities Council of Washington D.C., which was matched by the PTSO. The money was used to buy a laptop and scanner to kick off the project. The Digital Archives Project uses a museum-grade software program called PastPerfect to scan the documents. The program is specifically designed to store archives, catalog them, and make them easily accessible.

Girls athletics and wartime were chosen because as Lena Frumin put it, “they had broad appeal.” Walking through the exhibit the library had set up for the launch, viewers could see the first Beacon ever and read articles about the Wilson community raising money to buy a tank to send to World War II and protesting the Vietnam War. There were pictures of the bowling team from the 1950’s and an archery club.

Gardner talked about looking through the yearbooks and seeing how many alumni work or are still involved in the school, and how many famous alumni there are. For her it was interesting to see how Wilson has and hasn’t changed. As fascinating as the history of Wilson is, Frumin added that many Wilson students “don’t become interested until they get 10 years out.” But the digital archives makes it easy for anyone to access the history through the Wilson website, with no digging required.

This is just the beginning for the Digital Archives Project. They hope to eventually upload all the documents they found, which may take quite a while, since they have really only skimmed the surface so far. The committee is curious as to what about the history of the school students are interested, and welcome feedback. It’s absolutely worth a click if you haven’t seen it yet.