Spend a little time with Maddie McDermott of La Grange, and you can’t help but get enthused about old yearbooks, yellowed newspapers and vintage homecoming buttons. The University of Dayton history major is tackling a project to help catalogue records and memorabilia for Lyons Township High School’s archives. She is a member of LT’s Class of 2012.
Q. How did you get involved in this project?
A. I’ve been working on LT’s archives since I was a senior. Patrick Page got some of us excited about our school’s history. He’s done a lot of groundwork. Not a lot of high schools have archives. It’s a unique project.
Q. How does the project relate to your course of study?
A. I was figuring out something to do for my thesis and wanted a hands-on experience. I knew there were a lot of historical items here, so I contacted Mr. Page. I’m separating everything into collections and then different series within each collection.
Q. What is your thesis?
A. The first part is about the process of creating an organization system for the archives to make sure everyone knows how to find things and that it’s user-friendly. I am also creating a database for 3,000 to 4,000 items scanned. I’m creating the metadata, which is labor intensive, noting the date the item was created, who created it and where it was created. That allows it to be searchable. The second part is examining LT’s relationship with the community and Chicago, how one develops as the other does. It’s sort of like figuring out the chicken and the egg.
Q. How does the grant you were awarded help in the project?
A. I was awarded a grant for $1,400 for archival storage of documents. Each box is acid free and is made of buffered cardboard, which will never become acidic. It’s also a first line of defense against water damage. It’s sturdy enough to support the documents inside, to keep them from falling and getting curled. The file folders are acid-free.
Q. What are the ephemera you have been working with?
A. It’s a collection of postcards, souvenirs and memorabilia, the little things people collect, but don’t think are important. It tells what people’s day-to-day activities were like. I’ve been looking through and eliminating duplicate copies of newspapers, letters and programs.
Q. What was the value of a scrapbook donated from the 1950s?
A. A lot of times, feelings can reveal facts. Someone found it at a garage sale, and a high school girl kept a scrapbook of the dances she attended in the mid-1950s. It reveals a lot of stereotypes of women of that day, like how to keep the man you’re dating, as well as the dance styles and locations. It’s really a snapshot of life in the 1950s.
Q. What’s an example of an interesting item you discovered?
A. There was a hollowed-out painted ostrich egg from Dr. Kelly’s desk after he retired, which was from when he visited a school in Africa to finalize arrangements for an exchange program. There also was a program from the 50th reunion where alumni wrote comments. In the notes column, George Favorite, who wasn’t married wrote, “Hello, Girls.”
Q. What have you learned form the project:
A. LT has been so connected to the community with such a rich history. People are becoming more aware and donating their stuff instead of throwing it away.
Anyone interested in donating items to LT’s archives may contact Jennifer Bialobok, community relations director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.