Stoneham High School Librarian
The Stoneham High School Library officially opened its "History Learning Lab '' this past January. We turned one of our old library storage rooms into a hands-on museum! The History Lab is filled with artifacts from the time periods students are learning about in their classes, which is primarily the 20th century that includes WWI, WWII, Depression Era, Cold War, etc). The museum is curated and overseen by me, the school librarian. The idea is that students will be able to touch and interact with these items, making history and the people who lived it more real.
Inspired by a similar lab created by the North Andover High School history department, we decided that our school library was the perfect place to create our own history lab. We received a local grant to set up the museum space (paint, tables, display cases, magnetic marker boards, and mannequins) and then begin acquiring "artifacts". We put out a call to local residents via social media and various community organizations for donations and items started pouring in. People seemed thrilled to know their treasured items were no longer collecting dust in an attic but were being used and appreciated by students and that their loved ones’ stories were being passed on to a new generation.
We have filled the lab with some amazing artifacts; a genuine flapper dress from the 1920’s, photo albums filled with pictures taken with a Brownie camera pre- WWI, World War I and II uniforms and helmets, letters and postcards sent home during the wars, a WWII civil defense helmet, war ration cards, a cold war era radiation detector used in a fallout shelter, manual typewriters, an adding machine taken from a gambling raid in 1960’s Boston, and lots and lots more! We are already outgrowing the space! Eventually we hope to include some oral histories from local residents on their experiences during significant historical events in town and nationally.
Teachers have begun incorporating the History Lab into their lessons by bringing their classes to the lab. There is also an opportunity for students who are interested to have an independent study and work in the lab helping to organize and research items. Artifacts will be cataloged, digitized, and become a permanent part of the library collection. While our library continues to evolve into a space with more digital resources than ever, we have found that with our new History Learning Lab, there is still a place in our library for collecting and curating materials that students can put their hands on.