A Trip Down Memory Lane
Whether it’s a photo from the 1940s backyard in Hancock Park, a silly mascot costume from the 1990s, or a fundraising pamphlet from the late 1960s, the CEE Archive provides a home for the thousands of historical objects that tell the incredible story of our little school on Alfred Street.
CEE Librarian Stephanie Steelman, 2018-19 Leadership Fellow for the archive, has spent the year finding, cataloguing, and preserving many of the memories we hold dear. Here she tells us a bit about how the archive works and some of the little gems she’s discovered along the way!
What is the CEE archive?
I view the archive as a space, a process, and a service to the school community. Most literally, the CEE Archive is a room on the second floor of building C dedicated to the preservation of the school’s storied and notable history. It is the official repository for institutional records documenting the intellectual, cultural, and administrative history of the school. As a verb, the archive collects, preserves, promotes, and provides access to records created by school administrative bodies, faculty, and student organizations. This work is done in order to preserve institutional memory and support the teaching and research needs of faculty, staff, students, and the larger community. As a whole, the archive will root the school in its ideological history, show the zeitgeist of the school throughout time, and preserve ongoing activities for future generations.
What types of objects are in the archive?
The Archive collects official records, selected personal papers, objects, artifacts, memorabilia and ephemera created by CEE departments, employees, board members, volunteers, contract companies, research associates, partner institutions, and other affiliates invested in organizational objectives. In practice that means we collect board meeting notes, architectural plans, school newsletters, annual reports, photos, promotional pieces from the admissions department and invitations to school events. CEE memorabilia, t-shirts, a collection of transcripts of talks psychoanalysts gave at school fundraisers in the 1950s are housed here. We even have the first CEE Olympic torch from 1983! I am completing a “document survey” - a comprehensive list of what needs to be collected each school year. I recently added the “Kindergarten Mascot” (a stuffed animal that each child cares for one week of the year) as well as the special book that students write in about their time with the mascot. I get excited about special objects that may be displayed in a future exhibit to tell the story of the school.
Have you discovered any unexpected items?
There are a series of 6 or so handmade felt scrapbooks from the 1980s that are such special CEE objects. These books include spreads of photos, print pieces, objects, and lettering documenting some of the oldest or even temporary school traditions (the Picnic, Olympics, “Lakers Night,” Halloween parades, and more). These pages paint such a complete picture of what it was like to be here because they were assembled with great intention and care by the hands of the parents here at the time. Also how much fun they were having! Those books reveal a new gem to me everytime I open them. But there are new surprises every time I sit down to process the collection. Last fall it was a photo of an unknown boy, no more than 6, sawing a 2x4 with a real saw at the Hancock Park house. Maybe it wouldn’t happen now, but to me, it showed the respect for the child that the school was founded on. I’ve talked with EC teachers about the importance of using real items in the classroom: porcelain teapots because it's meaningfulfor children to understand that we handle glass delicately or it will break, or using a real hammer to hit golf tees into pumpkin. That respect for the child is still here today (now abiding by modern safety standards, of course!).
What have you been surprised to learn about CEE’s history?
I’ve been at the school for 3 wonderful years. I was surprised by how constant change and growth have been in the school’s history. There were times when I look at the pieces of the puzzle and wonder how they did it. A group of psychoanalysts who started what was essentially a co-op playgroup in a house raised $5,000 to buy 3 lots on Alfred Street long before preschool education had entered the educational consciousness...and all while World War II was raging on. They did it because they believed in educating the whole child and knew how important these formative years were creating a psychologically sound and full life. In 1987-88 school year students were bused to the Wilshire Blvd. Temple for an entire year while Building B was under construction. Time and time again, the spirit and heart of the community carries the school into the future.