An archive is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a place in which public records or historical materials (such as documents) are preserved.” The school library is a key space for archived materials in any school. We preserve yearbooks from years past, performances, and important school milestones. A simple conversation with a student started a year-long collaboration that has finally come to fruition in our history club-curated film archive.
Last school year I met Joe Beeson, a young man with a passion for history and film. Our conversation started out focusing on writers that he loved and quickly turned to film and screenwriting. I could tell he was passionate and an expert on film perspectives immediately. Through our conversation we came up with the idea to create a place where students could check out movies that had film and screenwriting significance to the history club.
To keep the conversation going we met as a history club group and talked about our goal and vision. Two of our history teachers who advise the club, Kyle Libberton and Mike Volz, were extremely supportive, and gave the students much needed planning time during club meetings throughout the year. Our goal and vision was simply:
Goal: Make significant cinema available to all students to check out.
Vision: Create an archive run by the history club that would provide students with a chance to gain an in-depth understanding of film.
Planning the Archive
For this project we had two main phases in the planning process. First was deciding which films to include, and writing brief descriptions of the cinematic significance. Second was ordering and cataloging the movies, finding a container, and creating the plaque to adorn the container.
The movies that the history club chose to include were:
- The Prestige
- Moonrise Kingdom
- The Straight Story
- The Social Network
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
The library purchased two copies of each movie for the archive. This came out of my cataloged resources budget due to the fact that they are each bar coded and cataloged for student checkout. The written explanations of film significance are copied and laminated in the container as well.
The container that was chosen came from Target and was relatively inexpensive. I wanted something that was wooden and that would be large enough for the DVDs and would still allow the spines to be visible. The plaque that is attached to the bottom of the container was made through a collaboration with our tech department, which has a laser engraver on hand.
Once we had everything completed for the archive the final step was thinking about the future and how we would plan to curate it going forward. We came up with some criteria to help guide our work over time:
- Once a semester we will meet to decide if we want to add new titles.
- All titles must be rated PG-13 or lower.
- All nominated titles must be able to be backed by cultural, artistic, or cinematic significance.
To kick off the release of our new film archive I hosted a dedication ceremony in the school library. All of the history club was invited, and we celebrated with short speeches and snacks. Students were able to browse the films and share what they enjoyed about the process of creating the archive. The great thing about this project is that it is ongoing indefinitely. Students in the history club will be in charge of curating it and working with me on growing the collection over time.
This collaboration between the school library and the history club has been a wonderful opportunity for me to make connections with students and staff throughout the building. I was able to get to know a whole group of students that I might not have had a direct connection with before. This one conversation with Joe led to a years’ worth of work and planning, and hopefully a partnership that won’t end with this archive.
Author: Elizabeth Pelayo
Elizabeth Pelayo is the library media specialist at St. Charles East High School in St. Charles Illinois. She currently writes book reviews for School Library Journal. She is a member of the AASL AAUP Book Selection Committee. Also, she is a member of the nominations committee for the ISLMA Abraham Lincoln Book Award.