Topeka students preserve school history through museum class

Education 21st Century

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Students at Seaman High School are preparing for their futures while preserving the past.

The students are part of a new museum class. They help preserve school archives and run a district museum.

Seaman High School history teacher Nathan McAlister came up with the idea for the class after he was approached by people asking him to take over the Seaman Historical Society’s museum.

“I declined as an individual, I don’t want to do this on my own,” McAlister said. “What I countered with, is the idea that students take over management of the archives and the museum.”

Last school year, McAlister recruited a few students to enroll in the first year of the class.

The students are taking the course as an independent study, but McAlister said he hopes it will be an official class in the future. He said it has been a learning process for both him and his students.

“I have zero experience with training someone to manage or run a museum, so what I did was fall back on some of my contacts at the Kansas Historical Society,” McAlister said.

Through the partnership with the historical society, McAlister said the students have learned about proper care, management and storage of materials. They have also learned about the various jobs and roles that exists at a museum and how to display the material.

Through the class, the students are learning about more than just how to archive. The stacks of dusty yearbooks and faded newspapers connect them to the past.

“I think it’s interesting to look through all the old yearbooks during class… [and] see what it looked like 50 years ago,” said Molly McLaughlin, a Seaman High School junior. “Then [we] go right back to school and walk those same halls and see how its changed, and how it hasn’t changed over decades.”

McAlister and the students want to eventually digitize the archive to make it available to more people.

“We want to take this to our schools within our district, and then schools throughout our state to show them how they can create this same project, [and] how they can create their own museum,” McAlister said.

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