McGuffey, Museums, and Schoolhouse Memories
The 8th Annual CSAA Conference, held this year at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, is not far behind us, but we're still processing the 25 presentations that covered new and thought-provoking ground. We're poring over our photos of the Williams Holmes McGuffey Museum and the Wednesday bus trip to area country schools. Attendees spanned the map, arriving from as far away as Texas, Alabama, New Hampshire, New York, and NORWAY!
We owe our thanks this year to Suzanne Daniel of Michigan and Nancy Hughes of Indiana for coordinating another informative national event on behalf of the CSAA. These conferences are planned a year in advance to ensure a successful program, and Suzanne and Nancy certainly did their homework! It is gratifying to note that continued participation of our members in the annual conference confirms the importance of our work to preserve our one-room schoolhouses. (Photo Left: W.H. McGuffey)
During the three-day event, Dr. Leidulf Mydland of the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage in Oslo gave us our biggest boost when he presented a comparison of schoolhouse preservation in the Midwest and Norway. He praised our spirit and showed enthusiasm for the American effort to save the most humble icons of our educational history. He admires our tenacity in restoration even though our schoolhouses are not designed by famous architects, representative of any particular style, "important" architecture, of monumental value, or boasting decorative details..." all prerequisites for the Norwegian national list of historic buildings. He explained that no one-room schools in Norway are on the national list because they simply don't fit these basic requirements. Dr. Mydland encourages historic preservationists in Norway to save their one-room schools before it's too late, but finds this a hard sell. His presentation was entitled:"Country Schools in the Midwest and Norway as Cultural Heritage, A Different Approach." (Photo Right: Dr. Leidulf Mydland)
A wide range of topics were presented in the two-day program. Dr. Kate Rousmaniere of Miami University presented "A History of the Normal School at Oxford, OH," a fitting prelude to our three-day adventure at Miami University. Nancy Huges of Avon, IN portraying schoolmarm "Miss Ellie" at the Pittsboro One-Room Schoolhouse, offered "Naturally McGuffey/Feathers in My Books." She pointed out McGuffeys wide use of animal stories and distributed a list of every chapter relating to animals and nature found in the McGuffey Eclectic Readers. Susan Webb of Brimingham, AL, The Traveling Schoolmarm, shared sample lessons from the McGuffey series explaining how she introduces them into her living history program. Susan's handouts and booklets are always treasures to schoolhouse re-enactors. She titled her presentation:"From the Pages of Country School Readers."
Eleanor Ent of New Alexandria, PA presented "Pump Up the Volume: Antique Reed Organs in the One-Rooom School." She entertained us with the history of pump organs and even brought along two that she has restored. She played songs that were common to music programs across the country. Dr. Pamela Stover of Southern Illinois University presented "Victrolas, Phonographs and School Recordings." She explained the difference between the machines and how they were used in country schools. Sarah Uthoff shared the results of her year-long and on-going survey entitled "What's for Lunch," highlighting memories of just what was inside that basket or lunch box, what students drank, whether and how they washed up, and how they set up their desks for the noon meal. (Photo Left: Eleanor Ent)
Betsy Butler of the King Library Special Collections Division at MU introduced us to "The William Holmes McGuffey Family Papers and The McGuffey Reader Collection: Two Bright Ornaments in the Walter Havighurst Special Collections at Miami University." She also told us what to look for in the museum, McGuffey's former home in Oxford. On display for our visit were countless volumes from the McGuffey Readers collection spanning decades of publication.
Leigh Ann Randak of "The Coralville Schoolhouse Museum" in Coralville, IA spoke of the history of her schoolhouse and offered ideas for fundraising and programming. We were relieved to learn that her schoolhouse was spared the ravages of the Iowa floods despite devastation throughout her city.
Two colorful and graphic presentations involved schoolhouse restoration: "Renovating a One-Room School on a Shoestring Budget" was the topic of Mary Fulton, Peebles,OH and Carol Motza, Winchester,OH. They told how the project was initially funded by the Adams County Retired Teachers Association and illustrated the story of the restoration of The Page School in West Union, OH, Adams County. Following this, Mary Sue Divine of Livingston, WI told the story of the "Hazel Dell One-Room Schoolhouse Restoration" in Livingston between 2003 and 2006 culiminating in its re-opening to an admiring public. She discussed history, fundraising, repair, and community involvement leading to the school's rebirth. (Photos: Hazel Dell 2006 and 2003)
"What's In It For Us?" was the question answered by Susan Fineman of Nashua, NH as she highlighted the reasons why we are resolute in preserving our humble little schools. Her presentation was a pictorial trek through schoolhouse history noting building styles, school names, famous one-room schools and attendees, restoration success, and current living history programs in restored schoolhouses across America.
Caroline Bradekamp of Spragueville, IA left no stone unturned in "Awakening the Memories Within: The Rebirth of the North Bend Schoolhouse and Community." Her detailed program listed countless ideas for getting your restoration job done, marshalling the community, fundraising, record-keeping, grant-writing, muscling your way through red tape, etc. She redoubled her efforts in her second presentation entitled, "Collecting, Recording & Sharing Memories & Artifacts of a Schoolhouse and Its Community." Whew! You won't have to reinvent the wheel if you contact Caroline!
In "Celebrations-Honoring Educators," Dr. Lucy Townsend of Northern Illinois University explored how to use country schools in creative ways, particularly as places to honor teachers and hold public exhibitions of children's art and musical talents. She also suggested reenacting the Christmas play, a staple of the holiday progams staged in one-room schools. (Photo:from Student Art Exhibit, Blackwell History of Education Museum, NIU)
A survey of one-room schools on college campuses was conducted by Jessica Conley of Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC. during the past year and half. In "The One-Room School Goes to College," Jessica reported her findings and her methods, and included photos and notable facts about the 41 schoolhouses residing on American campuses. Many of the schoolhouses were saved by the colleges and universities in honor of their historical beginnings as normal schools.
Historical researcher Bob Frenz of McHenry County, IL has published a book entitled "Historic Country Schools of McHenry County, IL". He distributed tax records of 1857-1859 to illustrate expenditures on local schools and the fine detail involved in researching local records.(Information on how to purchase this book will appear elsewhere on this site.)
"Building an Archive of Country School Records" followed. Dr. Sue Grosboll of the University of Northern Iowa reported on their windfall acquisition of all Iowa rural school records that had been housed in Area Education Agencies since 1972 (collected from County Superintendents Offices throughout the state). The records cover the period roughly from 1850 to 1965, which gives an idea of the scope of storage, preservation, and cataloguing ahead for the UNI Museum where this collection now awaits processing. The red tapeto acquire the records was long and bright.
This year's $300 CSAA Prize for Artistry went to Jeannette Kottke of Fredericksburg, IA who produced the film, "One-Room Rural School House Days," a moving tribute to one-room schools and those who attended. The film focuses on the Chickasaw County Country School with interviews from attendees and teachers of the now restored schoolhouse.
Dr. Kouider Mokhtari of Miami University spoke of how "Modern Reading" must be undertaken differently and more critically than in the past, considering the global nature of the Internet and it's influence in our lives.
Dr. Mark Dewalt of Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC offered his assessment of "Summer Meetings: Critical Component of the Amish Country School System?". Mark, a noted expert on Amish school culture, told how the school is the center of community life with the responsibility for its success shared by all. Teacher and community members, he explained, attend their summer meetings together to "energize."
A novel topic, "A Peek at Calisthenics of the Late 1800's" was presented by Lindsay McLean of Cincinnati, OH. She offered vintage photos from physical education texts of the day explaining the benefits of such unique exercise and conditioning programs for schoolchildren. Few were familiar with this widespread and supposedly healthful practice.
A "Depiction of the Country School by American Artists" was presented by Bill Sherman of Des Moines, IA. Displaying works from Winslow Homer to Grant Wood and P. Buckley Moss, Bill shared numerous renditions of schoolhouses in paintings. Interesting to note: Bill was instrumental in Iowa's choice of the Grant Wood 1932 schoolhouse painting Arbor Day as the artwork for the Iowa quarter!!!
Dr. Mary Outlaw of Berry College, Mount Berry, GA recounted a brief history of "Noble Hill School:The First Rosenwald School in Northwest Georgia" and the steps taken toward its restoration and rededication in 1989. It remains open today as a museum dedicated to the black culture of Bartow County,GA.
Finally, a detailed presentation for those who want to get the word out about their museums was offered by Richard Lewis of League City, Texas in "Getting Noticed in a Noisy World." Richard covered areas including the public arena, the print media, direct appeal to the customer, the web, TV, and video and film. These tips will be shared in an entire newsletter article in themselves...keep watch.