The Archives Offer a Glimpse into Andover’s Past

In one of the small rooms off of the Unobskey Room in the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL), Paige Roberts, Director of Archives and Special Collections, surrounds herself with a flurry of loose-leaf papers and a potpourri of historical trinkets. Roberts has worked in the archives since 2012 and is a guide for curious students who want to explore Andover’s rich 240-year history.

Students are permitted to make appointments and view interesting artifacts in the Archives. However, the primary use of the Archives is for large projects and papers, according to Roberts.

Roberts said, “Most of the student projects here have been big projects like CAMD student projects. I’ve had several Brace Fellows, some History-300 papers. Usually people come in because I’ve been working with teachers, and they bring a class in, and we do kind of a lesson, and during that I mention that you can do a history paper here.”

Eliot Min ’19 used the Archives in his English-200 class, researching memory books from students that were at Andover over 50 years ago.

Min said, “I think it’s a very interesting place. What I enjoyed about getting to see Andover from the perspective of students from a very long time ago was just how it shed light on the evolution of Andover throughout the last 50 years. I thought that was really cool.”

The Archives contain a treasure trove of information spanning from administrative records of Abbot Academy and Andover, student scrapbooks and photo albums, to old vinyl records of rock bands on campus and videos created by art students that documented day-to-day life at Andover.

“Special Collections is primarily older. In some cases, [it contains] rare books dating from the early years of the printing press — in 1450 all they way up to the twentieth century. For instance, we have a really great American humor collection, [and] we have a great collection of Dickens and Comrade,” said Roberts.

Before arriving at Andover, Roberts had an extensive background in history and archiving, starting out studying American Studies before returning to school to learn to manage archives and records.

Roberts said the overall goal of the Archives is to provide context for students on the school they attend.

“I think [the Archives] can really give them a broader sense of what it means to be a student here and how the school has changed over 235 years,” said Roberts.

Roberts has worked with history teachers and incorporated lessons while the classes visited the archives. Emma Frey, Instructor in History, believes that access to the Archives is an important resource for students.

“Students can benefit from the Archives as a repository of primary evidence to supplement any research about Andover or education in the United States. The Archives give Andover students the opportunity to interact with the rich history of the school and see how it connects the past to present. Working in the Archives also provides an experiential education to students and challenges them to think critically about material there without being told what to think by a textbook,” said Frey.

The Archives will be set for an upgrade once the OWHL undergoes renovations next summer. Storage space for the Archives will be allotted in the new basement, and the spaces will be climate controlled in order to better protect some of the aging artifacts. Roberts hopes that the renovation will make the Archives more attractive and the Special Collections more accessible to students.

Frey said, “The Archives remind us that the school is not static. By using the documents there, we learn how Andover has changed and responded to events and ideas that are now part of history.”