You can’t really know where you come from unless you study your history. One way to do this is to literally look through years and years of records; and, I am doing just that as part of the service learning aspect of my cultural formation class.
My group – the Archivists, as we like to call ourselves – is processing and preserving almost 100 years of records for Saint Matthew’s Episcopal Cathedral in Dallas, with the intent of using these valuable documents to justify a petition for a historical marker for the building. The task at first appeared daunting. We walked into a room about the size of a large closet that seemed to have no semblance of organization.
But in just my last trip to the archives, I was able to organize almost 50 years of school records for Saint Mary’s College, the predecessor to the now legendary Hockaday School, and “discover” records for a school of music that Saint Matthew’s ran that my contact at Saint Matthew’s didn’t realize existed.
Through the entire process, the lingering questions in my mind have not been limited to, “Who were these people? And what have they gone on to accomplish?” My questions also include, “In what way did Saint Matthew’s as an institution aid and interact with its pupils and parishioners?” – because one of the ongoing discussions in my class is just that: What is the relationship between individuals, community, institutions and identities?