The Subtle Integration of Archives with School Life – Charlotte McCrory

Engaging people with archive collections is a core principle of the archive community. However, within the busy environment of a school, it is sometimes difficult to set aside time from scheduled curriculum studies for archive visits or to communicate with various departments as to how archives could be integrated within lessons. Since beginning as School Archivist at Oakham School, education and outreach work through displays, social media and projects have made me realise that engagement with archives does not need to be an obvious thing such as visits to the archive or loans boxes. Engagement can be much more subtle and yet still as impactful. Below are a few projects that I have been involved in where the archives have played a vital, albeit understated role.

Example of The Form Three Enquiry Skills Project Leaflet
(C) Oakham School by kind permission of the Archivist

The Form Three Enquiry Skills Project

My very first project at the school and one that has been repeated this year, has been the archive’s involvement within this enquiry skills project. The project, ran by the school’s library, seeks to help pupils develop key skills which will aid research and essay writing for their future studies. The theme of the essays that pupils write is linked to the history department’s battlefields tour trip: each pupil is given an Old Oakhamian (OO) who died in France during World War One. The archives were responsible for researching these soldiers and producing booklets for the students to use for research. Much research about a soldier’s basic biography had already been done by the school’s historian, nonetheless we sought to build upon this by expanding upon each OO’s time at the school. We made thorough use of old editions of the school’s magazine, incorporating pages from their digitised counterparts as well as photographs within the archives in the research booklets so that pupils would experience using primary sources directly.

The History Wall

This project was a giant timeline of the First World War which would wrap its way around the staircase in the history department. Our initial brief was to ‘put more Oakham’ into a proposed timeline wall art which had hitherto been exclusively focused on the events on the continent. Our first step was to identify at which battles OOs had fallen and to try and source images of them. Following on from this, we felt that it was not only important to give context and background to the war, but for the school as well. What was the school like on the eve of war? We then went on to add in sections which specifically focused on Oakham School’s commemoration of war such as a segment on the Oakham School cross and images of pupils’ remembrance. Our in-depth involvement with the development of the wall’s text and images meant that archival material and resources could be interwoven seamlessly into the final product meaning that pupils, staff and visitors could engage with the material.

For more information, please read the news story on the school’s website:

History Wall at Oakham School and Student World War I Poster
(C) Oakham School by kind Permission of the Archivist

World War One Posters

For the centenary of the World War One armistice, the archives were asked to produced posters of OOs who fought and/or died in the war. These were to be placed around the school as part of the commemorations taking place. In addition to photographs of the soldiers, and like the aim of the form three enquiry skills booklets, we wanted to communicate these soldiers’ lives at school and thus again made use of archival material and school magazines.

Throughout all these examples, use of archival material has not been overstated. Instead the archives have had a significant impact within these projects which has meant that collection material has made a seamless and yet stronger impact upon the final product. Pupils are thus engaging with the archives without realising and without breaking step with their busy curriculum studies.

Below are links to our school website (including blog) and Libguides site – which contains digital exhibitions connected to our First World War research.

Charlotte McCrory, Oakham School Archivist



  1. I really love your website.. Pleasant colors & theme. Did you make this web site yourself? Please reply back as I’m wanting to create my own site and want to find out where you got this from or what the theme is named. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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