University School of Milwaukee may be known for its forward-thinking, progressive curriculum, but that does not come at the expense of the school’s history. One glance at USM’s archive collection, which includes German-English Academy (a pre-predecessor school) board of directors minutes from 1891 to 1908, a ledger book of Milwaukee Country Day School salaries from 1924 to 1952, numerous scrapbooks, photographs, trophies, films, yearbooks, and more, reveal a treasure trove of relics that paint a detailed picture of USM’s past.
Although many people assisted with maintaining the collection over the years, it became difficult to manage and document what was going out and what was coming in. That changed this past summer when Charlotte Lange, daughter of Upper School Math Teacher and Math Department Chair Fred Lange, took over. Charlotte, who is working on a master’s degree in library sciences, spent more than 110 hours over the course of four months documenting and organizing the collection. “I started by taking things off of the floor,” she said, “and grouping like things together. Then I organized them on shelves by predecessor school, year, and item.” Charlotte then created a document that listed each item and its location so it could be quickly and easily located again. “Which has already been helpful, because just last week someone asked me for an “Oklahoma!” VHS tape and I said, ‘Oh, you mean the one from 1992 on shelf number six?’”
For Charlotte, who is a self-professed minimalist, some days were overwhelming. “I’d open a box and find things that were completely unrelated and I had no idea why they were together. Or times when I’d spend a whole day sorting newspapers by decade, but it was still just a giant pile of newspapers.”
Despite the difficulties, the project was also rewarding. “I enjoy being able to piece together a complete set, to create a whole picture of something. Now, everything is in its correct spot.” Charlotte received graduate credit for her efforts, but she still has some work to do. “Now I can focus more on preservation, like storing things in archival-quality boxes, and repairing books with library tape where the binding is gone so people can look through them.”
Items from the collection will be available for public viewing in the future. Stay tuned for more information or email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.