Greencastle-Antrim social studies students are preserving community history

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

Archivist, grant writer, preservationist, researcher, museum curator, interviewer and podcaster are some of the titles that can be applied to the Blue Devil Scholars at Greencastle-Antrim High School.

"Most are history geeks like we are," said Meagan Brockway who, along with James Thomas, is adviser to the G-AHS chapter of Rho Kappa, the national social studies honor society.

There are about 20 Blue Devil Scholars and they are learning skills and applying them to preserve the history of their community.

Blue Devil Scholar Emma Bathgate works on archiving, digitizing and cataloging a field day manual.

In the spring, they helped get the Hometown Hero banners ready to line Greencastle streets and mapped their locations.

Now they want to record the stories of military service and will be at the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce office from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

They are also dipping into a large amount of historical material that's been stored in the farmhouse at Tayamentasachta, the G-A School District's environmental center.

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Into the future

There is no school on Veterans Day, and three or four students will be at the chamber office doing interviews. They want to speak with veterans, family members and just people who lived in town and have wartime memories, according to Brockway.

The interviews won't have questions that could cause anxiety, she said, explaining they will be open-ended and conversational in a way to let people tell their story.

Meagan Brockway, an adviser to the Greencastle-Antrim High School chapter of the national social studies honor society Rho Kappa, looks at a ledger of teachers monthly reports from 1899 to 1909.

Veterans of any era are welcome, just as the Hometown Hero banners represent a variety of veterans, Brockway said.

Arrangements can be made to tape at other times if Veterans Day doesn't suit, she added.

For information, email mbrockway@gcasd.org

The Nov. 11 interviews are a trial run for Old Home Week. In the spirit of National Public Radio's StoryCorps, the goal is to set up stations during the triennial celebration next August to interview local residents about Greencastle memories, such as what their prom was like.

"Old Home Week is a time to reminisce ... this might be the last Old Home Week we have with some of them," Brockway said.

The students are using equipment purchased with a Technology Innovation Grant from the Greater Chambersburg Chamber Foundation. The grants are awarded annually to encourage the innovative use of technology for students in kindergarten through grade 12.

The money was used for six microphones and a battery pack. The students can use them with their school-issued iPads and also have access to a free podcasting program. Eventually, the interviews and the results of other Blue Devil Scholar projects may be accessible on a website.

Out of the past

"Museums aren't built overnight," Brockway said, and the work of today's students will continue for years to come as it is a huge project to organize, catalog and digitize everything.

Another grant is being sought, this one from the Greencastle-Antrim Education Foundation, for materials to begin archiving the items from Tayamentasachta.

Miss Jen. McKinnie's 1890 diploma — measuring 15 by 18 1/2 inches — was signed by Principal John D. Harris and members of the school board.

"The kids are writing the grant with us," Brockway said, explaining the students have done the application narrative and have been in contact with the administration.

"We hope to see more of that in the future ... the kids taking ownership of where the money's coming from," Brockway said.

The students will be trained in the use of preservation materials and techniques, including the use of acid-free paper and white gloves.

There is a treasure trove to work with, as over the years local residents have donated many school-related things to the district.

Miss Minta George's 1892 report card is among the historical items that will be preserved by the Blue Devil Scholars at Greencastle-Antrim High School.

A sampling includes:

  • "Progammes" from 1930 and 1931 Field Days against Waynesboro
  • Greencastle High School Class of 1927 graduation memorabilia
  • Miss Minta George's 1892 report card
  • Miss Jen McKinnie's 1890 diploma — measuring 15 by 18 1/2 inches and signed by Principal John D. Harris and members of the school board
  • A ledger of teachers monthly reports from 1899 to 1909

Brockway called the artifacts "very precious things."

She hopes to fill a display case outside the high school auditorium with "historical material related to the school."

Historical items available for Blue Devil Scholars to preserve include 'progammes' from 1930 and 1931 Field Days against Waynesboro.

Also planned are traveling exhibit bags appropriate for each school level — ranging from "What is history and what are artifacts?" for primary students to "How did artifacts from World War II onward influence Greencastle history?" for high schoolers.

Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at shardy@gannett.com