Paradigm, Number 10 (April, 1993)  

Third Annual History of Education Museums and Collections International Directory 1991 Blackwell History of Education Research Center, Northern Illinois University, Gabel Hall 08, Dekalb IL 60115, USA. pp ii + 77, $10.

Chris Stray
Department of Sociology,
University College, Swansea.

This edition is apparently much enlarged from earlier editions, especially in its listings of German and US locations. Some idea of its coverage can be gained from the fact that Germany occupies more than half of the entire directory, with 150 entries. The USA has nearly 100 entries. England has only ten, of which one is a ghost: the Educational Museum in Haslemere is not a museum of education but a museum designed to educate. (There is a minor mystery here. The Education Guild, wound up in 1929, did have an ‘educational museum’ in Haslemere, but no trace remains, and the existing Museum there denies any connection.) Most of the other English entries are for museums attached to public schools; though Eton, which has a Museum of Eton Life, is not mentioned. The Jill Grey collection at Hitchin is similarly unknown to the compilers. Scotland (3 entries) is separately listed.

The standard of annotation varies enormously. The compilers were here at the mercy of their informants. Thus the first Austrian entry reads ‘Home Museum, A-8911 Admont, Austria’. Only a prospective traveller to Admont would be enticed by this. In contrast, the entry for the ‘Erstes Bayerisches Schulmuseum Sulzbach-Rosenbach’ in Germany tells us that is located in 13 rooms next to a small castle, that it has an 1875 classroom with 14 5-seat desks, a teacher’s spittoon filled with sawdust, a donkey bench for refractory pupils and an oiled floor (kept clean with the help of used sawdust, perhaps?]. The entry for the Center for Research Libraries in Chicago, one of the major locations for textbooks in the USA, gives useful detail: 85,000 old textbooks, of which 4% are 1800-50, 19% are 1851-1900, mostly spellers, readers, grammars and rhetorics. All the entries have enough detail to make a postal enquiry possible; some add a telephone number. But the additional detail exemplified by this entry makes it much easier for those with special interests to draw up their own short lists for enquiry (and incidentally saves the time spent by curators in replying). Nevertheless, those thinking of visiting a collection may need to check in advance, even where a lengthy description is given here. For example, one of the largest US collections is held in the principal federal library, the Research Library of the US Department of Education in Washington DC. But the relatively long entry does not mention what is the case; that the 40,000 volumes of the early American collection (1775-1900) ‘are uncatalogued and lie tightly shelved in a dusty storage room’. [History of Reading News vol. xv no. 1 (Fall, 1991) p. 1]

A subject index is lacking and would help the reader greatly. But the directory is clearly a collaborative effort in a process of constant expansion and improvement; we should all be sending in information and corrections when we have them. At present the directory is circulated free to those institutions listed in it. It should be in every large education library.

 


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