“Much in life is learned and accomplished by accident.” – Harley Brown, artist
On Tuesday November 18, Ellen Sheehan presented the Mifflin Archive, a volume of historical documents about the school, to Principal Leslie Mason.
Two years in the making, the Archive is the carefully curated result of a fortunate accident. “I didn’t go to Mifflin School years ago to make an archive,” said Ellen, “I was only looking for a letter or marker recognizing that Mifflin was included on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.” (Mifflin is one of approximately 20 buildings in our community that have been designated on the Register.)
Ellen, Principal Mason, and Wendy in the Mifflin Library
She never found a marker that day, but she did leave with a trove of documents, courtesy of the school librarian Susan Brennan. Ellen had no inkling that the volume of letters, graduating class lists, articles, photos, and maps, which spanned almost 50 years (1936-1985), would keep her and her archiving team busy “on and off” for two years. The team would spend many hours scanning, curating, and making copies of the Mifflin Archive. (One copy will be preserved by the Historical Society.)
Prominent members of the team included Lara Mickle, a work-study student currently with Philadelphia University, and Jenna Brotherton a volunteer and a native Fallser (Sunnyside Street).
And they’re work isn’t done yet. The Archive represents only the first step in what Ellen hopes will be a more thorough record of the school’s history. “There are several closets we haven’t catalogued yet that are full of documents we think will cover the more recent history from 1985 to present.”
Ellen hopes that the documenting of Mifflin’s history can raise awareness of its central role in the community and build greater support among residents. “It has such a long history and it’s been such a fixture for so many kids and families, we need to document everything we can about it” she said.
There is another, more practical purpose for the historical recognition. Principal Mason thanked Ellen and her team profusely, adding that “with all of the cuts to education in the Philadelphia school system, every bit of recognition of our school and its history helps.”
Ellen hopes Mifflin’s history can also help build financial support. She intends to launch a fundraising effort soon that she believes will finally raise the historical marker she couldn’t find years ago.