The Collection

The archives collects, organizes and makes available items relating to the history of Westtown School--the program and people—from the 1790s to the present. School records (including various committee minutes and correspondence); manuscripts (including student letters, essays, and notebooks); photographs of all phases of school life; publications by students and the school; rare books and text books; maps (some drawn by students), plans and architectural drawings; and artifacts (including textiles) from everyday life at the school, are housed in the Archives.   The school’s collections of artwork and antique furniture are also under the care of the archives.

Classes in all divisions are welcome for general tours of the archives or visits of one or more class periods to use resources in the collection. Please contact us to arrange a visit. Following are select ways to integrate use of the collection into course work.

English & History

  • Hear an archivist’s introduction to the Letter Collection. Then read, react and respond to a student letter from the collection, with your own personal letter.
  • With an archivist’s Q&A on daily life at Westtown as preparation, reimagine the past with a story or poem based on a photograph or an artifact out of Westtown’s past.
  • Describe, contextualize, analyze and reflect on an artifact from an historical point of view.
  • Read a primary document--like a page from a financial journal—for insights into 19th C Westtown life.
  • Research a topic from Westtown’s past using multiple primary sources.

World & Classical Languages

  • Translate a student letter about life at Westtown from English, then read the translation and discuss it aloud.
  • Study a photograph from the collection and imagine your way into it for a class presentation.

Mathematics & Science

  • Browse in the collection’s student notebooks for arithmetic, algebra, bookkeeping, geometry, trigonometry or surveying; or navigation, astronomy, geography, botany, forestry or ornithology.   A notebook in your subject can be a rich source for problems for students to approach creatively. Some notebooks are project-oriented (as well as beautiful). Students might design projects using one of these as a model.
  • The archives has several scientific instruments used in the past by students or teachers which can be of interest for the analysis of their structure and use.
  • Use the collection’s student herbaria (plant cutting collections) to spark photograph-based collections made by students today.
  • Select a student essay from The Naturalist (1843 publication of the Westtown Literary Society) for students to critique.


  • Examine a Mesopotamian clay tablet, or a pottery Egyptian grave god from the archives’ Randolph Collection to expand on discussion of readings in Genesis or Exodus.
  • See artifacts from, and hear about life at early Westtown as a springboard to discussion of the Quaker Testimonies.

Fine Arts

  • Study several Westtown landscapes painted by George Whitney or others, as springboards to painting or drawing sites students choose.
  • Use a 200-year old Westtown pie plate as the model for student made pie plates.
  • Encourage graphic design students to incorporate items from the collection in their projects.

Performing Arts

  • Use student letters or other documents from the collection to collaborate in writing a play focused on an era of Westtown’s past.
  • Let students look through the photographs of productions of a play they have read, and which has been acted at Westtown, as the basis for small group collaborations on set designs.

Middle School

(Also see above for select uses that could be adapted for Middle School)

  • Introduction to primary sources in the study of history (textual, visual and artifacts).
  • Examine and analyze everyday artifacts (activity on past Grandparents’ Days).
  • Explore material culture at Westtown in preparation for archaeological dig.
  • Explore cultural changes as they were evident at Westtown, e.g., study the Industrial Revolution at Westtown through maps, drawings, plans and artifacts.

Lower School

  • Use artifacts from the collection to illustrate unit on Native Americans including items such as local and Southwest Native American implements and pottery along with hand drawn maps of Westtown land denoting location of Indian spring.
  • Integrate a variety of sources that tell the stories of Westonians such as Johnny Fitzpatrick (the shoemaker) for a study of biography.
  • Examine artifacts such as silhouettes, samplers, quill, sand blotters, bonnets and clothing to learn about everyday objects from the past.


    • MonSep30 Rosh Hashanah; No LS/MS/US Classes
    • WedOct09 Yom Kippur; No US/MS/LS Classes
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