Explore Our Archives

The Sumner School Archives is the official repository of the Washington DC Board of Education’s minutes, annual reports, committee reports and other papers going back to the establishment of the public school system in 1804.

The Archives are open 10 AM-5 PM Monday-Thursday BY APPOINTMENT ONLY. If you are not a registered researcher, please allow time to register and complete a brief orientation. Lockers are provided on the Ground Floor to store all personal belongings. Researchers are not allowed to carry coats, purses or other bags into research areas.

We also have considerable holdings of school system administrative materials (budgets, rules, statistics, internal documents, etc.), informal materials relating to the history of the schools (newspaper clippings, newsletters, memos), and a rich collection of memorabilia relating to the Washington DC schools (photos, yearbooks, school newspapers, trophies, sports programs, etc.). Extensive files on individuals, as well as the city’s teachers colleges, supplement the collection. The Sumner School collection is possibly the most comprehensive collection in the United States relating to the history of one school system, and it continues to grow monthly.

Of interest to genealogists is the extensive collection of student registers, giving names, ages, addresses and (often) guardians from about 1850 to the Second World War period, and the large number of teacher and custodial staff registers from the post-Civil War era to the late 1930s

Archives: Catalogues

Materials held in the Sumner School collection are continuously updated. New catalogues are created regularly and existing ones revised as new materials are added to the collection. Each completed catalog carries at the top the last date on which any revision was made to the document. Since all Archives are uploaded quarterly onto the Sumner School website, the catalogues on this website might not reflect the latest changes.

Archives: Genealogical Resources

The Sumner School Archives collection holds considerable material of interest to genealogists, most particularly student records dating back to the late 1840s. These records are not continuous or complete, but for long periods of the city’s history records personal information otherwise lost. Some of these records include the student’s birth date and birthplace, residence, and name and occupation of guardian. Of particular significance are:

  • Entire student population of the City of Washington 1850-57.
  • Extensive but incomplete listings of African-American students from the post-Civil War period.
  • Complete roll-books of all elementary schools 1901-31.
  • A large collection of teacher and custodial staff listings, 1870-1930.

 

Archives: Charles Sumner

The Sumner School Museum and Archives collections focus on the history of public education in Washington DC, but also include a small collection of materials relating to our namesake, Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, a renowned abolitionist of the Civil War period. This not only includes about two shelves of 19th century and more recent books and photographs of Sumner, but also his autograph and one original letter, and a complete set of letters from Sumner to his many correspondents (all of his letters not found in the Sumner Collection of the Houghton Library). This collection is completely indexed.

 

Archives: Research Policy/Hours/Donations

The Archives are open 10 AM-5 PM Monday-Thursday BY APPOINTMENT ONLY. If you are not a registered researcher, please allow time to register and complete a brief orientation. Lockers are provided on the Ground Floor to store all personal belongings. Researchers are not allowed to carry coats, purses or other bags into research areas.

The Archives has a photocopier and scanner. Material may be put aside for use on successive visits. The research areas have outlets allowing use of portable computers. You are allowed to bring cameras.

The Sumner School Museum and Archives collections grow through the generosity of our users and friends. Donations of all materials relating to the city schools are always welcome. Donations of items are the main way in which the Sumner School Museum and Archive collection grows. Please feel free to discuss possible donations with the Museum Director, who can also recommend other libraries and repositories in the area for materials relating to local history.