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Archive Project – Hidden Stories of SHSB’s Past

Our school was founded in 1895 – and has been on this present site since 1939. You can imagine, then, just what a huge historical record the school has amassed over the decades, and it’s in the dark, off-limits-for-most corners of the school that this extensive collection is archived. But there’s a problem – almost all of it is recorded on paper, and it desperately needs future-proofing. Mrs. Williams has the laborious job of digitising the vast archive, but of course, the archiving of current experiences and events, of the school and its staff, is still happening today.books

I interviewed Ethan Green, one of several Year 13s who has the fascinating task of interviewing staff, ex-staff and ex-students about their experiences, both recently and in long past. Ethan informs that the group has frequently attended reunions and other events, organised through the Old Southendian Association. He also explained to me that the organisation’s meetings are the main way of conducting the interviews, and that these were all being digitally archived. Naturally, this meant that he wouldn’t be getting away without revealing to me at least a couple of the interesting stories he had to tell…

One of which involves the iconic moose head, proudly displayed, as we probably all know, on the wall in the canteen, just above the entrance to the pavilion. Ethan tells me that, about two years ago, legal issues were beginning to be raised questioning, perhaps unsurprisingly, the safety standards of having a dead animal’s head on open display, looming imperiously over the dining tables of the area where the school eats their hot meals, its antlers brandished.

As a result, the moose’s head was removed for inspection. Following this, word of its disappearance had spread, and he then revealed how the school had received several emails from anxious old Southendians, inquiring as to where this head could have possibly got to! Could the canteen lose its magnificent showpiece? Nevertheless, the moose-head crisis was soon resolved – Ethan tells me that, somewhat by happy coincidence, the school was fortunate enough for one of its student’s parents to be a taxidermist, and they were soon able to rectify the moose situation both cheaply and quickly; the head was replaced in the space of just two weeks.

Another alarming situation refers to the sponsored walk, which many of us will have taken part in, perhaps on several occasions. But Ethan tells me how the first ever whole-school sponsored walk very nearly ended in disaster before it even began – the school was informed, only the day before it was due to take place, that the planned route was being used for a shooting competition. Luckily, the school was able to arrange a second location to stage the walk, which was just as well, or maybe some unsuspecting pupils would have got the shock of their lives…

Alongside century-old photographs and endless register logs, it’s also stories like these that make their way into the archives; the events that will be infamously remembered by staff and ex-students alike. We don’t want to lose these memories, so it is important that we recognise the work that both the staff, and the year 13s on the project, do to preserve them for the future. The point is simple – so that, as the school song’s closing lyrics tell us: And through the centuries to be, our school shall grow in memory.

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