Los Angeles Unified School District
Art & Artifact Collection/Archive and Museum
The Mission of the Art & Artifact Collection/Archive and Museum:
- Engage and educate the Los Angeles community, including students, families, faculty, staff, alumni as well as independent historians, curators, librarians, and archivists about the history of LAUSD and its role within the greater community.
- Preserve and protect the unique cultural heritage of LAUSD.
- Encourage the school community to become involved in the dynamic process of contributing to The Collection/Archive in ways that reflect current environments and cultures.
The LAUSD Art & Artifact Collection/Archive and Museum is a program of the LAUSD Arts Education Branch, Division of Instruction, in association with the Facilities Services Division. It consists of a public Collection, a unique Archive, and an historical Museum:
The LAUSD Art & Artifact Collection encompasses over 160 years and 1,000 school sites which have accumulated historical items, artwork, and artifacts, some as property of the District and others as gifts and donations. In 2000, the District received a grant from the J. Paul Getty Foundation and the State of California Department of Education to conduct a more exhaustive artwork inventory and create a collections management database. As a result, Los Angeles students, past and present, have found unique ways to engage with their own schools through discovery of and contributions to LAUSD’s visual and recorded history. The Collection has been accumulated from a variety of sources:
- Teachers, staff, alumni, and library associations gave gifts of artwork, rare books, yearbooks, scrapbooks, and silver tea sets used in Home Economics classes.
- Under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, artists hired for the U.S. General Services Administration, Fine Arts Program (1935-1943) created public art for many LAUSD schools.
- Non-profit organizations like the Hollywood Beautification Team received neighborhood grants from the City of Los Angeles that was used to hire artist to paint murals at schools.
The LAUSD Art & Artifact Archive is a special repository of primary source administrative and instructional documents, rare books, artifacts, and over 30,000 photographs, negatives, and slides of LAUSD school activities and architecture from the 1910s to the 1980s. Although non-circulating and sparsely documented, we have some knowledge about how the District acquired these holdings:
- Rare books, prints, etchings, and folio collections such as the Carnegie Art History Collection were distributed to secondary schools by the Carnegie Corporation of New York in the early 1930s. The Californiana Collection consists of old curricula from the California State Series; also, a large donation from the Dawson Collection (formerly at George Washington High School) was mentioned in an issue of The Pacific Bindery Talk journal in September 1934. Ernest Dawson was a lecturer on books who owned a rare bookstore called Dawson's Book Shop, which was founded in Los Angeles in 1905.
- District employees served as staff photographers for the Audio Visual Section, Public Information Office and other District branches. The accompanying, meticulously organized card catalog and the thousands of photographs and negatives are arguably the most impressive feature of the Archive.
- Venice High School had an on-campus Latin Museum (1932-1997) of antiquities from Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome, including vases, tools and cuneiform tablets much of which was donated by the Classical League of Downtown Los Angeles and Principal Mr. E.W. Clark (1917-1938).
The LAUSD Art & Artifact Museum opened in 2014, and is located on the 2nd Floor of LAUSD Beaudry Administrative Offices Headquarters. Meant to resemble a late 19th century classroom, objects in the exhibit tell the story of LAUSD’s formation, administration, programs, and also displays miscellaneous historical items commonly found in a classroom.
- Desks, furniture, and objects are from the original Heritage Schoolhouse Museum, previously called the Vernon Avenue Schoolhouse and originally built in 1876.
- The exhibit's glass display case houses vintage textbooks, learning tools, maps, and a 16 mm film reel canister for educational film Aeronautical Oddities.
- Instructional gems are displayed such as an antique lantern slide projector showing “snatching the rooster” (an early prairie game), an adding machine, the wooden “Neal Word Builder” phonics machine, and a music book called Old Spanish Songs of California from 1923.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Whom does the LAUSD Art & Artifact Archive and Museum serve?
We provide instructional support to any and all LAUSD students, teachers, and administrators, as well as to the larger community. It is a free resource meant to be enjoyed by all.
May I come in during regular business hours to look at the Archive or Museum?
**COVID HAS TEMPORARILY SUSPENDED ALL IN-PERSON VISITS**
The Archive and Museum is available by appointment only. Hours are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 9am – 4pm, excluding federal holidays. Appointments are free, but we do not reimburse for parking. For the Museum, there is NO visitor parking within the LAUSD Administrative Headquarters garage at 333 South Beaudry Avenue EXCEPT for those with Disabled Placards.
Please note the Archive space is a warehouse and is simultaneously being organized by staff and is therefore not conducive to “tours” at this time. However, the Archivist is happy to research a subject or school on your behalf. Keep in mind that the amount of material available varies considerably from school to school.
May I check items out like in a library?
No, the Archive is non-circulating, finding aids for researchers are available upon request. While there is currently no accessible computerized catalog, the Archivist can conduct research requests and provide digitized items remotely via email.
Digitized historical photographs of LAUSD school activities, architecture, and aerials are available at NO COST for educational purposes. A signed Photo License Agreement is required before receiving any high-resolution photo files. Please be patient with these requests, which can take up to 2 weeks to process. We reserve the right to limit the number of photocopies provided.
Occasionally, loans to schools, non-profit organizations, and museums are made, but they require insurance, special transportation arrangements, and paperwork. Permission is also necessary from the Arts Education Branch office to loan, repair, restore, photograph, or otherwise reproduce the artwork in the LAUSD Art & Artifact Collection/Archive and Museum.
I am interested in making an artwork, artifact, or memorabilia donation. What is the process?
**THERE IS CURRENTLY A MORATORIUM ON ARCHIVE DONATIONS DUE TO COVID. SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS WILL BE TAKEN ON AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS**
Please email the Curator/Archivist for a Donation Application that will be evaluated and approved following District Guidelines. All donations are outright and unconditional gifts to be used at LAUSD’s discretion. It is expected that copyright ownership will accompany all gifts to LAUSD. Gifts valued over $25,000 require Board of Education Approval.
Once approved, a Donation Acceptance Letter with LAUSD’s tax identification number will be issued to the donor. Archivists are not permitted to appraise the monetary value of a donation; the donor is advised to speak with their tax accountant, attorney, or hire an appraiser beforehand to ascertain the item’s value.
Additional Resources Links:
- LAUSD History of Schools (Chronology), 1855-1972 (Educational Housing Branch School Planning Division, January 1973). http://laschoolreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/History-of-Schools-Chronology-1855-1972.pdf
- Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education records 1875-2012 are at now at UCLA Library, Special Collections. https://oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/c80r9nr7/
- Los Angeles Unified School District Historic Context Statement, 1870 to 1969 (Office of Environmental Health and Safety, March 2014). https://planning.lacity.org/odocument/5a14c032-614e-4cd2-b58a-9507df31fbd1/Los%20Angeles%20Unified%20School%20District%20Historic%20Context%2C%201870-1969.pdf
- The Cuneiform Tablet Collection of the Los Angeles Unified School District is in the Inscriptifact Digital Image Library, which allows access to high-resolution images of ancient inscriptions and artifacts. http://www.inscriptifact.com/aboutus/index.shtml
- Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin 2016:1 (© Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative ISSN 1540-8760 Version: 24 November 2016) was made with the cuneiform translations. https://cdli.ucla.edu/file/publications/cdlb2016_001.pdf
For more information, please contact:
Cintia B. Romero
Curator/Archivist and Collections Manager