Mrs. Semmelrock brings Archives to life

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Down in the quiet basement of Nicholson Building lies a large ceramic wyvern statue upon a table leading to the entrance of Archives, a space rich with the history of Kingswood Oxford, ever since Mary Martin founded Oxford School back in 1909.

Archives is where all the school’s memorabilia, including special documents, newspapers, and artifacts, are stored. It keeps the school’s history organized and easy to access.

Archives has been moved a few times in the last several years, but it has finally found its permanent home in the basement of Nicholson. It recently underwent a renovation that started about a year ago, as well.

Each room now has new LED lighting as well as special flooring, a dehumidifier, and an air conditioning system to prevent moisture from rising up from the ground and staying trapped in the rooms.

“This [air conditioning system] helps to preserve all of the memorabilia, which are held in special archiving shelves similar to those in the Library of Congress,” Director of Facilities Larry Marciano said. “The new system runs all-year round, so everything stays in good condition.”

Archivist Brenda Semmelrock Semmelrock said she is very proud of how Archives looks now.

“Even though I still have some organizing to do,” she said., “It’s pretty much all up-to-date now. We’re really lucky to have the state-of-the-art facilities that we do.”

In charge, Mrs. Semmelrock organizes and shifts through all the documents and artifacts on her own.

Despite all the work, she said she has always really enjoyed archiving.

“I’ve always loved saving things, and I’m a pretty sentimental person,” Mrs. Semmelrock said. “I love working with alumni, and I enjoy constantly learning new things about the school as I’ve worked down there, ever since I began in March of 2012.”

There are six rooms that Mrs. Semmelrock organizes in total; one room is dedicated entirely to Kingswood, one to Oxford, and four rooms are focused on KO’s history ever since the two schools merged in 1969. There is a whopping collection of files, pictures, books, uniforms, plaques, trophies, awards, banners, paintings, and more.

Mr. Marciano said that he was impressed with Mrs. Semmelrock’s effort in archiving. “Each class is singled out, so you can easily see what you want when you want to,” Mr. Marciano said. He also said it is exciting to see the evolution of KO over 100 years.

Mrs. Semmelrock said she thinks archiving is important because she feels it is necessary to keep in touch with the past and preserve traditions.

“Our history shapes our future,” she said. “It’s important to remember where we came from and how it affects where we’re going.”

Head of School Dennis Bisgaard said he agreed wholeheartedly. “It’s important to look back on history,” he said, “because it connects us to our past and we can trace developments over time.” He said he supports Archives because it provides the school with a deep sense of its roots and original purpose.

Mrs. Semmelrock said that another reason why she likes to archive is hearing all of the many wonderful stories alumni share when they contact her, looking for a certain yearbook or picture. “Out of the blue, alumni call me asking if they can come visit Archives,” she said. “Then when they do visit, they share their stories, laughing, sometimes crying, when they reminisce and remember their time here.”

According to Mrs. Semmelrock, the biggest event for Archives each year is the reunion for alumni in June.

“It’s really great to have the Oxford ladies come back and reminisce; for example, and I like to get their stories down,” she said. “Because of the reunion, I’ve been able to add so much to the Oxford room.”

She also said another big event is the Open House that she holds for Archives each year.

Mr. Bisgaard said he was really glad that Mrs. Semmelrock became KO’s archivist. “Brenda expressed a keen interest in archiving, and over the years, she has spent a lot of time researching and going to special archiving conferences to learn more about it,” he said. Mr. Bisgaard continued, saying that he thought she did a terrific job with it and Archives is in the best condition because of her.

However, Mrs. Semmelrock also said that she is always excited to have someone bring something in.

“If you find anything that might be worth keeping, call me and don’t throw it away,” she said. She explained that she has found many valuable things that people had been thinking of throwing away, but ended up donating to the school for Archives.

“There’s such a wow factor in finding things that had just appeared, when before they had just been sitting unseen and unnoticed in drawers,” she said.

Looking ahead, Mrs. Semmelrock said she is hoping to have a red-ribbon cutting ceremony at the end of this year, and to start taking students from both the Middle School and the Upper School on tours at the beginning of next year.