“They Are Absolutely Genuine Work of the Pupils in Every Respect": the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition Educational Exhibits and Baltimore’s Colored Public Schools

Lisa Lamson, Marquette University

At the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago, the Liberal Arts exhibit contained samples of student work from Baltimore City’s Public Schools (BCPS). The work displayed for BCPS was one of several such collections that highlighted American education in the exhibit. Contained in Baltimore’s fifty-six volumes of “written specimens of work in all branches of study” were examples from children educated in the Colored Public Schools (CPS). Created explicitly for display at the Columbian Exposition and requested and collated by the School Commissioners of the city, this collection provides insight into how children, particularly the children of color, were educated in a school system that twenty-six years prior, restricted their access. After the materials were returned to Maryland, it was donated to the Maryland Historical Society, where it remained, largely unprocessed and unused. Using the Columbian Exposition collection, and how children were taught history, as a case study highlights the intersections of data and story – how does the demographic information that this collection provides change the history of education in Baltimore? Additionally, the inclusion of student work from children of color presents material from the children themselves but highlights issues of supervision and authenticity; that is, how valuable are student assignments when a white teacher supervises the work, the collection of data, and its preservation?

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 54. Questions of Silence and Children’s (In)visibility in the Archives