New School News

What’s Old Is New Again: Students to Get a FirstHand Look at New School History

The Atlantic Monthly announces the opening of The New School for Social Research in October 1919.

As the university approaches its 100th anniversary, students will get a rare opportunity to take a closer look at The New School’s early years. Julia Foulkes, associate professor of history at The New School for Public Engagement, and Mark Larrimore, associate professor of religious studies at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts, will offer a new university lecture course this spring exploring the history of The New School. The instructors will discuss what is distinctive about the education offered at The New School today, how it developed over the last century, and what the university might become in the future.

Students in the class will examine the university’s past and present mission statements; interview faculty, staff, or alumni; and write a biography of a historical figure connected to The New School. In addition, according to Larrimore, as-yet unexplored primary-source documents will be a centerpiece of the course. We’re giving students the chance to see the history of the university preserved in newly discovered historical scrapbooks,, he says.

Foulkes explains that the scrapbooks were found recently in Fogelman Library. Covering the period from 1919 through 1952, a total of 63 scrapbooks consisting of press clips, programs, and catalogs provide extraordinarily detailed insight.

I was in the New York Public Library when a fellow researcher saw my New School notebook and told me how thrilled she was to find scrapbooks from the 1920s, saved from disposal by Fogelman reference librarian Carmen Hendershott,, said Foulkes. Mark and I realized this was an opportunity for students to see the institution in a new way.,

Foulkes and Larrimore soon discovered that many of the scrapbooks were disintegrating and in need of repair. Supported by an Innovation in Education grant from the Provost’s office, an archivist set up shop in Parsons’ Kellen Archives to digitize as many scrapbooks as possible.

The material in the scrapbooks confirms the university’s storied legacy, even from the beginning, the school was known to be a progressive institution,, said Foulkes. For instance, one newspaper clip from 1919 relates how some members of the Women’s Junior League wanted to require educational courses at The New School as a condition of membership, while others thought the courses too radical and advanced.

Most other course materials will come from a new searchable website being created by Patrick Dempsey, a recent Lang graduate, featuring historical documents, including books, course descriptions, catalogs, press clips, and visual and performance material.

The course will conclude by turning its gaze forward, with a final assignment in which students extrapolate from their research to write a future presidential state of the university, address. Foulkes is already eagerly anticipating the results: It will be fascinating to see how the students handle this assignment after studying all semester how the school evolved into what it is today.,

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