Friday, September 18, 2015

Okalh* (for Oklah*)

Schooled! Some blackboards at Emerson High School in Oklahoma City were being replaced recently when the staff was suddenly confronted with a very special history lesson, and a few archival challenges, that nobody was quite prepared for. It turns out the blackboards were concealing considerably older ones, covered with vibrantly colored chalk drawings and old-fashioned handwriting. There was a mystifying multiplication wheel (the "New Math" of its day?) and vocabulary words like blunder, choke, and whoa. A calendar and pictures of pilgrims, turkeys, and sailing ships dated it to Thanksgiving 1917. Workers also found a note from the erstwhile custodian, "R. J. Scott," suggesting that the nearly 100-year-old relic had been purposely left intact and unerased: "We this day give to this room slate blackboards," it solemnly read. One teacher commented: "We don't know if anybody knew about the plan, but now we get to reap the rewards of his plan and get to see this beautiful work of art. That's all I can call it, a work of art. It should be in a museum somewhere." Steps are being taken to safeguard this amazing find (the blackboards were deemed too fragile to move and will most likely remain where they are, under acrylic glass and controlled lighting) and the staff look forward to possibly unearthing more hidden treasure, even if it causes some disruption. "It may mean we have to delay the start of school in these classrooms," said the superintendent, "but we've got to preserve these." We uncovered three cases of Okalh* in OhioLINK, and 97 in WorldCat. Correct any extant in your own catalogs today and start over tomorrow with a clean slate.

(Image from the Oklahoma chalkboard, taken from the Web. Click on pic for a better look.)

Carol Reid

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