School Archives

General Description


The Sidwell Friends Archives documents the history of the Sidwell Friends School from the time of its founding in 1883 to the present. The Archives collections encompass a wide array of media and subject matter. Paper-based collections include publications, curricula, class lists, office records, oral history materials, scrapbooks, event programs, and photographs. Videotapes, audiotapes, phonograph albums, slides, stereographic photos, standard negatives, glass negatives, and a variety of three-dimensional artifacts also provide documentation on the history of Sidwell Friends. The subject matter of the materials within the collection ranges from student activities and financial records to Thomas W. Sidwell's personal letters, diaries, and curriculum planning books. A box-level finding aid is available in print form in the Archives as well as online.

Early Records

The most historically significant records begin with the Thomas W. Sidwell Collection, which spans the years 1877 to 1936. Journals, diplomas, newspaper clippings, class rolls, reading lists, scrapbooks, financial records, and photographs are included.

Photographs and Prints


The photograph collection extends from Thomas Sidwell's era to the current day. It is one of the largest record groups in the Archives and easily the most widely used. Categories of pictures include graduation portraits; yearbook candids; athletics shots; faculty and staff photos; buildings and grounds images; annual student slide shows; and special events pictures from reunions, school anniversaries and Auctions to plays and concerts.


Other than photographs, the most frequently requested records in the Archives are the multiple publications produced by the school community, which document the daily life of the institution over the course of almost 120 years. These invaluable resources range from the annual Upper and Middle School yearbooks to the Handbook for Parents and Students, the weekly newsletters of the Middle and Lower Schools, the daily bulletins of the Upper and Middle Schools, and the Upper School "alternative" student publications (e.g., The Oat and Free Monet). The earliest student publication is the first volume of the Upper School Quarterly from 1903. The earliest administrative-sponsored publication contained in the collections is the school Catalogue. The complete set of nine bound volumes of this important resource lists students, faculty members, and curricula for each school year from 1883 to 1958. The catalogs are unquestionably the most highly utilized reference materials in the Archives.


While principally a repository for paper-based collections, the Archives also contains a wide variety of material objects that include china, silver, class jewelry, a Steuben glass vase, class gifts, wool uniforms, brass and silver athletic trophies, and various metal signs from past School buildings. On display is the brass handbell Thomas Sidwell used to signal class changes on the original I Street campus. Sidwell's wooden golf clubs and banjo are also housed here.

Size and Arrangement

The photograph collection extends from Thomas Sidwell's era to the current day.

The entire Archives collection comprises approximately 500 linear feet of materials, of which 350 feet are processed and 150 feet remain unprocessed. The maximum capacity of the shelving in the Archives is 600 linear feet. The materials within the collection are arranged into 21 record groups, following the standard archival procedure that respects provenance. Among these record groups are Alumni, Audio-Visual Materials, Curriculum, Development, Faculty and Staff, Memorabilia, Photographs, Special Collections, Student Activities and Publications, and the Thomas W. Sidwell Collection.

Special Collections

Beyond the materials directly related to Sidwell Friends history, the Archives maintains a growing number of special collections. The largest and most noteworthy of these is the Earl G. Harrison, Jr. Quaker Rare Book Collection. In 1998, present and former members of the Board of Trustees commissioned a collection of Quaker rare books to honor retiring Head of School Earl Harrison. Housed in the School Archives, this growing resource is open to researchers, including students and other members of the Sidwell Friends community.

The initial donation of 34 books has now grown to more than 650 items, dating from 1655 to the early 20th century. These works document the development of Quaker history, philosophy, and thought. This special collection also includes newspapers, letters, broadsides, and pamphlets on topics ranging from the cruelties enacted on Friends in London (1662) to the "moral dangers" of theatrical performances (1860s). A number of items related to antislavery and women's rights efforts in the mid-1800s have also been acquired. While the Archives actively seeks materials at auction and from rare book dealers, Haverford, Swarthmore, and Guilford College have donated many items to the Harrison Collection.

The Thomas W. and Frances Haldeman Sidwell Collection is also housed in the Archives. The collection contains over sixty books owned by Thomas W. and Frances Haldeman Sidwell or are believed to have been used on the Eye Street Campus. The content of the collection ranges from early 20th century history books to poetry to rare books on Quakerism.

Off-Campus Holdings

The Archives serves as the caretaker for all alumni academic records and noncurrent personnel records. This massive collection is now stored at an off-campus, climate-controlled archives facility contracted by the Archivist.


The SFS Archives is open each weekday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Archivist is available during those hours to assist researchers with their projects or to retrieve requested information. Because of the time involved in preparing to meet research requests, individuals are encouraged to call ahead to schedule an appointment.

Contact the SFS Archives

Lori Ito Hardenbergh, School Archivist
phone: 202-537-8108