Education Photos

A Collective Experience in K-12

By Education Week Staff — November 21, 2014 2 min read
Educator and K-12 memorabilia collector Richard Lodish is surrounded by some of the items at his home in Bethesda, Md. An old wooden school bell, at left, dates from the early 19th century; a D’nealian cursive handwriting chart is at center, and an oversize abacus at right. –Charles Borst/Education Week

Just seen on paper, Richard Lodish’s career in K-12 education is noteworthy indeed. His resume tracks his path from young teacher in inner-city Cleveland, to doctoral student at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, to associate headmaster and principal at the prestigious Sidwell Friends School in Washington. Brief stops were made along the way as a charter school founder in Oakland, Calif., an education advisor to local, state, national, and foreign government agencies, as well as published author in so many periodicals and books that he has lost count.

Standing approximately 3-feet-tall, a wooden model of Public School 63 was most likely part of a community diorama.
Reading blocks, late 19th century.

Despite his decades as an educator, it is Lodish’s experience as a collector that will define his legacy. Over the past 40 years, Lodish has amassed a collection of school artifacts and memorabilia that date from the 18th to early-20th centuries, and now jam his home in the Washington suburbs. With pieces acquired from flea markets, live and virtual auctions, private sales, and through word-of-mouth, the collection is so historically significant and complete that curators from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History now make twice-weekly visits to his home to catalogue and transport items for display in several of the museum’s divisions.

A hand-painted, wooden pencil box.
A Simplex-brand typewriter dated 1913. Index typewriters of this sort taught children the fundamentals of typing. One hand operates a pointer that selects a letter from the index, or wheel, while the other hand depresses a lever that moves the type to the paper.
A wooden spelling game, patented in 1886.
“Tardy Again,” an oil painting by Robert Greenless (1820-1904).

“You should have been here last week, there was so much more stuff!” exclaimed Lodish, a joyful 68, as he guided a photographer from Education Week through his home’s first floor. It’s packed tight with items ranging from huge wooden signs to delicate, centuries-old hand-embroidered samplers. Oil paintings depicting classroom scenes lean against models of school classrooms. Curriculum scrolls sit next to old slates, abacuses, and hand-painted, wooden pencil boxes. Delicate statuary and figurines sit in carefully packed, government-issued boxes next to stacks of educational games, hand-written lesson plans, and century-old teacher certificates and letters of correspondence.

Hand-embroidered samplers from the 19th century.
Hand-embroidered samplers from the 19th century.
Bell’s Common School Charts, dated 1891-1893. The educational wall charts contain subjects ranging from practical arithmetic to literacy, penmanship, and geography. The charts reflect the Common School Movement, an early effort to develop a common curriculum in American schools.
From February 1, 1865, a letter terminating a teacher’s employment.

While the Smithsonian will take away the most historically significant items, there are some pieces that Lodish will keep for himself. A wooden school sign from Staatsburg Union School, 10 feet wide, hangs in the family room, and will stay there. “I was the winning bidder on a phone auction for this,” explains Lodish. “And after the auction was over, the school principal called me, angry that I had outbid the school’s administrators for their own sign. I told him they should have offered more than the $90 I bid if they really wanted it!” And then there are the two life-sized cutouts of school crossing guards that stand sentry on his front porch. “When I first put them out here, the police would stop and ask me where I got them. They thought I’d stolen them!”

Richard Lodish is flanked by life-sized cutouts of school crossing guards at the entrance to his home in Bethesda, Md.

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A version of this article first appeared in the Full Frame blog.