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Boston Public Schools Historical Research: Researching Boston Schools

This guide provides resources and strategies for researching the history of the Boston Public School system, individual schools and guidance on finding high school yearbooks.

BPS History

Home - General histories of the Boston Public School system and individual schools

Busing Crisis - The most controversial era for the Boston Public Schools

Official Records - Available from the Boston Public Library or the Boston Public School Department

Schools - Researching specific school names, school buildings and images

Yearbooks - Finding yearbooks for specific schools

What's in a Name?

Ever wonder who the Snowden in Snowden International School was?  Or why the Hennigan school is named after James W. Hennigan?  The history of naming Boston public schools is as rich and varied as the history of the schools.  Try the sources below for the school name that intrigues you.

For some of the recently-named schools, you may need to try more current proceedings of the School Committee or the Boston City Council and/or local newspapers.


School Buildings


However, you regard the school buildings where you were educated, many are architectural wonders.  While a school building may be used for many years purely for education, some served different purposes over the life of the building.  Bostonians who live long enough may find themselves living in the same buildings where they learned their ABC's.

To research the history of the building, you need to search both resources for its life as a school and resources for its life before or after its educational use.  Use the following tabs to get started.

To research a building when it was a school, check in the catalog under:

Subject:  School Buildings -- Massachusetts -- Boston -- History


Subject: School Buildings -- Massachusetts -- Boston


Subject: Individual School. e.g. English High School (Boston, Mass.)

If the you are researching a school between 1901 and 1935, check out the Annual Reports of the Board of Schoolhouse Commissioners (1901-1929) or the Annual Reports of the Department of School Buildings (1930-1935).  As well as, School Department/School Committee proceedings, City Council reports and local newspapers. [See resources in box above.]

Boston school buildings may be used before, during and/or after their time as a school by other city agencies.  When no longer used as a school, they also may be sold to private developers for use as residences or businesses.

For help researching non-school uses of buildings, go to the Art and Architecture research guide, especially under the tab:

Research Buildings.

School Building Images

As you can see throughout this research guide, there are many images of Boston Public Schools available.The Boston Public Library has digitized many photographs, postcards, etc. on the Digital Commonwealth website.  The City of Boston Archives also has digitzed a collection of school building photographs on its Flickr account.  Individual Boston Public Schools may have photos on their websites, including historic photos on the About Us or History pages.  It also is worth checking on the school's websites to see if there is a school library.  The library also may have a photo collection.