Board of Education records

Collection REC0007 - RG 032. Department of Education


The New York City Board of Education collection contains records dating from the Board’s creation in 1842 to its replacement by a mayoral agency, the Department of Education, in 2002. Also included are records of the Board of Education of the City of Brooklyn from 1853 to 1897. Aspects of educational policy-making and school-system administration are documented in this collection.


6990.5 cubic feet



Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research with the exception of a select number of series containing restricted records. More information can be found within the series-level description for those series affected. Advance notice is required for using original material. Please contact us to arrange access.

Physical Location

Portions of this collection are stored offsite and must be requested in advance.

Processing Information

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This collection contains the records of the New York City Board of Education, from its creation in 1842 to its replacement by a mayoral agency, the Department of Education, in 2002. Also included are records of the Board of Education of the City of Brooklyn from 1853 to 1897. These records document aspects of educational policy-making and school-system administration. The Municipal Archives does not hold student records.

Nineteenth-century records consist primarily of the printed records of the New York City and City of Brooklyn Boards of Education. Major series are the minutes of the meetings of the Boards of Education (also referred to as the Journal or the Proceedings), the annual reports of the boards and of the superintendents of schools. The manuals and directories of the schools provide detail on school locations, teaching and administrative staff, and school-system regulations. A manuscript series of trustees’ minutes and visitor books provides insight into the local aspects of school governance.

During the first years of the consolidated City of New York (1898-1901) the school system had a central board plus borough together with a wide range of manuscript series. These include files from board members, superintendents of schools, chancellors, and administrative bureaus.

A large group of records are the manuscript minutes and reports of committees of the board, responsible for such aspects of the schools as finance, buildings, curriculum, and textbooks. Also included are records of special commissions created to develop policies and programs in such areas as vocational education, racial integration, educational needs of Puerto Rican students, curriculum experiments, juvenile delinquency, and administrative management.

The files of individual board members contain documentation of the ways that controversial issues and routine problems were addressed. Their correspondence with parents, civic groups, and other officials gives a sense of the interplay among educational constituencies. The earliest significant such collection are the papers of James Marshall, who served from 1935 to 1952. The files of board members who served in the 1950s through the 1990s are included, among them are Charles Silver, Max Rubin, Rose Shapiro, Isaiah Robinson, Seymour Lachman Joseph Barkan, Amelia Ashe, Robert Wagner Jr., Stephen Aiello, Luis Reyes, and Irene Impellizzeri.

Correspondence and subject files of mid-twentieth century superintendents of schools William Jansen and Bernard Donovan provide insight into central administration. While earlier superintendents’ files have not been found, the files of several assistants and associate superintendents help to fill out the picture of administration, as do the subject files maintained by the Office of the Secretary, the Office of Educational Information and Public Relations, and the Bureau of Reference, Research and Statistics.

For the era of decentralization, after 1970, the records of the Chancellor provide extensive documentation of such major policy issues as school governance, desegregation, bilingual education, special education, health education, multicultural curriculum, school buildings, and financial equity. Each of the Chancellors who served under the Board of Education is represented: Harvey Scribner, Irving Anker, Frank Macciarola, Alfredo Alvarado, Nathan Quinones, Richard Green, Joseph Fernandez, Ramon Cortines, Rudolph Crew, and Harold Levy.

Important documentation of the instructional program is contained in courses of study and other curriculum materials. A large collection of these materials, including standard and experimental curricula, covers the period 1900-1990. Related information to the nineteenth century is found in the annual reports of the Board of Education.

A major component of the records is the photograph collection. Combining images of school buildings, of classroom scenes, and of special school events, the photograph collection consists of over 50,000 images, most from the period 1918-1970. Among the earlier images are photos of adult evening lectures and evening school classes from the period 1900-1920.
The collection is arranged into subgroups in a framework that combines major chronological divisions with some recognition of the organizational structure of the Board of Education. Over the decades, the public school system of New York City grew not only in size but in complexity, and its administrative structure changed as well, with redefined functions and renamed bureaus. The subject of interest to a researcher may have been the shared responsibility of many levels of administration. Thus, the series structure provides an initial basis for approaching the records, but it is necessary to take a broad view in considering possible series of relevance.

Series Outline

  1. New York Public School Society
  2. City of Brooklyn and other school boards
  3. City of New York
  4. Borough Boards
  5. Consolidated Series of New York
  6. Decentralization period
  7. Graphic materials
Guide to the records of the New York City Board of Education
In Progress
David Ment
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description

Revision Statements

  • 2019: Updated for ArchivesSpace by staff archivist Alexandra Hilton