Historical Corner: Snapshot of the Snapshots

By Dr. Melinda Blade, Director of Mission Integration and Historian

The OLP Archives are a treasure trove of photos in addition to the numerous written records and files that we have. Photos dating from the late 19 th century are in our Archives and provide us with a glimpse of what OLP was to the then current students.

The oldest photo on file (found so far) is from 1893 and it shows students in a play, entitled Indian Play. That play was written by one of the six Mannix sisters who attended OLP. Another old photo from 1897 is of a second Mannix sister in the play, Mary Stuart. Both of the black and white photos are our earliest visual indication of the importance that the arts played in OLP students’ curriculum and co-curricular activities.

Also present in our Archives are several photos of Father Ubach, the priest responsible for inviting the Sisters to found a school in San Diego. Father Ubach was rarely photographed; there are few formal public portraits of him and we have a handful of informal ones of him with OLP students. Other old photos may be found in the OLP history books that were meticulously kept by students. Those history files of the Academy began in 1890 and are frequently accompanied by newspaper articles. Ten volumes of photos are also in the Archives; they begin in 1945 and end in 1954. OLP’s Student Historians also have kept photographic records over the years for our use and enjoyment. Graduation photos date back to the beginning of the 1900s. Starting in 1928, class photos taken on graduation day were bound in a scrapbook and include the years from 1928 to 1942. Later graduation photos indicate the evolution from black and white to color to digital keepsakes. Those commencement photos also indicate the timelessness of North Terrace, the traditional flower arches and the move from long white formals to the advent of white graduation gowns that are a part of OLP’s decades old graduation history.

Literally thousands of photos and slides are also in the Archives. Most of them show students in action – co-curricular activities, social activities and class reunions. 8 mm film is also preserved in the Archives. Those reel-to-reel movies include graduation from 1946 and even an alum’s 1946 wedding! Of course, Spring Sing has been captured and immortalized in countless photographic forms from its inception in 1971.

One framed photo is of President John F. Kennedy. The photo is signed by the late president and the note on the back of the frame indicates that it was signed in May, 1963. A lawyer from the Justice Department verifies the authenticity of the signature in a note on the back of the photo frame. In archaeology, seriation indicates the means by which archeologists ascertain how similar artifacts can be chronologically dated within a culture. OLP’s Archives certainly provide ample opportunities to view how seriational customs/artifacts have evolved, as well as how uniforms, traditions and activities have changed over the years, while simultaneously remaining ageless.