Using memorabilia to enliven junior high history classes
Oakville, Conn. — "The Queen is still in London." This remark was read by Vaughn A. Brown from an imprint of a small commemorative dish as he showed it to this eighth grade history class at Gordon C. Swift Junior High School here.
Mr. Brown explained to the students that the small dish is one of the "Patriotic Series" of commemorative dishes produced in 1941 during the Battle of Britain.
The statement about the Queen on the dish was suggested by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who lauded the determination of Queen Elizabeth and King George VI to remain in Buckingham Palace even though it was bombed twice. Churchill had tried to persuade the Queen and her princesses to leave London.
The nut dish is in the teacher's collection of commemorative china, books, photos, and other memorabilia about European royal families he has been gathering for 35 years.
"I think that they [the students] can learn much better when they relate to something," said Mr. Brown.
When he talks to classes, about the Crusades, he shows brocade, velvet, and damask as examples of goods that the Crusaders brought back to Europe from the Middle East.
When Mr. Brown discusses the midnight ride of Paul revere, he exhibits a Paul revere Bowl from his collection, describing it as an example of Revere's craftsmanship.
The teacher has been enriching his history classes with such collectibles for the past 19 years. Sometimes he displays photographs of royalty while discussing their roles in history.
He buys most collectibles in flea markets and antique shops. Many "treasurers" are given to him by friends. Some he bought during a tour of European countries.
"I read almost everything that comes out on royalty," he said. His library contains more than 150 books about European royalty.
"One of my treasures," He explained, "is an official record of the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911."
He owns scores of postcards of European royalty, 30 pieces of royal souvenir china, and many scrapbooks with newspaper and magazine clippings of royal families.
Mr. Brown pointed out that he likes to tell students some personal attributes of people in history to show that they were "just as human as people nowa days."