Bearing Witness Project
Over the course of its 210-year history, The Lawrenceville School community has experienced moments of challenge and uncertainty. The past year has tested our spirit but built us stronger; the COVID-19 pandemic upended normal school routine and the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd were a call to action.
Lawrenceville student activists sought a meaningful expression in the midst of such emotional turmoil and the result was the Bearing Witness project. As explained by Assistant Dean of Faculty Alison Easterling in the introduction to the project shared with students, faculty, and staff:
“We want students to understand that they are each and all members of a community where they are valued, and that it's the way of this community in times of trouble, whether outside the gates or inside, to give time and space to reflect on momentous events and powerful feelings.”
In lieu of final exams, students spent the final two days of the school year using class time to create an “artifact” that reflected their personal response to the turmoil of spring 2020. The artifacts were collected by the Stephan Archives to document the community’s response to this difficult time both individually and collectively.
More than 300 students, faculty, and staff responded with submissions in a multitude of formats that represent the creativity of Lawrentians, including:
- Speeches and monologues
- Artwork and photographs
- Lesson plans for classes or self-education
- Personal reflections
- Film and music playlists
- Statistical analysis projects
- Videos and slide presentations
This digital exhibit includes the submissions that best lent themselves to an online format, and whose creators granted the School permission to share. Curator Sarah Mezzino commented:
"The breadth of submissions from the School community was curatorally and emotionally overwhelming in both scale and scope. Balancing the physical limitations of the online platform with an exhibit theme -- 'Experiencers & Witnesses' -- was a challenge that could not have been achieved without the ongoing help of both the OMA and a student focus group. This exhibit is the result of months of collaborative work and represents a fraction of the Stephan Archives' holdings."
The full body of submissions to the Bearing Witness project have been collected by the Stephan Archives and will be retained as a “snapshot” of the School community’s response to the unique challenges of spring 2020. Because of the personal nature of the submissions, not all materials will be available for research until restriction periods have passed.
The Stephan Archives (Curated by Sarah Mezzino, Header designed by Phyllis Lerner, and Opening Text by Jacqueline Haun, Jessica Welsh, and Alison Easterling P'20.)