Evan Thompson / The Record — Jayne Keating, a volunteer and board member with the Island County Historical Society, works on digitizing old class photos of Langley High School students.

Langley Middle School campus to house research, archive center

Langley Middle School’s doors may be closing to students next week, but usage of the building is expected to continue.

The historic building’s main building will be home to the Langley Archive and Research Center, a one-stop shop for historical documents and records that is expected to open in the fall. The research center will be housed in the school’s main office, while it will also utilize additional space throughout the main building.

There are also plans to rent out classrooms to working artists, which could lead to potential after-school programs for kids, a fitness center and even a hostel for actors in town for the Island Shakespeare Festival.

The research center will include a genealogical library with over 1,000 genealogy books, access to ancestry websites, class photos, land records, pioneer journals, school attendance records, old newspapers, photographs and maps. It’s a joint venture by the Island County Historical Society and the South Whidbey Historical Society. The two organizations pooled its resources together for the collaboration project with the South Whidbey School District.

Sarah Aldrich, archivist for the Island County Historical Society, said it’s fitting that the old building will be used for historical purposes.

“I think the possibilities are endless,” Aldrich said. “It’s quite exciting. I think having a one-stop-shop research center will be advantageous to local residents, as well as people trying to trace their history on Whidbey and Camano Island.”

“We’re all in it together and we want to promote history,” Aldrich added.

Aldrich said the historical society will be begin moving into the building on July 1, two weeks after school ends on June 16. She said an opening could come in September or October.

Superintendent Jo Moccia said the community treasures the school, which was built in 1942. It has been a goal of the district’s to not only keep the historic building open, but use it for multiple purposes.

“We’re exciting about preserving the history of the district and making it accessible to the community,” Moccia said.

Rick Castellano, executive director of the Island County Historical Society, said it won’t be a museum like the one in Coupeville, but rather a place where people can conduct research or dig up information on their relatives. Castellano anticipates a variety of visitors, from students to authors and family historians.

“People from all walks of life are looking for family records, building records — you name it,” Castellano said. “Anything to do with history.”

Castellano also said that while it may not be a museum, there is a possibility that there may be a classroom exhibit that could look “vintage.”

Bill Haroldson, president of the South Whidbey Historical Society, believes the research center has “tremendous potential.” Haroldson said it will give anyone with interest in Whidbey Island’s history a solid foundation to conduct their research.

Moccia said the district is not going to charge rent for the research center. She said that in exchange for the work the historical society has done for the district in archiving district records and digitizing class photos, a “huge job” according to Moccia, the district waived a fee. Moccia said it is essentially an interlocal agreement that has gone through a legal process. She also said it is not a gift of public funds.

“It’s a service to the district and to the community,” Moccia said.

The historical society, however, will cover its utilities, Moccia said. Other parts of the middle school campus are currently being rented by local organizations, including the Whidbey Children’s Theater.

At its archive center in Coupeville, the Island County Historical Society has reproduction fees starting at $1.25. Aldrich is unsure whether or not the research center is going to be a free public resource, or if there will be fees for services. She said it would be ideal for it to be free, but that may not be feasible. Aldrich said the historical society is also making a financial investment to cover ancestry website fees so that people can access their family records with little hassle.

“Ultimately, we would love to have it be free for everyone, but to maintain our costs, there will probably be some small fee schedule, whether that’s in terms of admission to the library or reproduction costs,” Aldrich said.

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