An Interview with Brearley Archivist Kris Santos

Are you curious about the evolution of Brearley’s music curriculum over the years? Have you ever thought about what 610 looked like before the FDR Drive was constructed? For help answering these—and many other—School history questions, meet Brearley Archivist Kris Santos, who is ensuring that over 135 years of Brearley history is preserved, catalogued and made accessible to the School community.
Mr. Santos brings a unique background to his position, having spent his childhood living in Japan, Korea, Italy and on both coasts of the United States. “My father’s job as a Navy officer meant that we moved a lot; perhaps that is how I developed a talent for dealing with boxes as an archivist!” laughs Mr. Santos.  After settling in New York City to attend Hunter College (where he received his B.A. in English Literature), Mr. Santos earned a M aster’s degree in library and information science at Long Island University’s Palmer School. Mr. Santos honed his skills working as an archival assistant at New York’s historic Center for Fiction (established in the 1820s as the Mercantile Library, one of the first lending libraries in the United States). Before joining the Brearley community, Mr. Santos worked at the New York Foundation for the Arts, cataloguing and archiving historical documents. 
Mr. Santos, has exciting plans for Brearley’s rich and varied archival materials. “We have such an extraordinary School history to share with our community, and my goal is to help facilitate the use of the archives by students and staff.” To that end, he is working on a comprehensive review of Brearley’s collection, with the goal of digitizing the archives and creating a database with access procedures to assist researchers. Given the School’s recent experience with online learning and what we have learned from it, Mr. Santos believes that increasing digital access to Brearley’s archives “is more important than ever.” 
Mr. Santos, who also works as a Lower School Library Assistant, has been consulting with department heads about curriculum materials that they create and would like to see preserved. “Ensuring ongoing contributions to the collection from a variety of sources is also a vital part of my job,” he adds.  Mr. Santos is quick to credit former Records Manager Sharon Stearns ’63, for her crucial work on Brearley’s archives. “Ms. Stearns laid the groundwork for Brearley’s collection; she had a natural instinct for what should be saved and encouraged faculty, students and alumnae to share materials with the School.” 
In addition to his “big picture” focus, Mr. Santos has worked on several special projects, including a student-led initiative. “Last year, I worked with student self-government on a time capsule project; the girls were looking at ways to preserve artifacts that represent the historic year when Brearley became a ‘campus’ school.” He is also compiling the history of the School’s dynamic faculty. “I am interested in the individual backstories of the talented faculty members who have played such an important role in Brearley’s history and success; each teacher has a unique story, and I am focused on how I can best preserve those stories for future generations.” Currently, in light of this unprecedented year, Mr. Santos is working with students, faculty and staff to document and create an archive of the Brearley community’s experience of the pandemic and other challenges for future generations. As part of that project, Mr. Santos led  a seminar this spring to teach Brearley students how to create interviews, collect artifacts and document history.
Mr. Santos emphasizes that one of his favorite things about his new position at Brearley has been his interaction with students; he is eager for them “to both use the archives, and to contribute to them.” He adds: “Brearley students are intellectually curious, and have such a wide range of interests; it has been exciting to see them interact with our collection!” 
The Brearley School is a K-XII independent day school for girls in New York City. Empowering girls of adventurous intellect to think critically and creatively.
610 East 83rd Street
New York, NY 10028
(212) 744-8582 

590 East 83rd Street
New York, NY 10028
(212) 744-8582