Osbourn High students studying city’s past

Osbourn High School students will be delving into a new local history course that will explore a plantation within miles of their own backyards.

In spring 2003, about 20 students will be taking a one-semester elective course teaching how a community can change over time. The course is called Manassas Mosaic: Creating a Community.

Students will be studying the city’s past and applying it to state and national history.

The Manassas Museum will become just one resource for the students while they spend time in preserving a plantation, which has not been open to the public, said Melinda Herzog, Manassas Museum director.

The two-story Liberia Mansion built in 1825 was donated to the City of Manassas in 1986 to serve as a museum. It was the largest slave plantation in Prince William County and had up to 80 slaves living there by 1850.

Although the museum’s staff has looked through Civil War records and researched troops who may have lived there, questions are still left unanswered about the life of a family who lived there, the Weir family, Herzog said.

Students will be studying plantation records, a map of the area and machinery still in the mansion.

“Most people don’t realize how much can go into local history,” Herzog said while standing in the middle of the museum’s exhibit room documenting life with artifacts from the 1700s.

There are still 10,000 photographs that are not in a museum yet, she said.

Photographs along with documents, journals, newspapers and narratives are just a few things students will have their hands on. Comparing and contrasting perspectives based on historical maps, charts and census records are other activities included in the course.

Manassas residents may be interviewed as students try to document history through the lives of the town’s people, David McGlothlin, Osbourn social studies teacher, said at a School Board meeting Tuesday. McGlothlin will be teaching the course.

After their studies and findings, the class may visit local elementary schools to share what they have learned, McGlothlin said.

He suggested possibly dedicating a wall in Osbourn to the school building’s history. The school currently has a wall dedicated to education, he said.

The partnership between the school division and the museum has allowed volunteers and staff of the museum to do more in preserving the history of Manassas, Herzog said.

“Everything that happens on a national level affects a local level,” Herzog said. “They’ll also get a sense that they can make a difference. I think local history courses bring home that people do matter.”

Chip Zullinger, Manassas School superintendent helped come up with the idea of offering a local history course to high school students, he said at Tuesday’s meeting.

The course’s studies are all in line with Standards of Learning tests which are administered each spring, according to the course’s objectives.