Four years ago, associate professor of kinesiology Jayson Seaman visited the Colorado Outward Bound School in Leadville, CO, where he met with UNH alum and the school’s director of admissions Ben Fickett ‘16. They worked together to arrange a transfer of the school’s significant collection of Outward Bound records to the University of New Hampshire. After two trips to Colorado, which were supported in part by the UNH Center for the Humanities, a cross-country move ensued and more than 60 boxes of valuable course records, correspondence, training documents and much more landed in Durham, NH. The new location seemed only fitting, given that Outward Bound’s national headquarters were originally housed in nearby Andover, MA.
The Outward Bound program has a long history of working with students of all ages and circumstances on outdoor expeditions and courses. Since the program’s founding in Wales in 1941, it has
“The program is important because of its impact on youth outdoor education, which is its reputation, but it’s also very much a social reform movement.”
remained focused on using outdoor experiences to prepare students for success in life through leadership and service. The Colorado Outward Bound School’s archives date back to the school’s initial opening in 1962 and contain detailed and valuable information on its administration as well as its courses, which combine wilderness education and adventure activities.
“It isn’t a stretch to say it is the most significant wilderness education organization in the U.S. over the second half of the 20th century,” says Seaman, who teaches students in UNH’s outdoor education and leadership program. “Anyone wanting to study the history of that movement can’t overlook Outward Bound, but the bulk of its materials have never been preserved or indexed anywhere before, making historical research impossible - with a few exceptions.”
Seaman has been instrumental in relocating the archives to the UNH Library and is currently working to gather additional collections from the remaining original schools in Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina and Washington. Many of the records are stored in less than ideal conditions, and Seaman is not the only one who sees the value in protecting them. Paige Roberts, archivist at Philips Andover Academy, has partnered with Seaman to bring the entire series of collections together for access by researchers. Phillips Andover Academy houses a related collection consisting of the personal papers of Outward Bound USA founder Joshua Miner, who was also director of admissions at the academy.
With significant help from UNH archivist Mylinda Woodward and Ph.D. student Bryan Freeland, Seaman spent three years re-boxing the collection. Now that they are preserved and organized, people can use them to not only study modern environmental history, the history of mountaineering and other outdoor pursuits, but also the history of youth movements and out-of-school or non-formal education, which is Seaman’s research focus. “The program is important because of its impact on youth outdoor education, which is its reputation, but it’s also very much a social reform movement,” says Seaman. “For example, Outward Bound was involved in the Peace Corps when it began in 1961. We have some of those records here. The collection therefore intersects with a lot of areas of historical interest.”