The John Handley High School Museum and Archive was established in 1998 to preserve the rich history of the school. That history began in 1895 with Judge John Handley’s private endowment to the public school system and includes many other fascinating stories and features: the Neoclassical Jeffersonian beauty of the building rivaling that of many universities; the hiring in 1916 of renowned landscape architect John C. Olmsted to design the landscape of the school’s vast campus; the placement of the building on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register; the enduring connection of the school to the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival which brings national celebrities and pageantry to the school every year; the selection of the school by the curator of the Corcoran National Gallery in Washington, D.C. as the site for secure and secret storage of the gallery’s most treasured works of art during World War II; the pilgrimage of Winchester schoolchildren at the end of each school year to the grave of Judge John Handley in Mt. Hebron Cemetery as a continuing expression of appreciation; and most importantly, the commitment for nearly 90 years of excellent teachers and administrators to the superior education of Handley students.
Handley’s unique history is certainly worthy of perpetuating. In this pursuit, the Museum and Archive collects and preserves historical documents, artifacts, and photographs relating to the history of the school; establishes revolving exhibits and displays of memorabilia throughout the building; and sponsors meaningful programs and tours for students, class reunion groups and other alumni, and the community at large.
The Museum and Archive manages the Dorothy Overcash Museum and Archives Room within the Handley building, named for the educator who tirelessly worked to ensure the preservation of the school’s history. Funds raised by the Winchester Education Foundation will assist the Museum and Archive in meeting operational needs, purchasing display cases and archival supplies, sponsoring special events, and securing the services of an archivist to preserve the Archive’s growing collection.