New digital tour traces history of public education in Princeton

Princeton High School and Grammar School, circa 1912. Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Princeton.

The Historical Society of Princeton, in partnership with Princeton Public Schools, has launched a new digital tour that examines the history of public education in Princeton.

Using photographs and historical documents, “Princeton’s Public Schools: A History,” tells the story of 21 public schools from the 1830s to the present. The tour is available via the Historical Society of Princeton mobile app and on the society’s website,

The tour draws on materials and research collected for “150+ Years of Princeton Public Schools,” a 2009 exhibition at Princeton High School’s Numina Gallery. Curated by Lisa Paine, Charlotte Bialek, and a team of volunteers, 150+ pooled resources from Princeton Public Schools, the Historical Society of Princeton, the Princeton Public Library, and Princeton University Libraries to illustrate the municipality’s long history of public education.

“When I started volunteering for the Princeton Public Schools. I did research at the Historical Society of Princeton’s archives and learned that Princeton’s school system was over 150 years old,” Paine said. “The materials in the Historical Society’s collection and in the Princeton Public School archives documenting that long history inspired me to develop the 2009 exhibition.”

After former Princeton Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Robert Ginsberg approached Paine and Bialek about revisiting the 2009 exhibition, a revised wall display was mounted at the school district’s Valley Road administration building in the summer of 2021. The ongoing pandemic limited exhibition viewership, so school officials worked with the Historical Society of Princeton to convert the exhibition into a more accessible digital tour. The school district gifted the archival material and research gathered while curating the initial 2009 exhibition to the Historical Society of Princeton, where it will be preserved and made available to researchers. 

“The Historical Society of Princeton is thrilled to present Princeton’s Public Schools alongside our existing digital tours,” said Historical Society of Princeton Curator of Collections and Research Stephanie Schwartz. “As many of the families who saw the original 2009 exhibition have graduated from the school system, it’s the perfect time to bring these stories to a new and larger audience.”

The Princeton High School Girls’ Basketball team, 1918. Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Princeton.