About Permanent Record


The short version: My name is Paul Lukas. In the fall of 1996 I came upon a discarded file cabinet full of incredible 1920s and ’30s report cards from a defunct vocational school called the Manhattan Trade School for Girls. I took as many of the cards as I could carry and then spent the next decade-plus wondering what to do with them. At some point in 2009 I decided to track down some of the students -- or, since most of them were likely deceased, their families -- and see how their lives had turned out. I spent much of the next two years doing that. This led to, among other things, numerous instances of calling people up and saying, "Hi, you don't know me, but I have your mother's report card from 1929. Would you like to see it?"

The result is Permanent Record, a five-article series that ran on Slate in the fall of 2011. It tells the stories of some of the students whose report cards I found, the remarkable school they attended, and my own experience connecting the dots between the cards and the students' families. The response to those five articles was very positive, so in the spring of 2012 I began writing additional pieces for Slate, again under the Permanent Record banner. I'll continue to write more articles for Slate for as long as the project seems viable.

This blog launched shortly before the first Slate articles were published. I've been using the blog to address issues that aren't covered in the Slate pieces, to post some material that was originally written for Slate but ended up on the cutting room floor, to provide follow-up coverage of developments arising from the Slate articles, and to explore related topics regarding found objects.

Anyway. Want to know if a loved one or acquaintance is represented in my report card collection? You can browse the complete list of all 395 students here. Have questions, suggestions, or feedback? Contact me.