The Archives is made up of wonderful, helpful, and hard working individuals who strive to acquire, preserve, and make accessible records that document the history of the Smithsonian Institution. Some of our staff have been at the Smithsonian for 30 plus years, while others are just beginning their tenure here. There will be some changes in the office as we welcome new staff members coming on board this summer who bring their expertise and new ideas to the Archives.
Continuing our series on introducing new staff, I'd like to welcome our new Program Assistant for our Institutional History Division, Lisa Fthenakis.
What's your educational background?
I have a Masters degree in History with a concentration in Public History, and a BA in History as well.
What do you do at SIA?
I am the Institutional History Program Assistant, so I work with Pam Henson, the Smithsonian Historian, to share the history of the Smithsonian Institution. I work with our oral history collection, conduct research, and share information about the history of the Smithsonian.
What is the strangest/most interesting thing you have discovered at SIA so far?
Perhaps the most interesting thing I have encountered so far are stories told by Sammy Ray in his oral history, RU 9628. He collected birds in the Pacific for the Smithsonian during WWII and you can really hear his personality as he tells stories about chasing rare birds and how much fun he had collecting them.
What is the most unexpected thing you have learned about working here?
The incredibly wide variety of things I get to research. The Smithsonian does so many things, from the hard sciences to the arts and seemingly everything in between, and I get to learn about all of it. So far I’ve researched things as diverse as natural history collecting, women in science, WWI history and the military history collections, and the men and women of the early support staff.
Favorite spot in DC to recommend to visitors?
My favorite spot to recommend is the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden. It’s a beautiful garden, and on a hot summer day, the fountain helps keep things cooler.