Staff Matters: Meet Our New Additions

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 winter who bring their expertise and new ideas to the Archives.

Continuing our series on introducing new staff, I'd like to welcome our new Archival Technicians. First is Deborah Shapiro, on our Reference team. 

Archives Technician Deborah Shapiro.

What’s your educational background?

I have a BA in Linguistics from Carleton College and an MA in Archives/Public History from New York University. The two fields are more similar than you might think!

What do you do at the Smithsonian Institution Archives?

I am a member of the SIA reference team. I field questions about our collections as well as the occasional question that has nothing to do with our collections.

What is the strangest/most interesting thing you have discovered at the Archives so far?

I was searching for another document in RU 7055, the Vail Telegraph Collection, when I came across an 1846 letter sent to Alfred Vail, developer of the telegraph. The writer requested 100 feet of copper wire to complete his “electro magnetic apparatus,” and included a pencil sketch of the device. Apparently he was hoping to deliver a “shock” to his “poor weakly mother, who is always complaining.”

What is the most unexpected thing you have learned about working here?

The collections held by SIA are quite diverse, but our research requests are even more so. It is always interesting to hear the breadth of questions that come in, even if we end up redirecting those patrons to other resources.

Favorite spot in DC to recommend to visitors?

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is monumental and overwhelming. I would recommend arriving well-rested and early in the day.

Next up is Jessica Lavin, who works on Electronic Records. 

Archives Technician Jessica Lavin.

What is your educational background?

I graduated with a double BA in The Political History of Aesthetics and Creative writing from Pitzer College in California. I later moved to the DC area to earn my Masters of Library and Information Science, specializing in Archives and Preservation, at the University of Maryland, College Park.

What do you do at the Smithsonian Institution Archives?

I’m an Archives Technician for electronic records in the Digital Services Division. My work focuses on capturing the evolution and content of the Smithsonian’s websites, converting born-digital materials for long-term preservation, and assisting in the development of collaborative preservation efforts within the Institution.

What is the most unexpected thing that you learned about working here?

I’m so impressed by the sheer number of websites and the range of content that is produced by the 19 museums and galleries, 9 research centers, and the National Zoo!

Favorite spot in DC to recommend to visitors?

The atrium inside the American Art Museum and Portait Gallery is a beautiful open space, but walking around the national momuments on the mall at night is also a favorite.

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