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 more than thirty 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 past summer who bring their expertise and new ideas to the Archives.
Continuing our series on introducing new staff, I’d like to welcome our Institutional History Program Assistant, Hannah Byrne.
What's your educational background?
I received my BA from Birmingham-Southern College in 2016 where I majored in history. I also recently earned my MA in public history from American University.
What do you do at the Smithsonian Institution Archives?
I’m the program assistant for Institutional History. I help respond to reference requests, work on the oral history collection, and conduct research on the history of the Smithsonian Institution.
What is the strangest/most interesting thing you have discovered at the Archives so far?
I was reading an oral history of Helena Weiss, the first female manager at the Smithsonian and former registrar, and I learned that one curator over at Natural History once had some live poisonous snakes sent over for an exhibit. The snakes landed at Washington National Airport in a crate, and the airline refused to handle them and insisted Weiss come with her car to pick up the live poisonous reptiles and drive them back to the museum. I’m sure there’s an accession file with all of those details from the drive back to the museum with a crate of snakes somewhere.
What is the most unexpected thing you’ve learned about working here?
The Smithsonian is an impressive institution with museums and research centers across the globe, but it is also a place made up of wonderful, sometimes quirky, and always dedicated folks. Learning about the people who make up this place can lead down some exciting and unexpected paths.
Favorite spot in DC to recommend to visitors?
I always recommend going to Ercilia’s in Mount Pleasant for some pupusas.