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Thursday, August 15, 2013


Archives may not be excavation sites in Egypt, but they are places of wonder in their own right. In an archives, one can re-live the past and see it in a new light. Archives are also places where history is ripe for rediscovery. 

Freer Sackler Library

Though archivists work very hard to ensure collections are organized and accessible to researchers both physically and intellectually, there is always work to be done to make discovery possible. As the new archivist at Freer|Sackler, I have been working through the archival collections, gathering knowledge on their physical layout and breadth of content. I realized we had a lot of institutional records scattered throughout our movable shelving, so, with Archivist David Hogge’s blessing, I reorganized and consolidated the institutional records so they would be more easily accessible and understandable. I thought this would be a simple matter of moving of boxes and re-shelving of items, but in the process I found a pot of gold.

Construction of the Freer
I stumbled upon some really unique artifacts. I found photos of the Dalai Lama visiting the Freer Sackler and royalty from Japan, Iran, and Jordan. I also discovered that there is a Charles Lang Freer Medal. The medal is presented to a scholar who has made a distinguished contribution to the knowledge and understanding of the history of Asian Art.

Dalai Lama at the Freer Sackler in 1995.
I found the oral history materials that have been created over the years including a cassette tape that, yes, the Archives intends to keep as a solid format backup for oral histories in the future. You never know, in this world of ever changing formats what might come in handy. Archivists are strong believers in better safe than sorry.

The Freer Medal and Mold.

One of the best things about this profession is that you never know what you are going to find, even in your own archives. I was doing what seemed to be a routine activity for an archivist (reorganizing institutional records), and yet I found a treasure trove of materials, history, and stories. It goes back to the adage of not seeing the forest for the trees. It was a nice reminder that the Smithsonian is a pretty amazing place to visit, explore, and work.

Lara Amrod, Archivist
Freer|Sackler Archives

1 comment:

  1. The Freer is my favorite part of the Smithsonian. What an enviable job you have!