Michael H. Nash passed away on July 24, 2012. He left Hagley in August 2002 to become the director of the Tamiment Library at New York University. Although it has been ten years since he was Hagley’s Chief Curator of Library Collections, Michael’s influence continues to be felt.
Michael had the ability to build wonderful collections in two disparate areas as the history of business and that of its most vigorous critics. For two decades at Hagley, he acquired nearly 500 collections for the library. He brought great energy, enthusiasm, and knowledge to collection development. Michael was committed to getting the records so that the historians could tell the story.
In the 1980s Michael acquired a number of important collections pertaining to early computer history and automation. These include the records of Sperry-Univac, Engineering Research Associates, the IBM Antitrust Suit, Sperry Gyroscope, and the papers of Elmer Sperry.
One of the most heavily used collections at Manuscripts and Archives is the archives of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Michael conducted the complex and delicate negotiations with Penn Central, Conrail and the National Historic Public Records Commission and assembled a consortium of repositories to house portions of the voluminous collection.
As the collection development emphasis shifted towards documenting consumer culture in the 1990s, Michael acquired significant and extensive corporate archives such as Seagram, Avon Products, and MCI. He also brought in the records of special-interest member organizations such as the Inter-Society Color Council, the Society of Plastics, and the International Housewares Association. To further strengthen the collections pertaining to business and the state, Michael acquired the archives of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States. He also brought in substantial additions to the archives of the National Association of Manufacturers and the Conference Board. Throughout his tenure, Hagley continued to receive additions to the DuPont Company archives.
Not only did Michael acquire large, complex collections, he also wrote a number of grants to fund their arrangement, description and preservation. Time and time again he successfully made the case for financial support to corporations, heirs, and government agencies. He was dedicated to providing access to the collections.
Michael was much more than a curator, he was a mentor to many in both the history and archives professions. His office door was always open and he enjoyed talking with visiting scholars and colleagues. He was generous with his time, always listening and providing encouragement. He was a friend and a thoughtful, caring colleague.
We mourn his passing.
Michael Nash (middle) with Chris Baer (left) and a student assistant at Conrail's Merion Avenue warehouse in West Philadelphia, 1986
Michael Nash (left) processing the John McShain papers with Cheryl Miller and Jon Williams, 1990
Lynn Catanese is the Chief Curator of Library Collections at the Hagley Museum and Library