After 15 years under the watchful eye of Taronda Spencer, C’80, the Spelman College Archives is now managed by archivist Holly Smith. A graduate of William and Mary College and Yale University, Smith, who has a background in public history and, library science and archives, comes to Spelman after having worked for five years in special collections at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
“I’m very excited to be here,” said Smith. “There are so many great things that have already happened in the archives, and I look forward to contributing but also learning a lot and seeing how we can continue to expand our notion of preserving history.”
Smith’s love for history started as a child. At the age of 8, she began working at Colonial Williamsburg, the world’s largest living history museum in Williamsburg, Virginia, where the restored 18th-century capital of Britain’s largest, wealthiest, and most populous outpost empire in the New World can be explored.
“They had an African-American programs department and one of our family friends from church, Dr. Rex Ellis, worked at Williamsburg and helped found the program,” explained Smith, about the source of her love for history, and where she learned the past can be fun and not boring. “You dress up in the costumes, you learn the history of enslaved Africans and African Virginians, and you would talk to people, give tours and lectures, learn about music and perform in different theatrical representations. I worked there summers and in the evenings up until I graduated from college.”
A branch of the Women’s Research and Resource Center, the Spelman College Archives is home to the documents and personal diaries of College founders Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles, Johnnetta B. Cole’s presidential papers, the Audre Lorde collection, the Toni Cade Bambara collection and Josephine Harrold Love’s papers. “Since we are a component of the Women’s Center, we are actively looking to collect materials related to women of the African diaspora who are engaged in social justice, activism and feminism,” said Smith. “We are an internationally known entity, so we want to reflect Spelman’s commitment to educate women of the diaspora broadly.”
While Smith is performing a comprehensive inventory of the archives, she is excited about assisting on-campus and off-campus researchers and helping others preserve their documents. “We’re interested in talking to them if they are interested in donating to Spelman or somewhere else or if they’re just interested in preserving things in the home,” said Smith.
*This article appeared in the August 2014 edition of Inside Spelman*