On July 24th, 2012, Dr. Micheal Nash, Director of the Tamiment Library and the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, passed away after a long illness. While members of Activist Archivists were aware of his condition, few of us expected the worst. Our conversations on moving forward often contained the phrase “When Michael gets out of the hospital.” The alternative just didn’t strike us; there was too much to do and Michael Nash was a man who got better.
Dr. Nash – whom everyone called “Michaelnash” as if it were a single word, or “Nash” as if he were a race car driver – was a giant teddy bear of a man with a furry cap of white hair and a boom to his voice. He was a regular presence at the OWS Archives Working Group meetings, fervently articulating the intentions of his archive as a home for OWS material into a sea of skeptical faces. His respectfulness of the working group members was duly noted and while the Tamiment’s connection to NYU was a knot in their relationship, most Occupiers who met him would agree to the quality of his character.
What impressed me about Dr. Nash is that the task of earning the trust of the Occupy Wall Street Archives Work Group was not a roadblock, but an expected, understood, and above all necessary part of a working relationship between archivists and a movement in action. Even during the fevered months in the Fall of 2011 when the working group began discussion on the fate and philosophy of the OWS archives, I never once saw the feelings of frustration reflected on Dr. Nash’s face. Meeting after meeting he sported the same enthusiasm, interest, and level of engagement. He answered questions and presented arguments every time he was asked to repeat them, each time as if it was the first time. His spirit of process left an indelible impression on me as a new archivist, and I think I can speak for all of Activists Archivists when I say that I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to witness his work in action.
From all of us in Activist Archivists, we’d like to offer his friends, family, and colleagues our condolences; the community of archiving and scholars of labor history have suffered a great loss in his passing. As archivists ourselves, striving to salvage the history of social progress, Activist Archivists will commemorate his life work by incorporating his patience, empathy, and sense of duty into our own.
Rest in Peace, “Michaelnash,” and thank you.
For more about his life and work, please check out the following links: