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Michael H. Nash, Director of NYU’s Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, 1946-2012

July 31, 2012

Michael H. Nash (1946- 2012)
Head, Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Harpur College, BA, History, 1968
Columbia University, MA, American History, 1969
Columbia University, School of Library Service, MLS, 1974
Binghamton University, PhD, American Labor History, 1975

As an archivist, historian, and astute collector of the archives and personal papers of key organizations and figures of radical politics and left wing social movements, Michael H. Nash, head of the New York University Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, played a major role in the preservation of left politics and labor.  Nash passed away on Tuesday, July 24, 2012.  He was 66.

Among Nash’s accomplishments, he was instrumental in bringing to Tamiment many important collections and personal papers.  These include the papers of Philip Agee, the CIA officer who broke with the agency in 1969; the papers of Esther and James Jackson, pioneering members of the civil rights movement; the papers of journalist Victor Navasky, lawyers William Kunstler and Norman Dorsen, historian Howard Zinn, and documentarian Estela Bravo; the archive of the National Lawyers’ Guild; and the Leo Hershkowitz Collection of New York City history.

"He was the respected trusted leader that allowed groups as diverse as the Communist Party USA, the Guantanamo lawyers, and Occupy Wall Street to turn to Tamiment as the custodian of their archives," said Carol A. Mandel, dean of the NYU Libraries.

Nash, a scholar with a particular interest in the Spanish Civil War and the impact on academia of McCarthyism and the House Un-American Activities Committee, was also founding co-director of the Center for the United States and the Cold War and founding co-director of the Frederic Ewen Center for Academic Freedom, both of which attract international scholars and writers to research in Tamiment’s twenty thousand linear feet of manuscripts, documents, film, and other material.

For much of its history, Tamiment's collecting policies were centered on the historical relationship between the class-based labor movement and the Left that was the dominant paradigm from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. In more recent years, Nash refocused the collection policies to reflect the change as progressive social movements became less associated with class and increasingly focused on the struggle for civil rights, women's rights, immigrant rights, gay rights, civil liberties, academic freedom, environmentalism, the struggle for affordable housing, health care, and consumer rights.

Nash was a teacher in the NYU Department of History, author of Conflict and Accommodation: Coal Miners, Steel Workers and Socialism, and co-editor of  Red Activists and Black Freedom: James and Esther Jackson and the Long Civil Rights Revolution and The Good Fight Continues: World War II Letters from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

He wrote about the relationship between contemporary scholarship and archival practice and has been published in The American Archivist, Labor History, The Journal of Social History, American Communist History, and The Business History Review.

Nash also wrote two archival management books, one on developing a business archive and the other on establishing a labor archive entitled, How to Keep Union Records, Edited by Michael Nash, Society of American Archivists (2010).

Nash also wrote a chapter in The Records of American Business, edited by James O'Toole entitled, "Business history and archival practice: shifts in sources and paradigms."

Nash came to NYU in 2002 from the Hagley Museum and Library, where he worked from 1982.  He served as its Chief Curator from 1991-2002.  Before coming to Hagley, Nash was a Senior Assistant Archivist at Cornell University in 1982, and he began his career in 1974 as an Archival Specialist at the New York Public Library where he worked for six years.

Nash graduated with a M.A, in American History in 1969 and a M.L.S. in 1974 both from Columbia University.  He earned his Ph.D., in American Labor History, in 1975 at Binghamton University.

Nash was a member of several national professional associations, including: Society of American Archivists; the Academy of Certified Archivists; and the Labor and Working Class History Association.

Nash is survived by his wife Jeanne and his sons Gabriel and Raphael.

Memorial gifts to Tamiment Library may be sent to the Michael Nash Memorial Fund, Dean’s Office, 70 Washington Square South, NY, NY 10012.

This Article is in the following Topics:
Division of Libraries, Tamiment Library

Type: Article

Press Contact: Christopher James | (212) 998-6876

Michael H. Nash, Director of NYU’s Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives 1946-2012

Michael H. Nash

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