Historian and author brings passion for fostering engagement with public history to renowned center for the study of left politics, labor, and social protest movements

Timothy Naftali Joins NYU as the Tamiment Library’s New Director
Timothy Naftali Joins NYU as the Tamiment Library’s New Director

Dean of New York University Libraries Carol A. Mandel announced today the designation of presidential historian Timothy Naftali as Head of the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives and co-director of NYU’s Center for the United States and the Cold War and of the Frederic Ewen Academic Freedom Center.  Naftali is an historian who studies leaders, power, and international affairs.  He is currently a senior research fellow in the national security studies program at the New America Foundation, and was the first director of the federal Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. Naftali will assume his duties at NYU on January 13, 2014.

“Tamiment Library is one of the most distinguished special collections in the country devoted to the history of left politics, labor, and social protest movements,” says Mandel. “Scholars from around the world look to its collections to shed new light on issues from workers’ rights to the fight for academic freedom to women’s history and much more.  I am delighted that these unique archives will be stewarded and expanded under the guidance of Tim Naftali, a prolific writer and scholar. He brings a vision for Tamiment shaped by his interest in the impact of social activism, past and present, and a deep commitment to public engagement with history.”

Naftali says, “Public access to the materials of political dissent and activism is as much a measure of the freedom of a society as the openness of its official materials.  Besides being very important, Tamiment’s collections are also just plain cool.  I am eager to take the Tamiment collections more completely into the digital age so that scholars and the interested public can more easily discover and benefit from them.”

Naftali will take over a fifty-year old institution, which continues to acquire large, significant collections. Within the last decade alone these include, among many others, the archive of the Communist Party, USA; the works of film-maker Estela Bravo; the papers of William Kunstler, Howard Zinn, and civil rights activists James and Esther Jackson; and documents from Occupy Wall Street.

“Tamiment has a wealth of materials, but much of it remains largely invisible to scholars and the general public,” Naftali says. “Over the next few years, as its digital presence becomes more significant, Tamiment will play a greater part in national discussions about the role of progressive and radical movements in shaping our past and who we are today. The Library’s mission is to foster nonpartisan exploration. If we have any point of view, it is that history matters.”

To reflect the ever-changing nature of political and social activism, Naftali intends to take the Library in some new directions, creating, for example, NYU’s first LGBT civil rights archive.  He explains,  “Only a few blocks from the Stonewall Inn, Tamiment Is a natural home for records related to LGBT history and it will become a place to study our country’s most recent civil rights struggle.” Naftali also envisions an initiative to facilitate the study of hactivism and digital dissent.

Naftali comes to NYU from the New America Foundation, where he was a non-resident Senior Research Fellow.   Prior to that, Naftali was Director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, a division of the National Archives and Records Administration.  As the first director of the federal Nixon Library, Naftali oversaw the release of an estimated 1.3 million pages of presidential materials and 600 hours of Nixon tapes, and the creation of nearly 150 video oral histories. He wrote and curated the Library’s widely praised multi-media Watergate Gallery, which opened in 2011.

A native of Montreal, Naftali has a B.A. from Yale, an M.A. in American Foreign Policy and International Economics from Johns Hopkins, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in History from Harvard. He has taught at the University of Hawaii, Yale, the University of Virginia, and other universities. At the University of Virginia, he was the founding director of the Presidential Recordings Program at the Miller Center of Public Affairs, which transcribes and analyzes the John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon tapes. Naftali is currently completing a presidential biography of John F. Kennedy for publication in 2014. He is also the author or co-author of four books, including “One Hell of a Gamble”: Khrushchev, Castro and Kennedy, 1958-1964; Blind Spot: The Secret History of American Counterterrorism; and Khrushchev’s Cold War: The Inside Story of an American Adversary, which won the Duke of Westminster medal for military literature in 2007 .

About Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University:

The Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University form a unique, internationally-known center for scholarly research on Labor and the Left. Tamiment has one of the finest research collections in the country documenting the history of radical politics: socialism, communism, anarchism, utopian experiments, the cultural left, the New Left, and the struggle for civil rights and civil liberties. It is the repository for the Archives of Irish America, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, and a growing Asian American labor collection.

In 1977 the Robert F. Wagner Archives was established as a joint program of the New York City Central Labor Council and the Tamiment Library. The Wagner is the designated repository for the records of the Council's more than 200 member unions. Today the Library has an extraordinary research collection documenting the history of organized labor in New York and the workers who built the City.

The NYU Division of Libraries comprises five libraries in Manhattan and one each in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai. Its flagship, the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library on Washington Square, houses more than four million volumes and received 3 million visits last year. Around the world the Libraries offers access to more than 900,000 electronic journals, books, and databases; its website received 2.4 million visits last year. For more information about the NYU Libraries, please visit http://library.nyu.edu

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