Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Michael Nash

We are saddened to report the death of Michael Nash, director of the Tamiment Library at New York University and long-time chief curator of collections at the Hagley Museum and Library (1982-2002). Michael died unexpectedly of a heart attack on July 24, 2012. As his colleague at Hagley and BHC Secretary-Treasurer Roger Horowitz remembers,
He touched many people in the business history world through his interest in history, and even more benefited (and continue to benefit) from his talents because of his extraordinary acquisitions of material for the Hagley archives. The major collections we obtained on Mike's watch included Avon, Seagram, Sperry-Univac, PSFS (Philadelphia Savings Fund Society), Remington Rand, RCA-Camden, the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, and MCI. He also recruited many smaller collections, and expanded our relationships with companies whose records continued to come here while Mike was in charge, such as DuPont and the National Association of Manufacturers. While we always remember to honor the scholars and teachers who created and extended the business history field, too often we do not notice how the raw material for this history became available for scholars to use. . . . [Mike] loved talking at length with the many scholars who came through our doors.
At his more recent post at the Tamiment Library, Nash turned his focus to the documentation of labor and radical movements. Among his many achievements there, he obtained the archives of the Communist Party, USA, as well as the complete records and pictorial collection of its paper, The Daily Worker (you can hear Mike discussing the CPA acquisition on NPR here.). He also secured the archives of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (from the Spanish Civil War). James D. Fernández of the ALB commented, "He was a remarkably learned teacher and scholar who wore his erudition lightly; a generous and gentle archivist always eager to help others; a principled and committed man whose teaching and scholarship and stewardship of Tamiment were of a piece with his lifelong dedication to the promotion, via historical understanding, of human rights and social justice."
   In addition to dozens of finding aids, guides, and exhibit materials related to business and labor history, Michael Nash was also the author of Conflict and Accommodation: Coal Miners, Steel Workers and Socialism (1982) and co-editor of The Good Fight Continues: World War II Letters from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (2006).
   Business and labor historians will miss his amazing collection development skills and his vast enthusiasm, but Michael Nash will be most remembered, as Roger Horowitz notes, as "a good man, a proud father, and a caring friend."
   Update, August 10: See also the tributes by Lynn Catanese of the Hagley and by Norman Markowitz of People's World.