American Archives Month: Matthew Schaefer, Hoover Presidential Library

October is American Archives Month! Although we’re partway through October, there’s still time to celebrate the archivists from our Presidential Libraries. The series kicks off with a trip to the heartlands of America: West Branch, IA.

Matthew Schaefer, outreach archivist at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.
Matthew Schaefer, outreach archivist at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.

Name: Matthew Schaefer

Occupation: Outreach archivist for the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum

How long have you worked at this library?
Eleven years.

How/why did you decide to go into the archival field?
While working on my dissertation, I took a “temporary” job in archives to pay the bills. My plan was to keep the archives gig until I earned my degree, then join the professoriate. After 25 years and three institutions, I am ready to acknowledge that I am an archivist.

What are some of your responsibilities at your library? What do you like best about your job?
The thing that I like best about my job is the variety of tasks that fall to me. This meshes well with my short little span of attention. My duties at the Hoover include organizing conferences, working with professional organizations, and keeping the library in the public eye. I also manage the reference room, do collection management tasks, and serve as lookout for zombies.

Tell us about a time something unusual or unexpected happened to you in your line of work.
As outreach archivist, I meet many people. One day, I met Norman Borlaug, Iowa’s only Nobel Laureate and father of the green revolution, at a World Food Prize event. He graciously agreed to autograph my “Norman Borlaug-Wrestling World Hunger” T-shirt; this is now a focal item in my T-shirt hall of fame [a story for another time].

Tell us something about your President that the average American might be surprised to learn.
The average American would be surprised to learn that Herbert Hoover was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times.

If your library were attacked by zombies and you could only save one record, what would it be?
If slow zombies were shuffling across the prairie toward the Hoover Library, I’d get the key to our specially protected records storage area [two minutes forty seconds], grab the reading copy of Hoover’s inaugural address [forty-five seconds], lace-up my Asics, and head north over the creek [one minute].

If fast zombies threatened, I’d grab oversize album 19, the photographic record of the Hoover Dam. While its 18-pound heft would slow my escape, it might prove useful as a bludgeon or shield.

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