Archivist Spotlight: Dave Smith, The Walt Disney Company
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
While it's all well and good to point out how archives and archivists are depicted in media and popular culture, it's just as important to pull the curtain back and let the people who work with those materials shine for even the briefest of moments.
Sadly, it was reported that Dave Smith, the founder of the Walt Disney Archives, passed away on February 15 at the age of 78. He served as Disney's archivist for 40 years and is single-handedly responsible for the preservation, curation, and restoration of documents and artifacts that would have fallen into obscurity as well as changing the model for corporate archives. Through Dave Smith, the archives and Disney's historical footprint were front and center to propelling the company forward while reflecting on and learning from the past. Mr. Smith became an accessible source of information through his column, "Ask Dave," regular contributions to fan magazines and websites, and published works like Disney A to Z (the official Disney encyclopedia), Disney: The First 100 Years, The Quotable Walt Disney, Disney Trivia from the Vault, and The Ultimate Disney Trivia Books 1, 2, 3, and 4.
He was honored with a Disney Legend award in 2007 and retired in 2010, his 40th anniversary working for the house of mouse, though he continued to consult with the company under the title of Chief Archivist Emeritus.
It's unfortunate that such a font of knowledge has passed away, but the legacy left behind is an enviable body of work and accomplishments. Dave Smith ensured that generations of children and their parents would be able to enjoy all things Disney as well as giving Disney employees historical relevance and the ability to track and retrace their own contributions in the shadow of Uncle Walt.
If you're curious about the "Ask Dave" column, you'll have to head over to the D23 website and join under a general membership. We all know how ironclad Disney is about their intellectual property and the writings of Dave Smith are no different, but it's comforting to know that he was answering questions well into 2017.
My condolences go out to the Smith family. He will be missed.