Meet the new State Archivist at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission:
After more than decade as head of the Georgia Division of Archives and History, David Carmicheal switched his career and took a job with the Atlanta Housing Authority. For the next two years, he helped automate most of the authority’s documents. That project allowed Carmicheal to delve deep into one of his interests, electronic records. The only problem was that his passion remained with archives.
To hear him tell the story, the Ohio native is now in his element as head of the Pennsylvania State Archives. Here’s what he had to say about his return to historical records:
Do you have any family in Pennsylvania?
My mother’s mother grew up in Bellefonte, Pa. and her family apparently lived there a long time. I have not delved into all of that yet, but I’m going to now.
What has brought you to Pennsylvania?
There are a couple things that brought me here. I had been working in state archives for a long time and I left to go to the housing authority to help them through a business transformation. Essentially, they hired me to automate most of their documents and business processes. We didn’t get it all done, but they are still continuing to build a department. I really wanted to get my hands into current electronic records. After two years, I found that I really missed state archives. Pennsylvania has a great history and the archives has a tremendous collection.
Which project takes most precedence?
From the archives point of view, I’d like to see the collection be secured in a new building. And the second big challenge right now is collecting the digital records that will be history 100 years from now.
In your role as state archivist, what are your long-term and short-term goals?
My immediate goal is just to get a good picture of everything that we do and determine what we should be focusing on. In any government agency today, the staff is smaller than it was 20 years ago but we’re probably still doing the same things we did 20 years ago. We need to make sure that we’re focused on the right things. I want to make certain that we, as an agency, are focusing on ways that support the state agencies, the local governments and the people of Pennsylvania. Longer term, I want to secure the collection. The (Pennsylvania State Archives) building has problems that any building built in the 1960s would have. In Georgia, we had the same situation. We had a building built in 1964 and the environment was no longer appropriate for preserving records. We have that situation here and we need to address that.
Plans are in works for the construction of a new state archives building. How will your experience benefit that project?
When we built the Georgia Archives, I practically lived in it for nine years after we built it and never found anything major that I would have changed. That was a testament to good staff input, good architects and contractors. And, that’s what I would hope for here. It’s a huge undertaking to build a building that is special use. We have specific environmental and security concerns. Yet, we are a very public-facing building, so we have to be welcoming while securing the records.