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Last week we celebrated Public Service Recognition Week with our annual Archivist’s Achievement Awards ceremony. This event provides the opportunity to recognize volunteers and staff of the National Archives for their passion and dedication to serving the mission of the National Archives and the American people. This year, we were proud to present a special award to one of our most dedicated and enthusiastic Citizen Archivists: Alex Smith.



Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero (center), presents Alex Smith (right) with the Citizen Archivist Award at the 2017 Archivist’s Achievement Awards Ceremony. Photo by Jeff Reed.

We first met Alex in 2015, when the Susquehanna University registrar was preparing to retire and looking for a meaningful way to spend his newly found free time. He read about the National Archives’ Citizen Archivist transcription project and discovered a way to volunteer and, according to Smith, do “something that matters for an organization as important as the National Archives.”

In the first eighteen months of his virtual volunteer work, Mr. Smith made a remarkable 11,100+ transcription contributions to the National Archives Catalog. Several times a week he logs into the Catalog and searches for his next record to transcribe. He often employs a serendipitous method to find the next record. For example, while searching for and transcribing telegrams, he reads about prohibition agents that leads him to search for prohibition. He’s inspired by the books he reads in his leisure – searching for public figures in the catalog such as Sherman Adams, John Bricker, Meade Alcorn, and Ann Whitman.

Alex Smith is not only a diligent citizen archivist and transcriber, he also is an evangelist and cheerleader for records in the National Archives, sharing the stories he’s found with friends. He is full of excitement when he discovers the intriguing, heroic and even the mundane within our records – he finds “happy surprises” within routine and seemingly dry records. Always a storyteller, he recounts what he has discovered while transcribing and has inspired others to become citizen archivists as well.

We were thrilled to welcome Alex to the National Archives and present him with this year’s Citizen Archivist award. We even got to spend some time showing him around the National Archives at College Park and talking about our favorite records.

National Archives Catalog Community Managers Suzanne Isaacs (left) and Meredith Doviak (right) with Alex Smith.  Mr. Smith is holding a 19th century example of a wooden box used for the storage of records.


Alex shared, “If it weren't for the Archives, I'd be having a much duller time, so I really am grateful for the imaginative ways you have allowed us civilians to take part in your extraordinary work.”

We consider ourselves the lucky ones to have such dedicated volunteers. Will you join us as a Citizen Archivist?