The Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA) began its Oral History Program in 1973. The purpose of the program is to supplement the written documentation of the Archives' record and manuscript collections with an Oral History Collection, focusing on the history of the Institution, research by its scholars, and contributions of its staff. Program staff conduct interviews with current and retired Smithsonian staff and others who have made significant contributions to the Institution. There are also reminiscences and interviews recorded by researchers or students on topics related to the history of the Smithsonian or the holdings of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.
American University history student Allison Earnest conducted oral history interviews of Smithsonian Institution archivists to document the history of Smithsonian's archival programs, for an oral history seminar taught by Smithsonian Archives historian Pamela M. Henson.
John A. Fleckner and Liza E. Kirwin were interviewed about their pioneering careers at the Smithsonian and the development of archival programs at the Institution.
Liza E. Kirwin (1957- ) received the B.A. in art history from the Johns Hopkins University in 1979, the M.L.S., Library and Archival Science, The Catholic University of America, with a concentration in archival management in 1984, and Ph.D. in American Studies, University of Maryland at College Park, in 1999 with a dissertation on "It's All True: Imagining New York's East Village Art Scene of the 1980s." She began her career in 1979 as an archivist at the Maryland Hall of Records in Annapolis, Maryland. From 1979 to 1999, she was an Archives Technician at the Archives of American Art, serving as Southeast Regional Collector from 1983 to 1999, and Curator of Manuscripts from 1999-2011. She also served as Acting Director of AAA in 2011. Her publications include To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and other Artists' Enumerations from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art based on an exhibit of the same title and With Love: Artists' Letters and Illustrated Notes.
John A. Fleckner (1941- ) served as director of the Archives Center at the National Museum of American History from its founding in 1982 until his retirement in 2007. He was a history graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, receiving the M.A. in 1965, and received the B.A. from Colgate University in 1963. At the State Historical Society of Wisconsin from 1971 to 1982, Fleckner directed a thirteen-member archival network affiliated with the Society and, with the help of others, made the Area Research Center system a national model. He has also been a faculty member in the Department of Museum Studies at The George Washington University.
The History of Smithsonian Archivists Oral History Interviews consist of 4.3 hours of digital audio interviews and 99 pages of transcript.