The Oral History Program is part of the Smithsonian Institution Archives. The purpose of the program is to conduct interviews with current and retired members of the Smithsonian staff who have made significant contributions, administrative and scholarly, to the Institution. The project's goal is to supplement the published record and manuscript collections in the Archives, focusing on the history of the Institution and contributions to the increase and diffusion of knowledge made by its scholars.
In 2013, Sarah J. Shoenfeld, former historian with the Institutional History Division of Smithsonian Institution Archives, interviewed her neighbor, Annie Sullivan, who worked at the National Air and Space Museum for twenty years to document her career and reminiscences of the museum.
This Annie Sullivan Interview collection is comprised of 1 interview session, totaling approximately 1:10:11 hours of recordings and no transcript.
Ms. Sullivan moved to Washington, D.C., from Greenville, South Carolina, in 1985 and was able to get the job through someone her sister worked with who knew the higher-ups in building management at the National Air and Space Museum (NASM). She also was able to provide some well-known names, including that of Marion Barry's secretary, as references. She was hired as soon as President Ronald Reagan lifted the order that the Smithsonian hire only veterans for certain jobs. Sullivan worked at NASM from 1986-2006 on the cleaning staff, starting out cleaning offices in the basement and later moving up to the main exhibits floor. She recalled that everyone who worked in that division was African American.
Ms. Sullivan became very close with Deputy Director Donald Lopez during her tenure, and was frequently asked to clean certain offices upstairs where he and the executives worked. She was known as his "designated hugger" for frequently giving him hugs. She was also well-liked by the children of staff members who were sometimes brought to work and occasionally were put in her care. She recalled making lunch for them. She recalled how luxurious it felt to work at NASM in comparison to the jobs she had in the South. The vacuum cleaner worked, there was a break room with a refrigerator, oven and television, among other things. She also recalled several celebrity visitors to NASM, including Michael Jackson, Liza Minelli, John Forsyth, and Tom Cruise, with whom she was photographed shaking hands.
Smithsonian Institution Archives
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