June 22, 1970 – Dave Smith Hired as the First Disney Archivist
“I wrote a proposal to set up the Walt Disney Archives, offered my services, and soon, they were accepted.” – Dave Smith
On June 22, 1970, Dave Smith was the first Disney Archivist hired to set up the Walt Disney Archives. The archives were conceived after Walt’s death, when people began to realize that the knowledge and history the current staff had would soon disappear and nothing was being done to preserve the history. Smith was then working at UCLA, compiling a Disney bibliography, which he calls “the right place at the right time.” He began to collect the oldest materials that were in the most danger of being lost, as well as gathering materials that were scattered all around the company. One of these places where many pieces of work were stored was known as the Morgue. After an animated film was completed, the drawings, cels, and other pieces of work had to be placed somewhere, so they were sent to the rooms beneath the Ink & Paint building. In this case, morgue was not a derogatory term, but was borrowed from the newspaper term where artists could go study “back issues” or old artistic products for inspiration.
The Archives were built to help the future employees of the Walt Disney Company keep in touch with its roots. “It did not take long for…employees to realize that they could call the Archives and quickly get answers to whatever questions they might have about Disney in general or about the legacy of their own department,” Smith wrote in an article for the D23 publication, which is sponsored by the Archives. Historical items continue to make their way to the archives, with items from retired attractions in the park to props from recent live action films, to any pieces of work from animated films making their way into the collection. Smith worked for the archives for forty years, retiring on June 24, 2010. Smith still works with the D23 publication, answering a variety of questions from Disney fans.