Historian and Mystery Novelist Is First Woman to Head National Archives

From a Washington Post story by Michael E. Ruane headlined “Historian and mystery novelist is first woman to head Archives”:

Colleen J. Shogan, a former senior official at the Library of Congress and the White House Historical Association, and the author of a series of murder mysteries set in Washington, was confirmed Wednesday by the Senate to become the first woman to head the National Archives.

The National Archives and Records Administration said she will start work next week as the 11th archivist of the United States. She succeeds David S. Ferriero, who retired in April 2022, and Debra Steidel Wall, who has been acting archivist for the past 12 months.

Ferriero has said that before he retired he told the White House: “Better not hire another White male. We’ve had 10 White males.”

He said he was “pleased to see that [Shogan] has finally been confirmed. Her experience on [Capitol Hill], the Library of Congress, and the White House Historical Association will serve her well.”

He said he was “particularly pleased that the White male … mold has been broken.”

She told a Senate committee in February that her nomination was “the honor of a lifetime.”

“My passion for the American story started in the public high school I attended outside Pittsburgh,” she said.

“As a first-generation college student in my family, I was fortunate to receive a first-class education, which allowed me to explore the development and evolution of American ideas and institutions,” she said.

Shogan recently served as director of the David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History and senior vice president of the White House Historical Association.

She worked for more than a decade at the Library of Congress, serving in senior roles as the assistant deputy librarian for collections and services and the deputy director of the Congressional Research Service, the Archives said.

And she served as vice chair of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission and chair of the board of directors at the Women’s Suffrage National Monument Foundation.

She has taught at Georgetown University and George Mason University.

The National Archives and Records Administration encompasses a landmark building in downtown Washington, a large research facility in College Park, Md., as well as 13 presidential libraries and 14 regional archives.

In addition to housing the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the Archives holds 13 billion pages of text and 10 million maps, charts and drawings, as well as tens of millions of photographs, films and other records.

Shogan has published eight Washington murder mysteries with such titles as “Stabbing in the Senate,” “Homicide in the House” and “Larceny at the Library.” She has written that she was encouraged to read mysteries by her late mother, Patricia, and started out reading Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries.

Her recurring heroine is fictional Capitol Hill staffer Kit Marshall, who in “Stabbing in the Senate,” finds her boss, Sen. Lyndon Langsford, stabbed in the chest with a steel replica of an Army attack helicopter.

“I noticed crimson drops of blood on the thick carpeting of his office,” she writes in the opening scene. “His head was thrown back, and two vacant eyes started at me. Lyndon Langsford wasn’t giving me the cold shoulder. He was dead.”

Last year, the Archives was at the center of the news when it had to retrieve 15 boxes of documents, some of them classified, from former president Donald Trump’s Florida residence because the material should have been turned over when he left office.

This year a limited number of records bearing classified markings were found at President Biden’s home and a think tank bearing his name, as well as at the home of former vice president Mike Pence.

Under the Presidential Records Act, the Archives takes ownership of millions of presidential papers from the outgoing administration as soon as a new president is sworn in, while items deemed personal go home with the former president and vice president. Classified materials are considered government property, but compliance with the act can be an issue given the volume of material it covers.

Michael E. Ruane is a general assignment reporter who also covers Washington institutions and historical topics. He has been a general assignment reporter at the Philadelphia Bulletin, an urban affairs and state feature writer at the Philadelphia Inquirer, and a Pentagon correspondent at Knight Ridder newspapers.

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