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Disney archivist Dave Smith to retire

July 16, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Disney legend Dave Smith, who for the past 40 years has presided over the Walt Disney Studio Archives, is retiring.Walt Disney left behind quite a legacy in the film, TV, and theme park world following his death in 1966. And it's a legacy that's been recorded and preserved by one dedicated man.

"I didn't really know what I was getting myself into when I started here at Disney," said Dave Smith.

When he came to The Walt Disney Company in 1970, Smith was charged with the daunting task of compiling, organizing, and maintaining the thousands of props, papers, costumes and characters as Disney's chief archivist.

Forty years later, what he started is now considered a model for other corporate entities.

"They gave me an empty office and said, 'Here start,'" said Smith. "And your thought is, 'What do I go save first?' Well save the oldest stuff first because those are the things more likely to be lost. And it just grew, and luckily in most cases, we picked the right things to save."

Smith was recently feted with a special anniversary celebration that allowed him to reflect on his decades of preserving the riches of Disney's history.

It let him know his years of work did not go unnoticed.

"History is something that's alive and breathing and if you don't stop to inhale that you're missing something very important, very special," said entertainment journalist Leonard Maltin.

Smith's tenure as chairman of Disney's history department is coming to an end. But even with his imminent retirement, rest assured the archival system he began will remain.

"Disney is a company among all others I think that re-uses its past all the time," said Smith. "We're constantly looking back into things we did many years ago and using them for our current projects. The people that worked on the early projects, they're not around anymore so the current company, the various departments have to come to the archives to get their answers and I think that's why we're very important to the company."

Disney is the parent company of ABC7.


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