A Sad Loss
It's been said — When a person dies a library burns.
For me, this African proverb resonants profoundly with news of the passing of Dave Smith, Founder & Director Emeritus of the Walt Disney Company Archives.
Dave's foresighted efforts to seek-out, find, aggregate, and champion the past, ensured the archival preservation of the personal life and accomplishments of Walt Disney, and the institutional history for the longest running animation studio, and one of the largest entertainment companies, in the world.
Sadly, so much of our collective film past is tossed aside to make room for the newest and next film ahead. It's a well-known shame that scores for such classics as The Wizard of Oz, along with most of MGM Studio's irreplaceable Music Library, were thrown into landfill to build a golf course. Producer David Selznick legendarily torched the original sets and backlot structures of RKO Studios to film the 'burning of Atlanta' sequence for Gone With The Wind. Even at The Walt Disney Studios (and other animation houses), thousands of finely painted cels were simply tossed into the trash once production was completed.
In the early years beyond Walt Disney's passing, Dave Smith saw the purpose and urgency in preserving the institutional history of the company Walt and Roy built. For over 40 years, Dave's pioneering efforts ensured the cultural continuance of The Walt Disney Company while preserving the story of an ever-evolving industry which both reflects and projects our collective human experiences.
It has been a personal honor to have known and worked with Dave Smith. As a grateful researcher within the vast archival content Dave amassed at the Disney Archives, I am sad at the loss of his remarkable knowledge and insight into the animated past that I daily explore and write about. Indeed, with his passing, countless possible volumes are now gone, though it must also be noted — thanks to Dave Smith, an archives lives!