Remembering Dave Smith – Walt Disney Company’s First Archivist and Disney Legend Passes Away at Age 78

It’s a sad day as fans of the Walt Disney Company mourn the loss of Dave Smith. Smith made his mark on Disney as the company’s first archivist and would later be given the title of Disney Legend.

Dave Smith came to the Walt Disney Company on June 22, 1970, as the director of the Archives. He was hired by Walt Disney’s brother, Roy O. Disney and was tasked with cataloging every item in Walt’s office. The space had been entirely untouched since Walt’s passing four years prior. Due to Smith’s extensive notetaking, the staff at the Archives was able to restore the suite in 2015, which is now available for tours.

During his time as Disney’s Chief Archivist, Dave grew the Archives from a simple one-person department to a model among corpo­rate archives. He was regarded by fans and historians as the final authority on matters of Disney history, and was an active member of the Society of California Archivists. He served from 1980 to 2001 as Executive Director of the Manuscript Society, an international association of collectors, dealers, librarians, archivists, and others interested in manuscript material.

Dave wrote extensively about Disney history, with regular columns in Disney fan publications and websites, as well as authoring, co-authoring, and editing numerous articles and books on Disney history, including the official Disney encyclopedia Disney A to ZDisney: The First 100 Years, The Quotable Walt DisneyDisney Trivia from the Vault, and The Ultimate Disney Trivia Books 1, 2, 3, and 4. Many fans knew and loved Dave Smith for his popular column “Ask Dave”, in which fans could write in with any questions and Smith would respond.

“I’m deeply saddened to learn of Dave Smith’s passing,” said Bob Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. “He was the unsung hero of Disney’s history who, as our first archivist, spent 40 years rescuing countless documents and artifacts from obscurity, investing endless hours restoring and preserving these priceless pieces of our legacy, and putting them in context to tell our story. Dave was a true Disney Legend, and we are indebted to him for building such an enduring, tangible connection to our past that continues to inspire our future.”

In October 2007, Dave was honored with the prestigious Disney Legend Award. A resident of Burbank, California, Dave retired in 2010 after his 40th anniversary with The Walt Disney Company and continued working for the next nine years as a consultant for the Company, with the title of Chief Archivist Emeritus.

Our condolences and thoughts go out to his family and friends at this time.


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