Legendary Archivist Lauded as “Michael Jordan or Tom Brady of his profession”
Press Release · Thursday, April 30, 2020
“As archivists go, Greg Bradsher ’68 is retiring as a superstar, the Michael Jordan or Tom Brady of his profession.” The first sentence of the Oregon Stater feature “If an archivist can be a legend, he's it” may mark the first time an archivist has been likened to a professional athlete. On the eve of his retirement, it doesn’t get any better. Bradsher responded, “I was blown away.”
Last year, senior archivist Dr. Greg Bradsher received Archivist David S. Ferriero’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his impressive 42-plus-year career (watch video tribute here). After sharing the news with Bradsher’s alma maters, Oregon State University (OSU) and the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), Oregon Stater editor Kevin Miller called to say that he had pulled over to the side of the road en route to work to Google Bradsher. Asked what he found compelling, Miller responded, “Once I’d done some research of my own and conducted a long interview with Greg in which we both had fun and I learned a ton, the pressure was all on me to do his career justice. I’ve been writing profiles of people for 43 years now—15 of them in this job—and this is one of my top 10 favorites, for sure.”
UMass Amherst’s Community Relations Director Jessica Johnson responded: “The UMass Amherst History Department was thrilled to receive the news” and shared the story widely.
Bradsher’s stellar research skills, intellectual curiosity, humor, cordiality, and expansive knowledge contributed to his now-legendary career. As Bradsher’s colleague archivist Sylvia Naylor explained, “he is the perfect combination of scholar and archivist. His knowledge of the records never ceases to amaze me.” Although his expertise includes the American colonial era, the Homestead Act, and FBI records collections, he is reknowned for his work on records relating to Holocaust-Era Assets.
In 1996, at the start of the congressional investigation into dormant Swiss bank accounts and gold looted by Nazi Germany, Bradsher was asked to create a basic finding aid for the National Archives’ extensive collection of related World War II–era records. Given his intellectual curiosity and interest, this initial six-page document became a 1,166-page tome. The National Archives became the epicenter of Holocaust-related research, and he became the international point person on this issue.
Two early press stories describe the research efforts:
Los Angeles Times: Every morning researchers troop into the sun-puddled reading rooms of Washington’s National Archives [College Park]. They trudge out hours later briefcases clogged with gray photocopies of old letters, position papers, internal memorandums from so long ago… [They] wage a quiet war for information, a competition that shapes legal maneuvers and publicity battles in New York and Washington. Brussels and Bern.
German Magazine Der Spiegel: "The avalanche of slime from the archives is threatening to bring the entire Swiss banking center... into lasting disrepute."
Throughout subsequent hearings, litigation and negotiations, Bradsher remained an honest broker, providing guidance to all researchers. His life changed dramatically; he testified before Congress (requiring him to purchase a suit); represented the United States at international conferences in Switzerland, Lithuania, and Washington, DC; appeared on The History Channel, C-SPAN, and other media; organized and chaired the 1998 National Archives International Symposium on Holocaust-Era Assets Records and Research; and represented the National Archives on the Interagency Working Group on Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records.
He assisted Nancy Yeide, former head of the National Gallery of Art's curatorial records and files, with provenance research to document Hermann Göring's stolen art collection that became her book Beyond the Dreams of Avarice: The Hermann Goering Collection. When Robert Edsel was working on his book (and later movie starring George Clooney) The Monuments Men, he turned to Bradsher. Edsel's subsequent donations of so-called “Hitler Albums” of looted art to the National Archives reflect the closeness of this relationship.
Video clip with Edsel from the History Channel’s Hunting Nazi Treasure
National Archives Monuments Men Public Program with Bradsher, Edsel, and Yeide
Blog: Greg Bradsher: Monuments Men expert at the National Archives
Bradsher blog on OSU Monuments Man Gordon Gilkey
Bradsher inspired many other researchers including Miriam Kleiman, an early “Nazi Gold” researcher. As Miller notes in his story, “Kleiman is now a public affairs specialist at the archives, a close friend of Bradsher and his biggest fan.” See the related National Archives blog, Miriam and Me: The Beginnings of an Archival Adventure and Friendship.
Bradsher continues to write regular blog posts about National Archives records. He plans to retire in the coming months. Thankfully, he has promised to return as a volunteer, to continue to assist and inspire researchers and colleagues alike, and to share fascinating tales from his storied career.
For more information:
Bradsher speech: Turning History into Justice: Holocaust-Era Assets Records, Research, and Restitution
Read Bradsher’s many National Archives Text Message blog posts here.
This page was last reviewed on April 30, 2020.
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