Meet Idaho’s State Archivist David Matte

David Matte

David Matte enjoys the challenges of managing the Idaho State Archives and serving on the Leadership Team of the Idaho State Historical Society, an extraordinary system of cultural and historic resources comprised of the Idaho State Museum, Idaho State Archives, Idaho State Historic Preservation Office, the Old Idaho Penitentiary and Historic Sites Program.  The Idaho State Archives (ISA) and Research Center provides public access to records of fiscal, administrative, legal, vital and long-term research value to the citizens and government of Idaho. ISA preserves a large and unique collection of materials that relate to the history of Idaho and the Pacific Northwest, including photographs, books, maps, manuscripts, oral histories, and government records.

David began his journey to Idaho when he was stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base and then in 1990 he returned to Idaho after a three-year tour in Germany to attend Boise State University under the G.I. Bill. He majored in history and a professor sparked his interest through a class, where they visited the archives and used original sources. He later took a class on archives and manuscripts taught by Dr. Bill Tydeman, the Idaho State Archivist at the time and he thought that field would be a good match for his interests. After working in the nonprofit field for a few years, his interest in archives led him closer to his boyhood roots in Canada and the Midwest when he enrolled in Wayne State University’s MLIS and Archives Administration Program in 2001.

While at Wayne State University, David worked in the circulation and reference departments of the Neef Law Library which served as a great opportunity to hone his reference skills. After completing his graduate degree and getting an additional certificate in Archives Administration, he took a job as an Access Services Librarian at Minot State University for one year. In 2005, he accepted a Public Service Librarian position at Lewis Clark State College in Lewiston (LCSC). He worked with a great staff of professionals and is grateful for the exceptional mentoring he received from former Library Director Sue Niewenhous. In 2008 he moved back to Boise to accept a Reference Librarian position at the Idaho State Archives. The timing of that move coincided with Idaho’s Great Recession and budget cuts in all state agencies. Those cuts led to changes at the Archives and the “opportunity” to take on more responsibilities including moving into the Deputy State Archivist’s position in 2011, the Acting State Archivist in 2013, and then being hired as the State Archivist and Administrator in 2014 as part of an open competitive search to fill the position.

David supervises two Government Records Archivists, one Collections Archivist, one Photo Archivist, one Reference Librarian and one State Records Manager.  The Idaho State Archives and State Records Center have combined holdings of over 200,000 cubic feet of records.  They provide access to and transparency of the state and local government records they collect, manage, and preserve for the citizens of Idaho. In addition to his work on the Leadership Team, David serves as the State Coordinator for the Governor’s appointed State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB). The mission of SHRAB is to serve as an advocate for the creation, preservation, dissemination, and use of information that accurately chronicles the people and institutions of Idaho, both public and private.  One way SHRAB accomplishes this goal is through a grant program to assist in preserving and making accessible significant records relating to Idaho. One of the projects they work on is a state re-granting program funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The Idaho SHRAB received $17,350 for the 2018 grant cycle, however this award is pending federal budget approval. Local nonprofits, museums, and libraries can apply for funding to help preserve, digitize, and make historical records accessible. Stay tuned for more information about this process in the next month or so.

David balances his time between administrative duties and traditional archival/reference work. His work is guided by a strategic plan and a big focus on the plan right now involves moving to new cataloging systems for all parts of the Record Center and Archives. “I’ve got a great team and they do a tremendous job here and that really helps,” David said.

Another project that David is excited about is Idaho State Archives involvement in the “Chronicling America Program,” a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress (LC) to develop an Internet-based, searchable database of U.S. newspapers with descriptive information and select digitization of historic pages. Idaho received three NEH grants totaling $727,673 to digitize local Idaho newspapers.  In the first two phases of the grant cycle the State Archives digitized 67 local Idaho newspapers consisting of 195,000 pages digitized and are moving into Phase 3 of that program to digitize another 100,000 pages.

When asked about the challenges facing the field, he responded that technology has been a major influence in changes and challenges for archivists. “You only need to look through job descriptions over the last decade to see that digitization has become such a big part of people’s jobs,” he said. “But it is also important to preserve paper and balancing those needs can be a challenge.” David shared that working with digitally-born records will be a challenge as they present issues with changing technology and security concerns.

David invited members of the Idaho library community to learn more about the unique documents including city, county and state records that help tell the history of our state. “We are here as partners and encourage librarians to reach out and talk to us about our holdings, preservation issues, and collections,” David said. A special tour of the Idaho Archives was offered during the annual Idaho Library Association Conference this year. Those who took advantage of it got to see the “Lincoln Legacy Exhibit,” a permanent exhibit made possible by former Lieutenant Governor David Leroy and family that highlights Lincoln’s connection with Idaho, the special map room with drawers full of over 35,000 maps from every county, the genealogy collection, and 500,000 photographic images. The staff at the Idaho State Archives is also available to do presentations, provide tours, and lend their expertise to everything from genealogy, researching Idaho history or how to preserve materials in library’s local history collections. “We do have a lot of years of experience and a great group of people who are committed to doing what we do well. We’d love to strengthen these connections.”