New UAW Archivist, Gavin Strassel

(38398) Portrait, Strassel, UAW Archivist, 2018

The Reuther Library is proud to have Gavin Strassel as the new UAW Archivist.

Strassel has long been an important part of the Reuther Library team. He came to the Reuther in December 2013 as an Archives Technician. In that role, he processed several collections, including the personal papers of former UAW President Leonard Woodcock. Woodcock was also ambassador to China, so Strassel’s undergraduate degree in Asian Studies came in handy. As the SEIU Archivist, he had the opportunity to work with official union records, which prepared him for his current role.

Strassel said he was drawn to this new position by the opportunity to work with the UAW collections and the rich history found within them. As he explained, the collections served as a foundation for the Archives and the UAW enabled the construction of the Reuther Library, hence its name.

“I especially admire the accomplishments of Walter Reuther, from his support for the civil rights movement to his drive to mobilize factories at the start of WWII, and I couldn’t pass up to chance to steward his union’s records.”

Strassel has already experienced the high demand for access to the UAW’s history. “People are enthusiastic about the UAW collections,” he said. “It gives the job a special level of enjoyment and necessity.”

His first major project has been to process the records of UAW Local 600, which represents River Rouge Complex workers and at one time was the largest of UAW locals.

Another part of the job includes outreach to union members, and Strassel is looking forward to bringing the archives and the UAW’s story to this summer’s constitutional convention, to be held in Detroit. He’s also been hard at work on an exhibit for the UAW’s headquarters.

So far, the work has not disappointed. “Every time I delve into a UAW archival collection, I find something that makes me exclaim, ‘Look at this!’ Letters between Walter Reuther and Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King, pamphlets from the 1960s with Mad Men-esque art design, photos of striking workers picketing over snow on cross-country skis, and so much more. It’s a rich collection that sparks my fascination every day, and it provides plenty to post on the UAW Archives twitter feed,” he said.

“It’s a privilege to be the person who can connect people to this historical resource.”

Strassel earned his Masters in Science of Information with a concentration in archives from the University of Michigan, where he also worked with special collections. A prolific movie buff, he had the opportunity to work on the collections of filmmakers Robert Altman and John Sayles. (He also appeared as an extra in the movie Whip It – look for him near the end of the film, selling skates in the background behind star Ellen Page.)

Follow Strassel on Twitter: @UAW_Archivist. Additional contact information can be found here.