First Lady Biden Swears in Former Schar School Assistant Professor as National Archivist

A woman with dark hair in a dark jacket and wearing an American flag on her lapel, stands in front of an American flag.
National Archivist Colleen Shogan: ‘Without the National Archives, and the continued fulfillment of its mission, a healthy democracy cannot be sustained.’

The Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Louisiana Purchase, Harriet Tubman’s Civil War pensions claims, and Thomas Alva Edison’s patent for the lightbulb have a new curator.

Former Schar School of Policy and Government professor Colleen Shogan was ceremonially sworn in this week as national archivist by First Lady Jill Biden. Biden called the appointment of Shogan as the first woman to lead the National Archives and Records Administration, which maintains billions of historic and classified documents, “a milestone.”

Shogan was appointed archivist by President Biden and confirmed by the Senate in May before being sworn in this week by the first lady. Jill Biden said the contents of the National Archives “are all of our stories—men and women, of all backgrounds, ages, and creeds, what we choose to preserve, and whose voices we deem worthy of placing in our national memory…That’s why this milestone—the first woman head of the National Archives and Records Administration—is so momentous,” she added.

Shogan, who wore white during the ceremony to “honor the legacy of women’s suffragists,” was an assistant professor at George Mason University’s Schar School, teaching undergraduate courses about the presidency and legislative politics. She taught at Mason from September 2002 to December 2006 and last taught at Mason in a Seminar on the Presidency in 2009.

“Colleen is an excellent political scientist and presidential scholar who has augmented her managerial skills as well during her years at the Library of Congress and directing the David M. Rubinstein Center for White House History at the White House Historical Association,” said Professor of Nonprofit Studies Stefan Toepler, who worked with Shogun at Mason. “As Archivist of the United States, she will bring academic rigor, administrative competence, and great personal integrity to the task.”

And he added, “One can only hope that her new position will still leave her a little time to continue writing her fun Washington-based murder mysteries.” Those include “Stabbing in the Senate,” “Homicide in the House,” and “Larceny at the Library,” among others.

Shogan, who admitted to making a point to visit the Declaration of Independence each day she comes to work, said “these documents aren’t just pieces of parchment. They are living promises to hold our government accountable.”

“What prevents us from falling back into the classic pattern of authoritarianism is our right—indeed our responsibility—to hold our government accountable,” Shogan said. “That’s what makes the National Archives so important. Without the National Archives, and the continued fulfillment of its mission, a healthy democracy cannot be sustained.”

The video of the ceremony is here at this PBS News Hour link.