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Paul Erickson named director of Clements Library

By Kim Broekhuizen


Paul Erickson has been appointed the Randolph G. Adams Director of the Clements Library at the William L. Clements Library.

He is currently the program director for Arts, Humanities & Culture and American Institutions, Society & the Public Good at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Paul Erickson

Erickson’s five-year appointment, approved Sept. 19 by the Board of Regents, is effective Jan. 1, 2020. He will succeed J. Kevin Graffagnino, who will step down as the Randolph G. Adams Director of the Clements Library at the end of 2019.

Provost Martin Philbert said Erickson “has a keen appreciation for how specialized libraries can contribute to scholarship and teaching in the 21st century. With scholarly expertise in American culture and a strong interest in connecting historical materials to contemporary questions in the humanities, he is the right person to lead the Clements Library as it approaches its 100th anniversary.”

From 1993 to 2007, Erickson worked for the Program in International Peace and Security as a program assistant; for Columbia University Press as an editor for the Gutenberg-E Project; and for Downey Kates Associates in New York as a staff consultant in organizational design and development, and human resources management.

From 2001-13 he also worked as an editor for the Consortium of Defense Academies and Security Studies Institutes headquartered in Germany.

“I am humbled and honored to be named as the fifth director of the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan. The combination of a world-class collection of early Americana with the scholarly community of a world-class public university provides endless possibilities for research, scholarship and outreach,” Erickson said.

“I look forward to working with colleagues at the Clements Library to continuing the work of collection and stewardship that Kevin Graffagnino and his predecessors have established, and to working with students and faculty at Michigan to find new ways to incorporate the library’s holdings into the university’s intellectual life.”

In 2007, Erickson joined the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, as the director of academic programs. In that role, he served as the principal academic officer for this major independent research library that focuses on American history, literature and culture from 1640 to 1877.

He was responsible for all programs directed at academic audiences, including research fellowships, honors seminars for students from nearby colleges, conferences and symposia, and outreach to the scholarly community around the country.  He also was responsible for raising funds from foundations, government agencies, and individuals to support these programs.

In 2016, he joined the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as the program director for Arts, Humanities, and American Institutions.

At the AAAS, his responsibilities included raising funds and launching a national commission on the role of the arts in American life as well as a major research project on the practice of democratic citizenship. He engaged in planning a portfolio of programs to lead up to the organization’s 250th anniversary in 2030.

Erickson’s publications have included articles on the role of digital humanities in the future of the field and the business of books in 19th century America.  He has given invited lectures and organized conferences on topics related to American culture in the 18th and 19th centuries.

He is currently a member of the board of directors for the National Humanities Alliance, the advisory committee for C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, and the working committee for the Early American Matters Caucus of the American Studies Association.  He is a member of the nominations committee for the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic.

Erickson received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with general and special honors from the University of Chicago, and Master of Arts and Ph.D. degrees in American studies from the University of Texas at Austin.  He also was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

The Clements Library houses original resources for the study of American history and culture from the 15th through the 19th centuries. Its mission is to collect and preserve primary source materials, to make them available for research and to create an environment that supports and encourages scholarly investigation of our nation’s past.

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