Z is for Zachary
As USC’s institutional archivist, Claude Zachary fields torrents of requests from researchers and writers, university staffers, alumni, media and others.
But Zachary, who works in Special Collections for USC Libraries, remains pleasant. And calm. One reason might be that though he’s had the job for 15 years, he’s been meditating far longer than that.
During one typical week, a tiny sampling of queries in his teeming inbox included:
- a group of young filmmakers asking if a recording by the USC Thornton Symphony Orchestra of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty ballet was available
- a writer who needed vintage photos for a history of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering
- a staffer from USC Norris Cancer Hospital posing questions about the hospital buildings for a history project
- a student at KXSC radio asking for access to archived radio programs of the campus radio station from the late 1940s and early 1950s
- organizers of Troy Camp’s 40th anniversary tribute seeking ephemera and photographs from the organization’s past
- a researcher asking to use the California Social Welfare Archives, which is overseen by Zachary
- a University Communications editor asking for photographs from the 1932 and 1984 Olympics
“I enjoy doing the research and working with our patrons,” said Zachary with characteristic enthusiasm. “I get to learn new facts and new faces from USC’s rich history almost every day.”
He said he also enjoys helping attract and organize new collections, such as the archives from crusading lawyer Paul Morantz ’68, JD ’71, a Trojan journalism and law school alum known for his work in which he takes on cults and brainwashing.
“His garage is full of documents from work dealing with Synanon, the Center for Feeling Therapy and other cults, which are part of the sociology of Southern California,” Zachary said.
Among a raft of future projects, Zachary plans to put together a book of lesser-known USC images and devise a permanent storage solution for the university’s digital output.
Zachary’s habitat includes the East Library, an imposing but antiquated building east of the 110 Freeway that was closed to the public in 2005, and the three levels of stacks in Doheny Memorial Library dedicated to Special Collections. He works with 14 others in the department and receives a great deal of assistance from Susan Hikida, who has been with USC Libraries and University Archives for 25 years.
Zachary is a Los Angeles native who studied American film and literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and he earned a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Not surprisingly, he watches films, listens to podcasts and reads voraciously, particularly history and fiction. He and his wife, Ali, have a 7-year-old boxer, Berdoo, rescued a day before she was to be euthanized.