The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

In memoriam: Nadia Seiler

“It’s satisfying to put the pieces of a puzzle together when we can, but it’s just as exciting to think of the undiscovered treasures that might be hiding in this collection.”—Nadia Seiler

Nadia Seiler (1978-2014)
Nadia Seiler (1978-2014)

To be a great cataloger is to love a puzzle, to obsess over details, and to delight in sharing discoveries. Nadia Seiler was one such cataloger, someone whose work contributed to the scholarly record and whose joy in revealing collection materials helped shape what we do. In her seven years at the Folger, Nadia added 2,614 records to Hamnet, edited thousands more, and was responsible for describing 4,208 individual manuscripts in Folger finding aids. She identified a previously unattributed autograph poem from noted writer Hannah More to theater impresario David Garrick (Y.d.1089 (18)). Her familiarity with, and interest in, Shakespeare and the Folger’s collection made her the perfect assistant to Folger Director Michael Witmore and artist Rosamund Purcell as they prepared their 2012 exhibit, “Very Like a Whale,” which sought to forge connections between Shakespeare’s words and the spiraling associations they provoke across the Folger collection and into the domains of natural history and photography.

Describing Nadia’s accomplishments this way doesn’t do full justice to her work as a cataloger. She was a quick learner, someone who mastered the art of paleography and who rose to the challenge of describing complex manuscripts in just a few sentences. She and Heather Wolfe had a standing monthly appointment for a “manuscript cataloging party” where they would discuss the most vexing of her cataloging challenges—a party that Heather describes as “a two-person masterclass on manuscript interpretation.” Some sense of Nadia’s skills with finding paths into complicated manuscripts can be seen in her Collation posts on 17th-century recipes for treating breast cancer and on hidden collections.

Above all, she was a joyful cataloger, someone who loved to share her work with colleagues, calling them over to her desk to see what she was working on or laughing with them in the tea room about what she’d found. Her Facebook feed was full of tidbits from her work, sharing sometimes cryptic status updates—“Peg legs–17th century, depicted“—and tantalizing photos:

"This receipt book is making me hungry"
“This receipt book is making me hungry” (V.a.261). — posted on January 28, 2013
"World's largest wine cask aka Today's cataloging aka I want to go to there"
“World’s largest wine cask aka Today’s cataloging aka I want to go to there” (ART 267- 889). — posted on April 22, 2014
"So, uh...whatcha planning on doing with these ingredients" (V.a.626)
“So, uh…whatcha planning on doing with these ingredients” (V.a.626). — posted on May 29, 2014

Researchers aren’t always lucky enough to meet the catalogers who create the resources so necessary to scholarship. Those of us who worked with Nadia know how special of a presence she was. We are all lucky to have had Nadia in our lives.

Nadia with Viola, Lynn Redgrave's dog, while packing up her archives in 2010
Nadia with Viola, Lynn Redgrave’s dog, while packing up the Lynn Redgrave papers and archive in 2012


  • My most sincere condolences to Nadia’s families at home and at the Folger. Your loss is too deep for words to describe. Remember her joy in life and in her work.

  • So very sorry to hear of the death of such a brilliant young colleague. The loss of Nadia diminishes our profession. You have all of my sympathy. The members of the Society of American Archivists stand with you as you mourn your loss of this gifted young professional.

  • I will miss Nadia very much. What a tremendous loss. Nadia’s family and the Folger community are in my thoughts.

  • Nadia was one of the most joyous people I knew.

    Seeing Nadia at the Folger last April was a joyful reunion, and we were so glad our daughter Sarah had an opportunity to meet her.

    Nadia was so kind and smart and warm-hearted. She made that visit to the Folger utterly memorable.

    I cannot find the words to express the depth of my grief.

  • I worked very closely with Nadia when I interned at the Folger and worked on the Booth letters. She was brilliant and friendly and taught me so much. It was a privilege to work with her and her loss will be felt by many for a long time. Long-distance hugs to both her family and the Folger family.

  • Thank you for these lovely words. May good memories and the support of friends, family and the archival community bring you peace.

  • I’m so sorry to hear about this tragedy. During my short time there as an intern, Nadia was so welcoming and always happy to explain things to me and help me out. My thoughts are with her family and friends.

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