In Memoriam: Judith Ann Schiff, 1937-2022

Judith Schiff, the chief research archivist at Yale University Library, died on July 11. She was 84 years old and was one of the longest serving members of the Yale staff with a career spanning more than 60 years.

A native of New York City, Schiff was a graduate of Barnard College, where she majored in history. After graduation, she took a job as an editorial assistant at Yale’s Cowles Foundation for Economic Research. About six months later, she accepted a position with the library’s manuscripts and archives department helping to catalog the papers of New Haven families.

Her first major project involved working on the papers of Mabel Loomis Todd, the editor of Emily Dickinson’s poems, which Schiff had played a pivotal role in the library acquiring. Perhaps her largest and most complex archival project involved the archives of the aviator Charles A. Lindbergh and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The archive documents Lindbergh’s career as a pioneering pilot, developer of commercial aviation and rocketry, military officer, Pulitzer-winning author, and public figure. It includes correspondence, diaries, housekeeping records, photographs, and artifacts, including the necktie he wore on his historic 1927 transatlantic flight and a piece of fabric from his plane, The Spirit of St. Louis. Schiff worked closely with Lindbergh himself for more than a decade in assembling the archive.

While working for the library, Schiff earned a master’s degree in history from Columbia University and a master degree in library science from what is now Southern Connecticut State University. She took the role of chief research archivist at Yale in 1971.

In 1987, Schiff began penning the popular “Old Yale” column in the Yale Alumni Magazine. She published her last column a month before her death. Schiff founded or co-founded several local and professional historical organizations, including New England Archivists, the Jewish Historical Society of Greater New Haven, and the Ethnic Heritage Center of New Haven. Since 2012, she served as city historian for New Haven, Connecticut.

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