The following staff members have specialized knowledge in their fields. Click on the links to access their curricula vitae.
Martha Briggs is Lloyd Lewis Curator of Modern Manuscripts at the Newberry. More than 800 manuscript and archival collections dating from around 1700 to the present fall under her jurisdiction. The collections include three railroad corporate archives, the Midwest Manuscript Collection, the Midwest Dance Collection, the Ayer Modern Manuscript Collection, and the Newberry Library’s own institutional archives. She is a graduate of Brown University, and holds master’s degrees in history and library science from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Columbia University
Karen Christianson is Director of Public Engagement. She holds a PhD in history from the University of Iowa, and she has taught at DePaul University and Chicago State University. Her research interests include medieval monasticism, gender, and power; manuscript studies; and the digital humanities. She also has a background in journalism and communications.
In his dual role as Director of Reader Services and Curator of Americana, Will Hansen manages the Department of Reader Services, which serves researchers at the reference desks, in the reading rooms, and outside the Newberry’s walls via email and other communications, while also managing the library’s collections in the 10-floor book stack building; as Curator of Americana he collects current monographs, antiquarian books, and manuscript Americana for the Newberry. He also facilitates and conducts bibliographic instruction, tours and orientations for visiting groups, classes, and fellows. Mr. Hansen began his career in libraries at the Newberry in 2003 as a Circulation Assistant and then, in 2004, as the library’s Reference Assistant. He holds a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. From 2007 to May 2014 he was Assistant Curator of Collections at Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, and returned to the Newberry in June 2014.
D. Bradford Hunt is the Vice President for Research and Academic Programs at the Newberry. He is the co-author, with Jon B. DeVries, of Planning Chicago (American Planning Association Planners Press, 2013), which examines urban planning initiatives in Chicago since the 1950s. His history of the Chicago Housing Authority, entitled Blueprint for Disaster: The Unraveling of Chicago Public Housing (University of Chicago Press, 2009), won the Lewis Mumford Prize from the Society of American City and Regional Planning History (SACRPH) for the best book in North American Planning History in 2008-09. He will serve as president of SACRPH in 2018-19. Prior to the Newberry, he was a vice provost and dean at Roosevelt University, where he was also professor of social science and history. He received his PhD in history from the University of California, Berkeley, and his BA from Williams College.
Lia Markey (PhD, University of Chicago) is the Director of the Center for Renaissance Studies. She has taught at the University of Pennsylvania and at Princeton University and held post-doctoral fellowships at the Folger Library, the Warburg Institute, Harvard’s Villa I Tatti, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her research explores cross-cultural exchange between Italy and the Americas in the sixteenth century, collecting history, and early modern prints and drawings. Her book Imagining the Americas in Medici Florence has recently been published with Penn State University Press.
Liesl Olson is Director of Chicago Studies at the Newberry. Her research interests include twentieth-century literature, modernism, critical theory, feminism, and the visual arts. She is the author of Chicago Renaissance: The Midwest and Modernism (Yale U P, 2017), a history of the literary and cultural centrality of Chicago in the first half of the twentieth century; and Modernism and the Ordinary (Oxford U P, 2009), which examines a broad range of twentieth-century works that represent the habitual and unselfconscious actions of everyday life. From 2005-2009 Olson taught at the University of Chicago as a Harper-Schmidt Fellow in the Humanities Division. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry, and the American Council of Learned Societies. Olson completed her doctorate in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University, and her BA from Stanford University.
Matt Rutherford, MLIS, is Curator of Genealogy and Local History at the Newberry. In addition to managing the Newberry’s renowned genealogy collection, Matt has also answered thousands of questions on a wide range of genealogy topics. He has spoken at the Illinois State Genealogical Society and the Conference on Illinois History, as well as several local genealogy societies, including the North Suburban Genealogical Society, the Genealogical Forum of Elmhurst, and the Illinois St. Andrew Society. In addition, Matt teaches seminars on a variety of genealogy topics, including beginning genealogy, researching at the Newberry, researching pre-fire Chicago, adoption searches, non-population census schedules, the history of the federal census, and the Social Security Death Index. He is the co-author of A Bibliography of African American History at the Newberry Library (2005)
Alice Schreyer (PhD, Emory University; MLIS, Columbia University) is Roger and Julie Baskes Vice President for Collections and Library Services at the Newberry. She was previously Associate University Librarian for Area Studies and Special Collections at the University of Chicago Library, where she was director of the Special Collections Research Center from 1991 through 2011. As a member of the ARL Task Force on Special Collections, she wrote “Education and Training for Careers in Special Collections Librarianship: A White Paper” (2004). Her talk, “Everything Old Is New Again: Transformation in Special Collections,” presented at the 2015 colloquium on “Forging the Future of Special Collections,” was published in a collection with the same name (Chicago: ALA Neal Schuman, 2016). Schreyer served on the Rare Book School Board of Directors from 2004 to 2016 and was chair from January 2014 through January 2016.
David Spadafora, a historian of European thought, became President and Librarian of the Newberry in October 2005. A Professor of History at Lake Forest College since 1990, he served as President of the College from 1993 to 2001 and Dean of the Faculty from 1990 to 1993. Mr. Spadafora’s scholarship focuses on English, Scottish, and French thought from the late seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century. His book on British Enlightenment-era historical optimism, The Idea of Progress in Eighteenth-Century Britain, was named a Choice Outstanding Book in 1991. He is at work on a book-length project about the relationship between religion and secularism in Britain during the eighteenth century. Mr. Spadafora is a graduate of Williams College and earned his PhD from Yale University, where he was a member of the History Department and an administrator during the 1980s.
Jennifer Thom is the Director of Digital Initiatives and Services. She focuses on library special collections and digital-project management. Thom arrived at the Newberry in 2003, managing the Retrospective Conversion Project (to put information from more than 650,000 catalog cards online) and several other large-scale cataloging projects including the Roger S. Baskes Collection; the McCormick Theological Seminary Collection; the Sister Ann Ida Gannon Initiative; and the French pamphlet project, which was funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources. Before coming to the Newberry, Thom was the Development Administrator and later the Curator of Photography/Digital Projects Manager at the Western History/Genealogy Department at the Denver Public Library. Prior to moving to Denver, she was the Director of the Albert J. Zak Memorial Library in Hamtramck, Michigan. Thom holds a master’s degree in library sciences and a bachelor’s degree in Medieval studies from the University of Michigan.