Folger Shakespeare Library Staff Mourns Death of Cataloger
Next to the guest log at the Folger Shakespeare Library on Monday sat a manilla folder containing a sympathy card for the family of an employee killed on Aug. 15 in a tragic traffic crash.
Nadia Sophie Seiler, a 36-year-old Wheaton, Md., resident who worked as a rare materials cataloger at the library just east of the Capitol, died at a local hospital from injuries sustained when her gray Honda scooter collided with a flatbed truck on Connecticut Avenue Northwest. The crash took place at approximately 8:24 a.m. on Aug. 15, as Seiler was on her way to a Society of American Archivists convention at a nearby hotel.
In the basement break room where employees meet each morning to share coffee and small talk, supervisor Erin Blake shared her memories of Seiler. The woman worked as a cataloger at the library — home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare material — reading Renaissance-era handwritten manuscripts for close to seven years.
“Nadia was fascinated by the puzzle of deciphering it, and she picked it up really quickly,” Blake said. She “would find interesting bits of letters and receipt books to read out loud to us. We’d hear her snicker at her desk then people would come over and say, ‘What is it? What did you find?'”
Co-workers draped Seiler’s desk in a blanket and set up a framed photo collage, showing her posing among cherry blossoms and flashing a big smile. Seiler sports floppy white ears as part of a “dust bunny” costume in one photo, snapped during a staff Halloween party. In another, Seiler and her fiancé clutch ice cream cones. Blake said the couple had just picked up a marriage license for the wedding they had planned for Aug. 30.
Seiler had a great eye for the rare findings that would fascinate scholars, Blake said. For instance, she loved sharing ancient recipes uncovered in culinary and medicinal texts. In a post on the library’s blog , Seiler gave readers a window into 17th century breast cancer treatments involving unusual ingredients.
“As unappealing as woodlouse beer and goose dung or pig fat ointments might seem to a modern audience, these were not uncommon ingredients and provided women of the period with an alternative to surgery, which was an aggressive and painful form of treatment,” Seiler wrote.
Blake said Seiler was a “natural cataloger,” with a background in art history and English. She was a graduate of Carleton College in Minnesota, and held a master’s degree in archives and records management from the University of Michigan, according to online records.
“It’s a small organization here and we’re all very close,” Blake said, explaining the morning coffee ritual that brought all the employees together in the break room. “It really is like family.”
On Monday, they planned a slide show tribute to Seiler. The library has not yet released a formal statement on her death, out of respect for her family. Plans for a memorial and funeral service have not been announced.
Detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department are still investigating the accident.