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The Whole Spiel

Recent Acquisition: The Sivowitch Collection 

by Jonathan Edelman, Collections Curator
May 2, 2024

Elliot Norman Sivowitch (1932-2012) grew up in New York, where his father was a cantor and his mother worked at the New York City Housing Authority. Sivowitch grew his interest in music and radio while at college, receiving his first novice class radio license in 1952. He first came to Washington, DC, in 1958 as a Summer Aide to the curator of the Electricity Collection at the Smithsonian’s United States National Museum. (The Electricity Collection is now with the Natural History Museum. The building is now the Arts and Industries Building.) Over the next few years, Sivowitch taught at Hillcrest Heights Elementary in the Prince George’s County Public Schools, worked at the National Archives, and was a science teacher at Georgetown Day School.

In June 1961, an opportunity arose with the Electricity Collection, and he returned to the Smithsonian, this time for 39 years. Sivowitch joined the Jewish Community Center in 1961 and in 1966, received a Temple Fellowship at Washington Hebrew Congregation, serving as both vice president and president over the years.

In his will, Sivowitch left his possessions to his colleagues at the Smithsonian, Harold Wallace and Barney Finn. The archivists spent years carefully organizing the materials. They recently reached out and donated the Sivowitch Collection to the Museum. The collection is made up of 10 boxes of papers, three boxes of photographs, and 14 objects, all available to view in whole or in part on our collection’s website.

Elliot Sivowitch playing the violin in his apartment on Mass. Ave., NW, 1968.

In the first three months of 2024, the Museum has brought in 24 new archival collections. Do you have objects, photographs, or papers from your DC-area family that you might like to donate? Visit our website or email [email protected] to learn more.