Columbia Association hires Lela J. Sewell-Williams as new manager of Columbia Archives

January 12, 2018

January 12, 2018 — Columbia Association (CA) is proud to welcome Lela J. Sewell-Williams as the new manager of Columbia Archives, the institution whose mission is collecting and preserving the history of Columbia.

“I’m looking forward to building on Columbia Archives’ legacy and expanding the program to be more accessible and engaging,” said Sewell-Williams. “We want the community to be as involved with Columbia Archives as those of us who work here.”

Sewell-Williams comes to Columbia Archives with a wealth of experience. She received her bachelor’s degree in American history and black studies from South Carolina State University and has a master’s degree in archives, museums and historical editing from Duquesne University. Sewell-Williams has worked for two decades as an archivist. She was the first archivist at South Carolina State University; a manuscripts librarian at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library; and the initiator and project archivist for The Schomburg Center’s Hip-Hop Archive Project.

While serving as the assistant curator of Manuscripts at Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Sewell-Williams developed an initiative with Howard University to collect the records of regional black dance companies. She also founded Preserve Your Story (an archival consulting firm) and is the archivist for the International Association of Blacks in Dance. Sewell-Williams is a Laurel resident, a wife, and the mother of two children.

Sewell-Williams will build on the work of her predecessor, Barbara Kellner, the longtime director who recently retired after more than three decades at its helm.

“Lela comes with a great background, an outgoing personality and an archivist’s curiosity to learn as much as she can about Columbia and the collection,” Kellner said. “I feel really confident that she and the Columbia Archives staff are going to make the archives an even greater and more important resource to the community than it has been.”

Columbia Archives is located in CA Headquarters at 6310 Hillside Court, off Stevens Forest Road. It is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. The collection covers the planning and development of Columbia as well as the extensive James Rouse Collection, which chronicles Rouse’s long career that influenced urban and suburban development in the United States and around the world. It is rich with correspondence, speeches, photographs and memorabilia. The public is welcome to visit and spend time researching to get a deeper understanding of the history of Columbia. Appointments are encouraged. For more information, call 410-715-3103 or visit

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