F. Gerald Ham and Elsie Ham Scholarship: Sarah Shepherd

Sarah Shepherd, who is pursuing dual master’s degrees in archives management and history at Simmons University in Boston, is the 2022 recipient of the F. Gerald Ham and Elsie Ham Scholarship given by the Society of American Archivists (SAA). The $10,000 scholarship supports the graduate archival education of a student who is studying at a United States university program. Scholarship selection criteria include the applicant’s past performance in their graduate program in archival studies as well as faculty members’ assessment of the student’s prospects for contributing to the archives profession.

In her application essay, “Building Partnerships and Reckoning with Historic Oppression: The Radical Potential of a Small Rural Archives,” Shepherd discusses her time working at the Greenbrier Historical Society in Lewisburg, West Virginia. The historical society manages the North House Museum, as well as a small archives, but both museum and archives privileged the history of wealthy white men. During Shepherd’s tenure, she made the archives more searchable and vastly increased the number of Black voices in the different collections, telling a more complex story about the area’s history. She built relationships with local Black communities, engaging them in building collections, programs, and exhibitions, and making space for them to tell their stories. In her essay, she also examines her white privilege and initial reluctance to talk about race and her culpability in racial oppression. She argues that white archivists must find the strength to address and take responsibility for all our history.

In addition to her work with the Greenbrier Historical Society, Shepherd’s faculty nominator noted that she is an outstanding student. Her goal is to become a reference archivist and continue to utilize her leadership to build trust and partnerships with historically underserved populations by “pursuing change one interaction at a time.”

This scholarship was created in 1998 by SAA Fellow, past president, and longtime member F. Gerald Ham and his wife Elsie.