Fellow: Kathleen Williams

Kathleen Williams, executive director of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the grant making affiliate of the National Archives, will be inducted as a Fellow of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) during a ceremony at the SAA Annual Meeting in Cleveland, August 16–22. The distinction of Fellow is the highest honor bestowed on individuals by SAA and is awarded for outstanding contributions to the archives profession.

Williams began her career as the assistant archivist at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, in 1982. She then moved on to become the first archivist of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts in 1984. While there she developed an archival and records management program that has served as a model for museums nationwide. In 1994 Williams moved on to become supervisory assistant archivist at the Smithsonian Institution Archives and subsequently advanced to become the supervisory associate archivist (1997) and archives division director (2002), leading archival activities at the largest such repository at the Smithsonian. In 2004, she joined the NHPRC as deputy executive director and became executive director in 2008. As executive director, Williams led the effort to create Founders Online (founders.archives.gov), an online public resource that contains more than 170,000 digitized and transcribed historical documents of six founding fathers of the United States. She successfully negotiated with the White House and Congress for additional funding to support this effort. Williams has worked tirelessly to reinvigorate and reimagine NHPRC's national grants program, including a new funding category to encourage citizen engagement in historical records projects at local, state, and regional archives. Other new NHPRC initiatives she has led go to support state archives electronic records management, online digital publishing of historical records, and professional leadership programs.

In addition to these professional positions, Williams has been active in the Society of Southwest Archivists, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference, and SAA. In SAA, she has been a member and chair of the Museum Archives Section; a member of the Task Force on Sections and Roundtables, the Membership Committee, a Program Committee, and a Host Committee; and the first chair of the Emerging Leader Award Committee.

Williams’s supporters noted that she “became well-known for her common-sense, no-nonsense, practical, effective grasp of the challenges of developing museum archives in an underfunded and hostile environment” and that she is a “thoughtful leader . . . [with a] keen perception of where the field is, where it could be going, and what kinds of strategies and partnerships would be especially crucial in reaching optimum outcomes.”

Williams is one of three new Fellows named in 2015. There are currently 184 Fellows of the Society of American Archivists.