Distinguished Service Award: Orange County Regional History Center

Orange County Regional History Center is the 2020 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award given by the Society of American Archivists (SAA). The award recognizes an archives institution, education program, nonprofit organization, or government organization that has given outstanding service to its public and has made an exemplary contribution to the archives profession. 

In 2016 a shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida devastated the City, and its LGBTQ and Latinx communities in particular. Within days, Orange County Regional History Center mobilized to begin collecting materials from memorial sites, an initiative which became the foundation of its One Orlando Collection Initiative. This initiative has served as a springboard for many others, one of which is the expansion of their oral history program, where they actively work to decolonize this collection to better reflect the many different people and perspectives of central Florida. In the years since, the Center has served as a nexus of community, connection, and remembrance for those touched by the tragedy. The Center has used its experiences to build relationships and support systems with cultural heritage professionals across the country who have experienced their own mass tragedies, in places like Las Vegas, Parkland, and Dallas. They share their experiences widely through presentations and publications, and contributed to the SAA Tragedy Response Initiative Task Force that produced the vital resource, Documenting in Times of Crisis: A Resource Kit.

As one supporter wrote, “Orange County Regional History Center stepped up to the extremely difficult challenge created from a tragic event – documenting the aftermath of the Pulse shootings – leading the way to ensure that this event and the outpouring of emotion, love and support for the LGBTQ and Latino communities, and the city of Orlando, is not and will not ever be forgotten.”