Fellow: Kathryn M. Neal

Kathryn M. Neal, associate university archivist for The Bancroft Library at University of California (UC), Berkeley, will be inducted as a Fellow of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) during a ceremony at the SAA Annual Meeting. The distinction of Fellow is the highest honor bestowed on individuals by SAA and is awarded for outstanding contributions to the archives profession.

An advocate for diversity and inclusion in archival work, Neal has held archival positions primarily at universities. She received BA from Carleton College, a master of information and library studies from the University of Michigan, and an MA in journalism from the University of Minnesota. In 1995, Neal became the assistant archivist at the University of Iowa. There, she directed the African American Women in Iowa Project in the Iowa Women’s Archives, collecting the personal papers and organizational records of African American women with connections to Iowa. She then became the curator for the Givens Collection of African American Literature, based in Special Collections and Rare Books at the University of Minnesota, where she once more ensured a richer, more inclusive historical record by collecting and publicizing rare materials related to African American literary culture. Neal then moved to California for a position at San Diego State University. In 2005, she assumed her current role at UC Berkeley, where she has collected institutional records and faculty papers, assisted a broad spectrum of researchers, and co-curated several educational exhibitions.

In 1996, Neal wrote one of the first contemporary articles on diversity in archives, ”The Importance of Being Diverse: The Archival Profession and Minority Recruitment,” for the journal Archival Issues. The essay earned her the New Authors Award from the Midwest Archives Conference in 1999. Her scholarship not only elevates diversity but also demonstrates how to do the work of expanding documentation of underrepresented groups. She continued her advocacy for diverse representation when she co-edited with Mary Caldera the influential book Through the Looking Glass: A Reader on Diversity and Inclusion (SAA, 2014). The book was the 2017–2018 selection for SAA’s One Book, One Profession reading initiative and remains critical to conversations on diversifying the historical record, bringing archives to diverse communities, and supporting potential users. As one critic notes, “This seminal publication is still vitally important, and its impact will be seen long into the future.”

The first recipient of the Harold T. Pinkett Student Award in 1994, Neal has taken on responsibilities in a variety of component groups and committees within SAA, including chairing the Appointments Committee, Archivists and Archives of Color Section, Manuscript Repositories Section, Nominating and Brenda S. Banks Travel Award Committees; editing the Archivists and Archives of Color Section newsletter; and serving on Annual Meeting Program Committees. She served on the SAA Council from 2003 to 2006 and on the Editorial Board for American Archivist. Of their time together on the Council, one supporter writes, “Her contributions to the archival profession both inside and outside of SAA are extremely powerful, profound, and impact the Society to the current day.” Another recommender adds, “She not only is an expert in archival theory and practice but is also deeply aware of the societal and professional trends that impact our work.” Her co-editor Mary Caldera writes of working with Neal on Through the Looking Glass, “Neal was a wonderful collaborator. She worked to understand the vision for the publication and guide authors to better articulate their arguments.”

Neal is one of six new Fellows named in 2022. There are currently 195 Fellows of the Society of American Archivists.