Diversity Award: Karen Underhill

Karen Underhill, head of Special Collections and Archives at Northern Arizona University’s Cline Library, is a 2013 recipient of the Diversity Award. The award recognizes an individual, group, or institution for outstanding contributions in advancing diversity within the archives profession, SAA, or the archival record.

For the past twenty years, Underhill has been committed to helping African American, Hispanic American, and Native American cultures of the Colorado Plateau capture, preserve, and make accessible their histories for future generations. Her tireless advocacy, exceptional abilities to acquire funding, and skillful project management have enriched the archival record with more than two hundred oral history interviews from a wide range of cultural perspectives.

Underhill’s leadership in drafting the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials contributed greatly to fostering discussion and increasing awareness on the topic. Underhill collaborated with a team of Native American and non–Native American archivists to draft the Protocols, which work to identify best practices for culturally responsive care and use of American Indian archival material held by non-tribal organizations.

One recommender noted that Underhill has advocated for diversity in the archival record “without wanting any fanfare or acknowledgement; she merely wants to instill empathy across the archival profession to ensure that all perspectives are heard and, more importantly, to make the world a better place.”