Fellow: Rachel Vagts

Rachel Vagts, head of Special Collections and Archives at Berea College and director of the Archives Leadership Institute, will be inducted as a Fellow of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) during a ceremony at the Joint Annual Meeting of the Council of State Archivists, the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators, and SAA in Washington, DC, August 12–18. The distinction of Fellow is the highest honor bestowed on individuals by SAA and is awarded for outstanding contributions to the archives profession.

Vagts earned her master’s in library information studies with a specialization in archival administration from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Since then, she has worked in archival management, manuscript curatorship, and academic librarianship, serving with distinction at two liberal arts colleges. Vagts transformed the archives at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, into a dynamic repository, one especially known for collaborating with community partners. She continues to raise the visibility of the archives at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, providing access to collections through a new collection management system and amplifying access to a significant traditional music collection through a digital collections platform.

Vagts has also revitalized and expanded the Archives Leadership Institute (ALI), making it planned by archivists for archivists. She applied for and received two three-year grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to host ALI at Luther College and then at Berea College. In six years, ALI has trained 150 participants, giving them the knowledge and tools to transform the archival profession in practice and theory. One supporter noted that in these efforts Vagts not only managed her institutions’ collections but also “saw and pursued a broader vision for her services to the profession through her engagement with ALI to strengthen her colleagues and profession as a whole.”

Vagts’ leadership and willingness to mentor extends beyond ALI. She has served on both the Iowa and Kentucky State Historical Records Advisory Boards, chaired the SAA Membership Committee and College and University Archives Section, and was elected to the SAA Council. According to one SAA member, Vagts’ “continued encouragement and advice has been the foundation for all my continued Archon work and leadership. Vagts showed me that mentorship and management can go hand-in-hand.”