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The University of Texas at Austin


Briscoe Center's Brenda Gunn Receives Top Honors

November 11, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas – Brenda Gunn, associate director for research and collections at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, has recently been honored with two professional awards.

Gunn received the 2009 Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Southwest Archivists, presented during the society's annual meeting in Shreveport, Louisiana. She was also named one of four winners of the 2009 "Movers & Shakers in Archives" awards given by ArchivesNext. The award recognizes "innovative and creative" individuals in the United States who are "making a difference in the archival profession."

"Brenda Gunn's record at the Briscoe Center has been one of excellence and accomplishment," said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. "She is a valued colleague and an influential member of the Center's administrative team. I'm delighted that her professional colleagues have recognized her outstanding work in support of her profession and the cause of history."

In presenting the award to Gunn, Kathlene Ferris of the Distinguished Service Award Committee said, "The Society of Southwest Archivists has recognized only two-dozen SSA members in its thirty-five years as individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the society. The Distinguished Service Award is the society's highest honor and expresses our appreciation to our exceptional members' efforts."

Throughout her career, Gunn has contributed in numerous ways to SSA's mission. One of her most significant efforts occurred during her tenure as the organization's president. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in New Orleans on August 29, 2005, Gunn directed the creation of the SSA Cares Web site. The Web site proved to be an important resource for archivists in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, whose repositories were most affected by the hurricane, to communicate with one another. SSA members embraced SSA Cares as the best way to immediately respond to those colleagues most in need and to donate supplies or services.

"As SSA president, I felt that my organization had a responsibility to our members to do something," Gunn later noted. "On September 1, I decided that we needed a place to 'check in' to determine the status of our colleagues and simply to express our concerns."

The award committee noted that Gunn's "cool-headed response in the face of natural disaster in our region enabled us to know that our colleagues were safe and gave those affected a vital link for expressing their needs and sharing their experiences."

In awarding Gunn the "Movers & Shakers" award, ArchivesNext noted, "The fundraising effort Brenda started was the start of what is now SAA's National Disaster Recovery Fund for Archives. Brenda has made a difference in the lives of archivists in her own region and beyond." The repsected blog ( is authored by Kate Thelmer, and explores how archives and related cultural institutions can take advantage of emerging technologies to broaden their audiences and increase their relevance in the coming century.

A highly regarded archival leader, Gunn has been with the Briscoe Center for more than ten years. Prior to assuming management of the center's research and collections division, she served as assistant director and head of archives and manuscripts.

Active in professional organizations throughout her career, she has participated in the Society of American Archivists since her graduate student days at The University of Texas at Austin, when she was a founding member of the SAA student chapter and served as its first treasurer. Gunn is a past chair for the Society of American Archivists' preservation section. In addition to serving as president of SSA, she has served the organization in numerous other positions, including a term on the executive board.

Gunn is a certified archivist, and holds an MLIS with an emphasis in Archival Enterprise from The University of Texas at Austin, an MA in English, and BA in History from The University of Texas at Tyler.

For more information, contact: Erin Purdy, assistant director of communications, The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, 512-495-4692.