Land Office Director Wins Prestigious Texas Historical Records Award
Susan Dorsey Receives 2017 Texas Historical Records Advisory Board Archival Award of Excellence
Congratulations to Susan Dorsey, Director of Technical Services and Records Management Officer for the Texas General Land Office Archives and Records for receiving the 2017 Archival Award of Excellence from the Texas Historical Records Advisory Board (THRAB).
“The Texas Historical Records Advisory Board is very pleased to present Susan Smith Dorsey with its 2017 Archival Award of Excellence. The award was established to honor an archivist or individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the areas of management, preservation, access, advocacy, or use of historical records in Texas,” said Jelain Chubb, THRAB Coordinator and State Archivist. “Susan’s many contributions in digitizing, preserving, and championing access to the records of the General Land Office, among them the creation of the Adopt-A-Map and Adopt-A-Document programs, make her a worthy recipient of this honor.”
Susan was nominated for this award because of her many accomplishments and contributions to the archival community, and the state of Texas, throughout her distinguished career, which has spanned almost fifty years — since 1968.
“She has dedicated her entire adult life to preserving and providing access to the important records of the GLO, and for advocating for the Archives and Records of our agency, both internally and externally. Susan’s entire career embodies what the Archival Award of Excellence represents,” said Mark Lambert, Deputy Director of Archives and Records.
“Susan serves as a Texas ambassador to the world by revealing all the treasures housed in the GLO’s Archives vault,” said Commissioner George P. Bush. “Susan brought innovation to the Archives program, including digitization of the program, which is now one of the largest digital archives in the State. Susan helped start the GLO’s Adopt-A-Map and Adopt-A-Document programs. Over the years these two programs have morphed into the highly successful Save Texas History program, which raises necessary funds that help conserve state records so that future Texans have access to them.”
The Archival Award of Excellence is designed to recognize “significant achievements in preserving and improving access to historical records in any format” by a Texas archival institution or individual. According to THRAB, the award should go to “An archivist or individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the areas of management, preservation, access, advocacy, or use of historical records in Texas.” Additionally, “Nominees must have accomplished the work within the state of Texas during the five years preceding the year in which the award is presented.” Susan’s career has been dedicated to the above criteria for almost ten-times the minimum time requirement.
In the 1980s, a project to microfilm inactive Mineral Files at the GLO was established, utilizing labor from the prison system. When many male members of her staff refused to work with the prisoners who were tasked with this job, Susan volunteered to work one week each month for over a year in a Huntsville prison, traveling to the Wynne Unit to supervise. She was not willing to have her staff do a task that she was not also willing to do; this is an excellent example of her leadership.
In 1989, with the help of records management liaisons from various GLO divisions, Susan created the first records retention schedule for the GLO and the Texas Veterans Land Board (VLB) and continues in that role to this day. As part of that role, Susan speaks to all new GLO staff about the importance of records management and the importance of public access to government records. Susan also continues to assist daily with the agency’s open records requests.
In the early 1990s, hundreds of thousands of VLB Files were moved from an off-site location to a newly installed mobile shelving system in the basement of the Stephen F. Austin Building. Susan lead the team that converted tens-of-thousands of VLB Land Loan Files from an alphabetical system to an alphanumeric system, which resulted in a much easier method to file and locate records.
In the early 2000s, conservation funds were eliminated from the GLO Archives and Records budget by the Legislature. Susan, a creative administrator/manager, developed the Adopt-A-Map/Adopt-A-Document Program. This program allowed for donations to be accepted from private individuals and organizations to help conserve historical maps and documents for the agency. Later, this program transformed into the Save Texas History Program (STH), the umbrella under which preservation, education, digitization, and donations are administered. Susan continues to assist in coordinating this program, tracking items needing conservation, matching donors with maps or documents to conserve, and accepting funds for the program. As of today, over 1200 maps and sketches, and tens of thousands of small-format land records, have been conserved through these programs. Since 2008, the Save Texas History program has collected over $982,000 for document and map conservation, and Texas history education and access. This is money that is raised from duplication fees, donations, registration fees for special events, and other efforts, none of which comes from tax-payer dollars — all of this is because of Susan’s innovative approach to managing, and preserving, the GLO Archives and Records.
In 2000, under Susan’s direction, a digitization program was established at the GLO to scan 850 maps as a pilot project. The outcome was better than anticipated, and the project has continued over the last 17 years. The GLO now has over 3 million digital objects online, including more than 40,000 maps, sketches, and drawings, more than almost any other collecting institution in Texas, or roughly 10% of the archival holdings of our agency. On average, this system, which Susan developed prior to the existence of true industry standards for online viewing of digitized records, still adds approximately 10,000 items to the web every month. Susan has continually worked to improve the cataloging of these records, and how they are displayed online.
Susan is well known in Austin’s Archives and Records community, always willing to assist colleagues with crucial work or helpful advice, and her interest in archives and records goes well beyond her own employer, including serving as Secretary to the Friends of Libraries and Archives of Texas for several years. Susan’s volunteerism with various charities in Austin is also long and too numerous for more than just a brief mention here, but it includes: The State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC), Volunteer Chair; BBQ Committee, Travis County Rodeo (Rodeo Austin), Volunteer; Summer Fan Drive for Family Eldercare, Volunteer GLO Organizer; Coats for Kids, Jack Brown Cleaners, Volunteer GLO Organizer; Austin Aqua Festival (Aqua Fest), Volunteer and Chair/Commodore.
Use of Historical Records in Texas
Susan also took the lead to hire our first teacher liaison in 2008. This staffer is now well-known throughout the state to Texas history teachers. It was Susan’s vision that a GLO staffer could provide context to thousands of students and teachers using the GLO’s archival resources in the classroom, which would increase the use of our agency’s historical records. Additionally, Susan’s work has helped the business and professional community of Texas use GLO archival records in an economic, efficient, and convenient manner. No longer do attorneys, surveyors, or oil and gas professionals need to travel to Austin to access historical records. Because of Susan’s continued digitization work, hundreds of professional clients, who have an incalculable economic impact on our state, can use GLO historic records from their homes or office.
Susan Dorsey has dedicated her entire professional life to preserving and providing access to the records of the GLO and has brought this agency into the forefront of Texas archival programs. The GLO is one of the largest Archives in Texas, with a full-time staff of twenty-seven (management), and is known for its excellent customer service (management & access), its large amount of digital content online (access & preservation), its noted map and document adoption programs (preservation), as well as its active outreach efforts (advocacy & access), which encourages the use of primary resources in the classroom and in professional research (use of historical records in Texas). Susan has helped set a standard in the Texas archival community that is difficult to match. Susan has lived and worked towards the stated criteria of this award. There are few archival programs in Texas that can rival the GLO’s in collections and services, and there are few archivists who have accomplished what Susan Dorsey has accomplished over her career.
The nine-member Texas Historical Records Advisory Board (THRAB) was established in 1976 by Governor Dolph Briscoe to fulfill two objectives. First, it enables the state to receive monies from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) in support of archival and records management programs. Second, it serves as a catalyst for improving archival and records storage conditions within the state. In 1997, the board was officially established in state statute within the Texas Government Code, Chapter 441, Subchapter N.
Board members, appointed in accordance with federal and state requirements, have experience or interest in the collection, management, administration, and accessibility of historical records. They are dedicated to the preservation and use of Texas’ documentary heritage. The State Archivist (Director of the Archives and Information Services Division) serves as coordinator for the Board, and the Texas State Library and Archives Commission provides staff support.