UofL Archivist Tom Owen with Constance Alexander, president of the Kentucky Historical Society Governing Board.
UofL Archivist Tom Owen with Constance Alexander, president of the Kentucky Historical Society Governing Board.

University of Louisville Libraries Archivist and Historian Tom Owen was awarded the Distinguished Service Award, the top honor of the Kentucky Historical Society (KHS), at its annual awards ceremony last week.

A former Louisville Metro Councilman and caretaker of Louisville lore and history, Owen was cited for his “service to history, to UofL and to Louisville; his work as an archivist, making UofL’s records and archival collections available to researchers; and his walking tours—both the physical tours and their recordings. He made the city his classroom.” He was also praised as a “scholar who popularized history and … elevated history’s importance for many people.”

Owen is known for his walking tours, which capture the color and history of a particular corner of the city as part of a series on local public television, titled Tom Owen’s Louisville. Recently, he also offered weekly tours of UofL’s Belknap campus, detailing the background and stories of various buildings and areas.  His research in this area led to the recent publication of a book in collaboration with Archives colleague Sherri Pawson, University of Louisville Belknap Campus.

Owen is also well-known as a politician locally, having served as a Louisville Metro Council member from 2003 until his retirement in 2016, and prior to that, on the old Board of Alderman from 1990 to 1998. He has been an archivist with UofL for 42 years.

The Distinguished Service Award is the highest honor awarded by the Kentucky Historical Society. DSA winners have “provided great services to Kentucky and the field of history in their professional or personal lives.”

Intern Award

Additionally, Hannah O’Daniel, a master’s student at the University of Louisville, received the first Kentucky Public History Intern Award for her exemplary work ethic and diligent attention to the research process. 

O’Daniel had internships at the Filson Historical Society, where she processed archival material to make it available to researchers, and at the Kentucky Historical Society.

At KHS she was involved with several projects:

  • She worked with the Kentucky Oral History Commission and helped write the KHS manual for using a system that makes oral histories more widely accessible and searchable.
  • She was among the first graduate research assistants who worked with the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Edition (CWGK). CWGK is making thousands of documents available to researchers for the first time. As a GRA, Hannah transcribed documents and researched people mentioned within them to help build the comprehensive database behind CWGK.
  • At the CWGK summer symposium this year, Hannah acted as a “reporter,” tweeting it so people who could not attend could learn from the experts gathered there.

The ceremony was held at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in Frankfort.