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Peterson, Trudy Huskamp (1945–) - Archivist

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Trudy Huskamp Peterson was born on January 25, 1945, in Estherville, Iowa, of German ancestry. Her father was a farmer, her mother a full-time homemaker. As a child Trudy attended a small town school, then entered a junior and senior high school that incorporated three small towns. Her graduating class had thirty-two students. As an only child growing up on a farm, she was influenced by farm life and by the stories her grandmother told her about pioneer life, including tales of breaking the sod, building the barn, and watching the railroad being built.

Peterson attended Iowa State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in English and history in 1967. She planned to pursue law but, as she puts it, “after a semester of law school I discovered I was a humanist, that I wanted to know why and to make judgments about the answer to ‘why.’” She then attended the University of Iowa, earning a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in U.S. history, in 1972 and 1975.

Peterson has worked as an archivist since 1968. From 1968 to 1971 she worked at the National Archives, as historian and archivist at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, editor of the John F. Kennedy Oral History Project, and research assistant at the Office of Presidential Libraries. She was back at the National Archives from 1974 to 1993, as archivist in the Office of Presidential Libraries, team leader for the FBI Records Appraisal Task Force, chief of the Legislative and Natural Resources Branch, chief of the Machine-Readable Records Branch, archives specialist, deputy assistant archivist, and acting assistant archivist. As acting assistant archivist for eight years, she was responsible for 600 employees in more than a dozen facilities nationwide with an annual budget of $25 to $30 million.

In 1993 Peterson was appointed acting archivist and deputy archivist of the United States. She was responsible for a budget of nearly $250 million and 3,000 employees in facilities nationwide. In this position, as in her position as acting archivist, she testified before Congress, made policy-setting public speeches, dealt with major media, and worked with a variety of boards. As acting archivist she also initiated the development of a nationwide computer network for the National Archives and served as a forceful advocate of international standards for the description of materials held in archives. Peterson also served, during that time, as commissioner of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on Missing in Action/Prisoners of War.

Trudy Huskamp Peterson retired from the U.S. National Archives in 1995 and accepted a position as the first executive director of the Open Society Archives at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. Her previous international work includes consulting with the Centro Estudios de la Realidad Puertorriquena, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the International Council on Archives, and the United Nations.

An accomplished writer as well as archivist, Peterson is the author, co-author, or editor of four books and the author of nearly twenty scholarly articles. Her first book, Agricultural Exports, Farm Income, and the Eisenhower Administration , was a revision of the dissertation Peterson completed with Ellis Hawley. Peterson retained an interest in agricultural history throughout her career at the National Archives, publishing historical studies of agriculture and serving on the editorial advisory board of Agricultural History and as president of the Agricultural History Society.

Peterson has been the recipient of many honors and awards, the most recent of which was the 1995 Order of Arts and Letters from the Republic of France. She also received the Hancher-Finkbine Medallion from the University of Iowa and the University of Iowa Distinguished Alumni Award, both in 1995. In 1994 she received the Federal 100 Award; in 1982 she received the Archivist’s Special Citation; and she won Commendable and Outstanding Service awards from the National Archives in 1979, 1981, 1985, and 1986. Her professional service, far too extensive to list here, includes holding the presidency of the International Conference of the Round Table on Archives, vice presidency of the International Council on Archives, and presidency of the Society of American Archivists. Peterson was also co-chair of the East-West Symposium on Access and delegate to the International Council on Archives consultation on privacy.

Trudy Huskamp Peterson is married to Gary M. Peterson. She makes almost all of her clothes, cooks, plays the piano, and enjoys opera, theater, and reading. She also travels both for business and pleasure.

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