NCPH Robert Kelley Memorial Award

This $500 award honors distinguished achievements by individuals, institutions, or nonprofit or corporate entities for making history relevant to individual lives of ordinary people outside of academia.

2016 Winner

Donald A. Ritchie

The 2016 Robert Kelley Memorial Award winner is Donald A. Ritchie, who over his forty-year career in the Senate Historical Office exemplified the ideals of public history described in 1978 by Robert Kelley in the first issue of The Public Historian.

As Ritchie’s nominator explained, “His comprehensive knowledge of American history, his understanding of congressional practice, and his profound insight into the Senate and its unique institutional development not only enhanced the work of the Historical Office but also informed countless scholars who sought his guidance and hundreds of senators who respected his expertise. Don Ritchie ‘often reminds us of our roots,’ commented Senator Patrick Leahy at the time of Don’s retirement, ‘and how the Senate, as a continuing body, has evolved, decade to decade, generation to generation.’ Don Ritchie ‘is the only one we turn to when we want to learn more about where the Senate has been so we can chart a better course for where it is going,’ chimed in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. ‘His depth of knowledge really is something to behold.’”

Beyond the halls of the Senate, millions of Americans have been able to benefit from Ritchie’s expertise through his appearances on C-SPAN, the interpretive text he developed for the exhibition hall of the Capitol Visitor Center, and the numerous oral histories he conducted for the Senate Oral History Project. His book Doing Oral History established best practices for this essential field of public history that have been widely adopted both in the United States and abroad—the book has recently been translated into Chinese. In addition, throughout his career, he worked diligently to develop an archival process that facilitated public access to Senate records.

Ritchie has a long history of service to the professional organizations that promote public history, including the National Council on Public History, the Society for History in the Federal Government, the Oral History Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the American Historical Association.

The NCPH has been enriched by the contributions of Donald A. Ritchie, and is honored to present him with the 2016 Robert Kelley Memorial Award.

2017 Submission Guidelines

This award seeks to perpetuate the legacy and memory of a founder of the public history movement, Dr. Robert Kelley. It honors distinguished and outstanding achievements by individuals, institutions, non-profit or corporate entities for having made significant inroads in making history relevant to individual lives of ordinary people outside of academia.

The Kelley Award consists of a $500 cash award and framed certificate that will be presented at the annual meeting of NCPH.  The award recipient will receive a complimentary registration for the awards breakfast at the 2017 NCPH annual meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, April 19-22.

The 2017 Award Cycle is complete. 2018 Awards information will be posted in August 2017.


Individuals or organizational entities may be considered for the award.

Award Criteria


Individuals may be nominated based on their achievements and specific contributions to the public history movement, usually over a sustained period of time.

Evidence of scholarly excellence must be combined with two or more of the following:

  1. Sustained service to NCPH in an appointed and/or elected capacity
  2. Demonstrated innovation in teaching and/or development of institutional training programs
  3. Creativity as evidenced through the development of teaching and/or educational outreach materials
  4. A singular achievement (i.e. a motion picture, major exhibit, or a well-recognized book) that significantly contributes to the general public’s understanding and appreciation of history
  5. A distinguished record of creating, administering, or managing an undergraduate or graduate public history program at an institution of learning
Organizational Entities

Institutions, colleges and university departments of history, non-profit, corporate or other organizational entities may be nominated based on the institution’s achievements and specific contributions in advancing the cause of public history, usually over a sustained period of time.

Evidence of program excellence must be combined with two or more of the following in evaluating the contribution of each nominated institution:

  1. Innovative excellence in the training of public historians (either at the undergraduate or graduate level) as evidenced by a quality public history curriculum and/or success in placement and accomplishments of graduates in public history related jobs
  2. Sustained commitment to the development of scholarly or other educational or teaching materials relating to the field of public history
  3. Sponsorship and/or delivery of high quality training courses, conferences, or educational outreach to the public or the public history community
  4. An outstanding record of public outreach programs (i.e. mass media, exhibitory, lecture series) that advance the appreciation of public history
  5. Demonstrated commitment to the value of expanding the public’s knowledge and appreciation of history in the institutional or corporate setting

Submission Process

  1. Nominations should be submitted in the form of a written narrative not to exceed 1,500 words (typed).
  2. Nominations should include pertinent supporting documents, including a copy of the nominee’s resume or curriculum vitae if available, plus a minimum of two and a maximum of five letters of support and a cover sheet.
  3. A total of four copies of all submission materials are required. Send a cover sheet and a copy of all materials to each of the Robert Kelley Award Committee members and one to the NCPH executive office at:

127 Cavanaugh Hall – IUPUI
425 University Blvd.
Indianapolis, IN 46202.
[email protected]

Clearly mark each submission, “NCPH Kelley Award.”  If emailed, nominations must be sent in one complete document (MS Word or a PDF).  Please note that materials will not be returned.

Materials must be received (not postmarked) no later than November 1, 2016.  Late submissions will not be considered.

Questions?  (317) 274-2716; [email protected]


Past Kelley Award Winners


  • Janelle Warren-Findley, Arizona State University


  • Michael Devine, Director, Harry S. Truman Library and Museum


  • Lindsey Reed, Managing Editor of The Public Historian


  • Richard Allan Baker, United States Senate Historical Office


  • Alan S. Newell, Historical Research Associates, Inc.


  • Dwight T. Pitcaithley, National Park Service


  • The Government and Citizens of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in, First Native Peoples of the Klondike


  • The University of South Carolina Public History Program


  • Debra Bernhardt, Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University


  • Otis L.Graham Jr., University of North Carolina, Wilmington


  • The American Social History ProjectFirst time presented in


  • Page Putnam Miller, Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History