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Longtime Curator to Preserve University’s History as New Archivist
April 5, 2016
Dr. Thomas Allen PhD'09
Dr. Thomas Allen PhD’09, previously a curator at the Eugene McDermott Library, has been named the new university archivist.
For more than a decade, Allen has processed pieces of prominent military history in the Special Collections Department. Now, he will collect and catalog materials crucial to the University’s history, relying on his love of the subject and experience at UT Dallas to help preserve the University’s past for future generations.
Allen, the University’s second archivist, fills the vacancy left by Ty Lovelady.
“Thomas is well-qualified to take on this position,” said Paul Oelkrug, coordinator of the Special Collections Department. “He’s excited about the position and the opportunities it brings. With his experience at UTD, he’ll definitely be an asset to the University in this role.”
As university archivist, Allen will be responsible for about 50 separate collections, or roughly 20,000 documents. All of the materials have been donated by individuals and UT Dallas departments and offices. Moving forward, he said he’d like to focus on digitization as the numbers of donated materials increase.
“We’re slowly just getting the archive out there and making ourselves known. The main goal is to get all of the material processed and arranged so people can use it,” he said. “If I have to go out and knock on the door of every department and introduce myself and say, ‘How can we assist you?’ I will.”
A native of Southern California, Allen moved with his family to Texas when he was younger. He received a bachelor’s degree in European history at Chapman University in Orange, California, followed by a master’s in library science at Indiana University in Bloomington. After internships in California at the National Archives and the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, he came back to Texas and interned in the Special Collections Department at UT Dallas. When a curator position opened, Allen applied.
“I’ve always been interested in history, and that has been my true passion,” Allen said. “Now 12 years later, I’ve really gotten to know the collection.”
“I think being an alum gives me a connection to the material and allows me to help build it and show other alumni why they should be interested in the history”
Allen received his PhD in public affairs from UT Dallas in 2009. He marvels at how the University has changed since his arrival on campus in 2004.
“I’ve had a chance to see the amazing progress the University has made just in the number of students and new buildings,” he said. “I think being an alum gives me a connection to the material and allows me to help build it and show other alumni why they should be interested in the history.”
While Allen is passionate about history, he has something else in common with UT Dallas students — a love of games. In his spare time, Allen designs and develops board games. He has helped design or test four games, and written story or character material for three.
“I’ve always loved playing board games, and I joined a group of people who are prototyping their board games,” Allen said. “One of our games, Mage Wars, does well. We have another one in Barnes & Noble and possibly Target soon.”
Despite the fun of creating alternate worlds and characters, Allen insists game design is just a hobby. His true love is history and building the archives to share its treasures with people throughout the community.
“It’s the unknown of a collection of materials. You don’t know what you’re going to find when you open a box of materials,” Allen said. “There’s always the chance that you’re going to find a revelatory document that’s going to change the course of history. It doesn’t always happen, but even then, it’s just interesting and somewhat of a challenge to find out.”
Media Contact: Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].