Michael J. Kurtz

College of Information Studies
Adjunct Professor
Obituary

On Saturday, December 17, 2022, former iSchool faculty member Dr. Michael J. Kurtz passed away. 

Dr. Kurtz served at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for 37 years, during which time he held significant leadership positions, supervised hundreds of staff in multiple locations, and led national efforts in electronic records preservation and management, declassification, and transparency of government records. For the 15 years prior to his retirement from the National Archives (1996-2011), he served as Assistant Archivist for Records Services

While at NARA, Dr. Kurtz initiated and led several national initiatives that have lasting impact on access and preservation of government records, including the creation of the National Declassification Center; the implementation of the 2002 E-Government Act; the declassification and release of some 8 million pages documenting U.S. government involvement with war criminals (as chair of the Interagency Working Group on Nazi and Imperial Japanese War Crimes); and the creation of the International Research Web Portal relating to Nazi-era looted cultural assets.

Dr. Kurtz was an adjunct lecturer in the iSchool since the 1990s, and quickly became a visionary and key member of the iSchool. He joined the iSchool faculty full-time in 2011. He was an advisor, mentor, teacher, and researcher. He contributed indispensable knowledge, spearheaded exciting projects and initiatives, and showed great generosity through bequests to support the iSchool’s curation and archival efforts. He also served as the Associate Director of the iSchool’s Digital Curation Innovation Center (DCIC) where he launched new initiatives and was a dedicated mentor to students. Dr. Kurtz retired from the college in 2018.

Most recently, Dr. Kurtz has been a key member of the Advanced Information Collaboratory (AIC), directed by Dr. Richard Marciano. Dr. Kurtz served as the project manager of the TALENT Network, and he delivered the keynote a year ago at the 6th IEEE Big Data CAS workshop, where he presented his upcoming book and recorded a series of videos on "The American Archival Experience: From Colonial Times to the 21st Century”. On the AIC home page, there are some lovely photos of Dr. Kurtz with colleagues taken in early 2020 while at a workshop at the British Library. 

Dr. Kurtz was the author of several highly cited publications in the areas of archives management and administration, including Managing Archival and Manuscript Repositories (Society of American Archivists, Archival Fundamentals II Series, 2004), which has guided the management practices of hundreds of archivists. His 2006 book, "America and the Return of Nazi Contraband: The Recovery of Europe’s Cultural Treasures" (Cambridge University Press, 2006) not only is a respected scholarly work on the return of cultural property following World War II, but was also a key inspiration for the 2014 film "The Monuments Men” (directed by George Clooney).

Among his many honors and recognitions, Dr. Kurtz was a recipient of the SAA Exemplary Service Award as well as the Fed 100 Award from Federal Computer Week which honors top executives in government.