Publication Date

August 30, 2007


Public History

The National Park Service (NPS) has announced the selection of Robert K. Sutton as Chief Historian of the National Park Service. The chief historian provides guidance and direction to the national parks on interpreting the significance of America’s historic places. The position provides national leadership in setting and implementing NPS standards and guidelines relating to the documentation of historically significant properties. Sutton will begin his new position on October 1, 2007.

Since 1995, Sutton has been superintendent of the Manassas National Battlefield Park, which has an annual visitation of 800,000. While at Manassas, he initiated a major symposium on the Civil War and developed an interpretive institute for Civil War park rangers on creating new ways to interpret the Civil War.

Sutton holds a PhD degree in history from Washington State University and has decades of experience in conveying to the public the importance of preserving the nation’s cultural resources. Sutton began his career as a park ranger with Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. Subsequent positions include museum curator with the Oregon Historical Society, historian with the Oregon State Parks, architectural historian with the NPS Southwest Regional Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, historian with Independence National Historic Park, assistant professor in the history department and director of the Public History Program at Arizona State University, and assistant superintendent and historian at National Capital Parks-East. Since 1991, he has served as adjunct professor of history at George Mason University. In 2000, Sutton received the Department of the Interior’s Meritorious Service Award.

“We are very pleased that Dr. Sutton has joined the Washington, D.C. office of the National Park Service as Chief Historian,” said Janet Snyder Matthews, associate director, Cultural Resources. “We look forward to working with him on a wide range of history projects, including those that develop from the Centennial of the National Park Service through 2016.”

Sutton is editor of Rally on the High Ground: National Park Service Symposium on the Interpretation of the Civil War, co-author of Majestic in His Wrath: The Life of Frederick Douglass, and author of Americans Interpret the Parthenon: Greek Revival Architecture and the Westward Movement.

Sutton will be responsible for managing the service’s history programs, which includes coordinating historical studies at the national level, managing the administrative history program, and overseeing the quality of documentation of historic places within national parks. Sutton will be the ninth person to occupy the position of chief historian, which was created in 1931.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Attribution must provide author name, article title, Perspectives on History, date of publication, and a link to this page. This license applies only to the article, not to text or images used here by permission.