Robert K. Sutton: Appointed to fill long-vacant post as Chief Historian, National Park Service

Historians in the News

[HNN Editor: The post of Chief Historian at the NPS has been vacant since June 2005, when Dwight T. Pitcaithley retired.]

The National Park Service (NPS) announces the selection of Dr. Robert K. Sutton as Chief Historian of the National Park Service. The Chief Historian position in the National Park Service is one of the most prestigious historian positions in the Federal government. The Chief Historian provides guidance and direction to the national parks as well as nationwide to the American people on the importance of verifying historical events and 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. Dr. Sutton will begin his new position on October 1, 2007.

Dr. Sutton has been Superintendent of the Manassas National Battlefield Park since 1995, which has an annual visitation of 800,000. While at Manassas, he initiated a major symposium on the Civil War that attracted renowned scholars and developed an interpretive institute for Civil War park rangers on creating new ways to interpret the Civil War. He oversaw the restoration of a 100-acre area of the park through a creative partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, where the loss of wetlands at the new Air and Space Museum at Dulles Airport was mitigated through the restoration of the Manassas land. He holds a Ph.D. 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.

“We are very pleased that Dr. Sutton has joined the Washington, DC 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.”

Dr. 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, Dr. Sutton received the Department of the Interior’s Meritorious Service Award.

Dr. 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.

Dr. 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.

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