National Park Service: The First 75 Years
Biographical Vignettes
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William C. Everhart
1921-present


                                          by Marc Sagan and Bruce Hopkins

William C. Everhart


With degrees in English and history, Bill Everhart was aimed at a teaching career, but a job offer at Gettysburg brought him into the National Park Service in 1950. He was park historian at Vicksburg and Independence, member of the Seashore Study Task Force, and worked with the Historic Sites Survey in San Francisco. A turning point in his career came when George Hartzog, Jr., then superintendent of Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, hired him as park historian to supervise the planning of the Museum of Westward Expansion, one of the largest interpretive projects undertaken by the Service. In 1962 Bill was assigned to the Long Range Requirements Task Force, and when Hartzog became director, Bill took on the job of organizing a new Division of Interpretation in Washington, D.C.

For the first time, exhibits, audiovisual programs, publications, and planning joined interpretive services in a single division. Bill inherited and assembled an assortment of talented free spirits: designers, editors, filmmakers, craftspeople, and others. They came from their professions, not from traditional NPS jobs, so they were different and suspect, and so were their ideas and products. At St. Louis, Bill had worked with professional filmmakers and designers, and he never forgot the experience. Rather than assuming that the Service was the leading authority in interpretive development, Bill used experts and encouraged his staff to look beyond in-house productions. It was touch-and-go for a year or two as new films, exhibits, and publications sent shock waves of surprise and some outrage through the Service's conservative ranks. Hartzog's support and a shower of awards from professional organizations gradually warmed the climate.

In another unorthodox move, Bill then campaigned to bring the various interpretive media functions together at a new center in Harpers Ferry. The center opened in 1970, and Bill served as the first manager after his tenure as assistant director for interpretation. In 1990 a plaque was unveiled at the center honoring Everhart for his vision and leadership in establishing what has become known around the world for its creative interpretive materials. The center and its products are the direct result of Bill's breadth of view. Quality and professionalism were his major contributions to interpretation.


From National Park Service: The First 75 Years




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