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An Interview with Robert M. Utley on the History of Historic Preservation in the National Park Service—1947-1980
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by: Richard W. Sellars and Melody Webb

September 24, 1985 - December 27, 1985

Southwest Cultural Resources Center
Professional Papers No. 16
Santa Fe - 1988


This interview with Robert M. Utley was conducted by Richard W. Sellars and Melody Webb in Santa Fe, New Mexico between September, l985 and December 1985.

Mr. Utley began his career with the National Park Service as a summer seasonal employee at Custer Battlefield National Monument in 1947. He continued this work for six seasons. Following graduate studies in history and a four-year stint with the United States Army, Mr. Utley became a permanent employee of the National Park Service in 1957. He first served as Regional Historian for the Southwest Region in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1964, he transferred to Washington, D.C., to become Chief Historian for the Park Service. He held this position until 1971, at which time he became Director, Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation. This was followed in 1973 by appointment as Assistant Director for Park Historic Preservation. In 1977, Mr. Utley left the National Park Service to become Deputy Executive Director of the President's Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, a position he held until his retirement in 1980. He now resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and is married to Dr. Melody Webb, who, in her present position as Regional Historian for the National Park Service in Santa Fe, holds the same position once occupied by Mr. Utley.

Mr. Utley's interest in American frontier and military history has led to his writing many books, articles and pamphlets on these topics. Quite a number of his publications relate directly to the history of individual national park units, and are of value to those seeking a better understanding of the history associated with these parks.

However, of particular interest to those involved in historic preservation is Mr. Utley's career with the National Park Service. As a historian with the Park Service, he participated on the field, regional and national levels. His tenure in Washington as Chief Historian and later as Assistant Director came at an important time for the Park Service and for the historic preservation movement. The Park Service experienced tremendous expansion in the 1960s and 70s, including the addition of many historical units to the system. Also, under Director George Hartzog, the Park Service's policies for the management of historic and prehistoric properties evolved to a more well-defined and articulated state than ever before. Mr. Utley's role in this expansion and the evolution of policy was substantial. It is believed that his observations and his recollections of these important times will be of considerable value to those who inquire into the National Park Service's history. It is for this reason that the following interview with Mr. Utley was undertaken.

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