For nearly 20 years, Carol Shull was the Keeper or acting or interim Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places. For most of that time, she also as served chief of the National Historic Landmarks program. However long that seems, it does not reflect the depth and influence that Carol has had on the National Register and on Historic Preservation in the United States. For more than 40 years, Carol has been a leader in identifying, recognizing and protecting historic properties and educating others about them.
Carol was born in Texas and received her BS in education and a MA degree in American history from the University of Texas in Austin. She accompanied her husband, Joe Shull, during his military duty teaching American history for the University of Maryland and in schools for dependents abroad, where he was stationed. When they returned to the United States and settled in the Washington, DC area, Carol joined the National Park Service (NPS) in 1972 in the National Register of Historic Places as an historian reviewing National Register nominations and requests for determinations of eligibility. The National Register, as authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, was just getting started, and Carol has helped shape the program and the breadth and depth of the nominations and listings in the years since then. She has sought to make the National Register as inclusive as possible to reflect the full richness and diversity of communities and the heritage of the nation. She drafted the regulations that continue to guide the National Register program today. She has always been an educator who has sought ways to share the content of the National Register. She worked to make the National Register available to the public on-line and started the Teaching with Historic Places program with its extensive series of classroom ready lesson plans, and the Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary Series, which describes and promotes visits to thousands of the nation’s registered historic places—both available on the NPS website. Carol is an excellent listener and gifted storyteller. Perhaps those traits are what has been her strength in recognizing those types of historic places and themes of American history that may be under-recognized and need additional attention. She shaped and served for many years as editor of the extensive National Register Bulletin series, which provides guidance nationwide on evaluating and nominating a broad range of historic properties. She has written or sponsored numerous articles and other publications and spoken publicly on many occasions about concepts or points of view, which were then not well understood. Those include sacred sites, landscape preservation, minority sites, sites with multiple histories, sites of historical disgrace, and sites of unusual innovations or important failures. The National Register includes historic places proposed by the public and nominated for listing through their states, and by American Indian tribes and federal agencies, making it a model of public participation. In her work as a Trustee and Fellow of the US Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (US/ ICOMOS), Carol has continued to share what she has learned in the US with other countries while applying lessons learned elsewhere in the world to our understanding of preservation in the United States. In 2012, the Secretary of the Interior recognized Carol’s service in the historic preservation programs with the Distinguished Service Award. She retired from the NPS in 2015 and continues her role in international and national preservation efforts.