Bill Gatewood, the long-time director of the Old State House Museum, will retire on Dec. 31, 2021 after a 35-year career with the state and 29 years with the museum, the Division of Arkansas Heritage announced Wednesday (Dec. 1).
Gatewood joined the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism in 1986 as an exhibit shop supervisor. In 1990, he moved to a museum consultant position with the department before a door opened at the Old State House.
His first job with Arkansas Heritage was curator of the Old State House. During that time, he worked on building and managing the museum’s collection and developing in-house exhibits. He was promoted to Deputy Director in 1995 and director in 1999.
“Bill has lent his immense talents and passion for preservation to the Old State House Museum, particularly during the trying times of the late 90s when the building was in serious decline,” said Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. “Bill spearheaded the extensive 1996 to 1999 restoration of the museum, demonstrating great patience and dedication while preserving Arkansas’ first state house, literally from the ground up. This project alone merits accolades upon retirement.”
“As a kid, you think you want to get as far away from home as possible,” said Gatewood. “But the truth is, once I got to Arizona, I was unknowingly making a path for myself right back to Arkansas. Looking back, it doesn’t seem like 35 years have passed, but what an honor to have found my way home and had the opportunity to do good work alongside some of the most dedicated people in the museum field.”
“It has been an honor and pleasure to serve alongside my friend and mentor, Bill Gatewood,” said Jo Ellen Maack, curator of the museum. “They say some people come into your life for a reason — well, Bill came to the Old Sate House for a reason. Sure, he helped save the building, but he also touched many lives and taught so many in his 29 years.”
“As development director, we rely on building relationships when it comes to giving to the museum,” said Rae Ann Fields. “Bill makes that easy. Every donor who has had the pleasure of meeting Bill feels his connection to this place and wants to build on his foundation, in this case, the literal foundation of the building. No one has worked harder to make the Old State House what it is today than Bill.”
The Old State House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1997. The museum hosts a diverse collection of artifacts from politics to pop culture and produces award winning exhibits including the popular “First Ladies of Arkansas: Women of Their Times” and the “Governors of Arkansas” gallery.