Joan M. Zenzen, Ph.D.
Independent Historian


Fort Stanwyx Nat'l Hist Park

Park Histories

Administrative history of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, under a cooperative agreement with the National Park Service (NPS) and the Organization of American Historians (OAH). 

Research and writing:  Conducted primary source research in park archives, local historical society and library, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and online sources.  Reviewed secondary sources on segregation, race relations in Virginia, Civil War battles, reenactment, Civilian Conservation Corps, urban sprawl, and other topics.  Completed 20 oral history interviews with park officials, local residents (both supportive of and opposed to the park), county officials, and local elected officials.  Wrote a six-chapter book including maps and photographs, appendices, and an epilogue. 

Results:  Book includes management recommendations to connect the history of the park with future planning.  Zenzen critically examined each facet of the park’s history, including its long adherence to military tactics and to its southern-leaning Lost Cause tradition in an analysis section at the end of each chapter.  This cutting-edge history, examining for the first-time specific ways in which development effected park interpretation and land acquisition, serves park management as it completes a new General Management Plan (GMP).  Zenzen served as a resource for the park superintendent, chief historian, and cultural resources manager, sharing her research findings.

Administrative history of Minute Man National Historical Park, under a cooperative agreement with NPS and OAH. 

Research and writing:  Zenzen conducted primary source research in park archives, local libraries, NARA, and the Federal Records Center (FRC) in Waltham, MA.  Reviewed secondary sources on American Revolutionary War and urban sprawl issues.  Completed 17 oral history interviews with park officials, local elected representatives, business and development interests, and local residents (both supportive of and opposed to the park).  Completed ten-chapter book with photographs, maps, and appendices. 

Results:  This history, published by NPS, served as a resource for the park during a GMP effort and when the park celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Administrative history of Fort Stanwix National Monument, under contract with NPS. 

Research and writing:  Zenzen conducted primary source research in park archives, local library and historical society collections, NARA, and FRC-Waltham.  Reviewed secondary sources on the history of the local area, the 1777 siege, reconstruction, reenactment, urban renewal, and other topics.  Conducted 19 oral history interviews with Park Service officials, a United States congressional representative, local residents (both supportive of and opposed to the park), locally elected officials, state government representatives, and business owners. 

Results:  This seven-chapter book, published by SUNY Press, has provided past and current park superintendents with crucial and necessary background for understanding key issues that continue to confront the park and its relationships with local officials and residents.  One former park superintendent wrote in The Public Historian about how Zenzen’s research findings and sharing of information with the park helped him address contested issues.  Zenzen gave an invited talk at the local historical society in 2004.

Reviews:  “[Zenzen] takes a fairly complicated process, the early development of what would become the battlefield parks, and presents it clearly and concisely...”

SARAH BUYNAK,  book review of Fort Stanwix National Monument in The History News

“As an administrative history, Zenzen’s account contains some details that will interest only a limited audience. But, overall, this book belongs on the shelf of anyone who wants to know how people work—and work it is—to create and maintain historic sites.”  JUDITH WELLMAN of Historical New York Research Associates, review of Fort Stanwix National Monument in The Public Historian 

History of the preservation struggles at Manassas National Battlefield Park.  Wrote proposal and won contract with NPS, working as a historian for History Associates Incorporated. 

Research and writing:  Trained and supervised a research historian in primary source research.  Reviewed secondary sources on Civil War battles, urban sprawl, and other topics.  Conducted research at park archives, Library of Congress, NARA, FRC-Washington, local library, and in Prince William County records.  Completed 23 oral history interviews with Park Service officials, local residents (both supportive of and opposed to the park), a United States Senator, a former US congressional representative, locally elected officials, a key developer, preservationists, and an important representative from the Walt Disney Company.

Results:  The 11-chapter book, published by Penn State Press, continues to serve park managers and is spoken highly of by Park Service historians as a model for other administrative histories.  This book represented cutting-edge research and writing about park development threats and land acquisition strategies.  Gave an invited talk at the park in 1995 and gave another one in 2011 on the day of the sesquicentennial.

Reviews:  “In the course of developing the park’s history, Zenzen has given us a concise history of battlefield preservation… The author does an excellent job of explaining these preservation efforts without getting hopelessly lost in the details… Through the maze of legislation and politics, the author skillfully traces the frustrating attempts and near misses as various people and groups tried unsuccessfully to have the importance of Manassas recognized with a national park designation.”  JOSEPH E. BRENT, Kentucky Heritage Council, review of Battling for Manassas in The Public Historian

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Contact Information: Joan M. Zenzen, Rockville, Maryland  301-610-7706