Programs & Services

State Historic Sites Director, Richard Sims, Announces Retirement

August 25, 2015

After three years as Director of New Mexico’s eight Historic Sites, Richard Sims announces his retirement effective September 30. Sims has been a museum director since 1979, in Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, and New Mexico.  Under the leadership and commitment of Department of Cultural Affairs Cabinet Secretary Veronica Gonzales, Sims made significant progress in turning around a moribund operation that had been under-supported for years.

In announcing Sims’s retirement, Secretary Gonzales said “Director Sims was given a formidable agenda at the beginning of his tenure.  With his good nature, dry wit, deep sense of community, expert knowledge, and political acumen, he was able to harness the dedication of our staff, friends, and many supporters in moving this agenda forward.  Through his hard work and that of many individuals and groups, New Mexico’s Historic Sites are rightly gaining recognition and momentum as one of our state’s most precious cultural assets.“

“My plan for this new era of Historic Sites was three-fold:  protect the irreplaceable historic and prehistoric resources, increase visitation through more effective marketing strategies, and educate and delight those visitors with exciting new offerings,” Sims said. “With the hard work of the managers, and Secretary Gonzales’ steadfast support, much progress was made on these objectives.”

Starting with an assessment and marketing plan for Historic Sites and the name change from Monuments to Historic Sites, improvements were rapidly implemented.  The hiring of new managers and staff at Jemez, El Camino Real, Fort Stanton, Lincoln, and Fort Sumner complemented the dedicated managers and staff already in place at Coronado and Fort Selden.   The Taylor-Mesilla Historic Site progressed with the hiring of a curator to oversee the vast collection donated by the Taylor family, and the Los Luceros historic hacienda and farmlands improved under new management.   Embracing the Secretary’s goal to make the sites “vibrant unique places at which visitors can experience and learn about history where it happened”, Sims, with the ready cooperation of the site managers and rangers, implemented several new public programs and exhibits. 

Video productions, a history book contract, new exhibits installed or in the planning stages, education programs on-site and off-site, summer children’s programs, music performances, and the Residency program that brings artists, scholars, and other talented people to the isolated sites, are all a part of the new “lively times.”

 Secretary Gonzales noted, “Governor Susana Martinez, the State Legislature, and the Museum of New Mexico Foundation significantly stepped up their support of the Historic Sites, helping to secure major donors and legislative allocations to increase core operations, exhibit, and education resources and fund special projects.  Nonprofit Friends Groups for all sites have been loyal in their daily contributions to operations, and partnerships with community libraries and tribal officials have also been central to the new era for our state’s Historic Sites.”

Sims will return to Helena, Montana, where his wife Debra works for the MT Secretary of State.  Their son Lander and his wife Miyuki live in Kumamoto, Japan, where both are teachers.  “Debra and I are expecting our first grandchild soon, and Debra is beginning to contemplate her own retirement.   I have assumed more responsibilities on the fifth-generation family farm in western Kentucky, so I reckon I’ll be triangulating around Montana, Kentucky, and Japan.”

Dr. Jeff Pappas, Director of the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division and State Historic Preservation Officer, will assume double duty to also serve as Interim Director of Historic Sites until a replacement is selected.  The Museum of New Mexico Board of Regents and the NM Department of Cultural Affairs Office of the Secretary will announce a national search.

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