Maple Designs Presidential Museum
When the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush, the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, was commissioned in Norfolk, Va. in January 2009, William Maple ’84 (B.A. art-environmental design) was cheering. Maple, an interpretive designer, consulted with former President George H.W. Bush to design the Tribute Room, an on-board museum that honors Bush, the ship’s namesake.
The ship’s museum wasn’t Maple’s first project with the former president. In 2008, Maple finished a $8.3-million redesign of Bush’s Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas. The 49-year-old Maple and his wife, Leslie Tietze ’83 (B.A. liberal studies), were guests at the grand reopening where President Bush parachuted in, making his sixth sky diving jump.
“Designing a presidential library is similar to the presidential aging process. You go in much younger than when you come out,” Maple said. “It was truly lots of prayer, on my part and that of others, that carried me through the two-and-a-half year process.”
For Maple, the endeavor had personal significance. “I never served in the military, so I saw this project as a way to contribute to my country,” he said. “We tried to convey the ‘heartbeat’ of President George H.W. Bush. We wanted to communicate to future generations that [commitment to] duty, honor and country was not an outdated world view, but a pathway to a very rewarding life of service.”
For the presidential museum, Maple designed 40 exhibits including a hands-on Oval Office where visitors can sit behind the executive desk and open drawers. He also created a Gulf War object theater where visitors sit in a military tent to experience the sights and sounds of battle.
The highlight of the project, Maple says, was seeing the opening day response of the staff, docents, community, and President and Mrs. Bush. “To know that they felt the final product exceeded their expectations was a huge weight off my shoulders,” he said. “The most rewarding exhibits were the ones where we took the biggest risk.”
Maple’s resume includes a number of prestigious museums. His work can be seen in Georgia at the National Prisoner of War Museum, in Oklahoma at the Trail of Tears Exhibit at the Cherokee Heritage Center, in Washington at the Johnson/Coldwater Ridge Mount St. Helens Visitor Centers, and in Utah at the Zion National Park Human History Museum.
Maple did his undergrad work at Fullerton College before transferring to Cal State Fullerton, where one of his favorite instructors was Bob Caddes, an architect, who taught marker rendering.
“Bob actually sat down with a fistful of markers and communicated step-by-step how to draw,” Maple recalled. “It was a powerful teaching approach to see the instructor demonstrate the technique – rather than point out finished examples.”
“I knew how to build … but now I could convey my designs to others. Not just in flat drafting elevations, but clearly communicate what the final dimensional product would be,” Maple explained. “Without question, marker rendering was the tool that set me apart, and provided job opportunities that would never have been possible otherwise.”