Dr. Carroll Van West

Professor | Dir., Center for Historic Pres.

Dr. Carroll Van West
615-898-2947
Room 106, Center for Historic Preservation (HARR)
MTSU Box 80, Murfreesboro, TN 37132
Office Hours

8 to 4:30, appointment required

Degree Information

  • PHD, College of William & Mary (1982)
  • MA, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (1978)
  • BA, Middle Tennessee State University (1977)

Areas of Expertise

Historic Preservation, American Architectural History, American Material Culture

History of the American South, 1780 to present

History of the American West

Biography

I want to explore, document, and interpret the transformation of rural American culture and history since the industrial age, and to convey those events through different media and publications. So, in my Montana work, I have written three books on that theme, one being a statewide study of historical landscapes (with little on the ‘cities’ of Montana) that came out of a 3,000-plus photographic survey of the state in 1984-85. I have expanded that field study with the massive Monta...

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I want to explore, document, and interpret the transformation of rural American culture and history since the industrial age, and to convey those events through different media and publications. So, in my Montana work, I have written three books on that theme, one being a statewide study of historical landscapes (with little on the ‘cities’ of Montana) that came out of a 3,000-plus photographic survey of the state in 1984-85. I have expanded that field study with the massive Montana Historic Landscape (montanahistoriclandscape.com) website, which is free to used and has been used by international and national media as well as university presses and professional journals for its many images.

The other two Montana books focus on Billings and the Yellowstone Valley, with the brief photographic history aimed at a broad audience while Capitalism on the Frontier: The Transformation of Billings and the Yellowstone Valley in the Nineteenth Century is an analytical model for exploring rural transformation and its impact on the peoples of a given region.

Capitalism on the Frontier, in its blending of place and peoples, has informed all of my southern work, especially the more recent focus on my native state of Tennessee. I have had the opportunity of crafting narratives for different audiences from travelers and architectural devotees to college classrooms to reference users and the reading public. Each book is different, but they all share the broad goal of opening up the state's history, both in the topics addressed and in the questions that are asked. Tennessee's Historic Landscapes is clearly modeled after the earlier Montana effort, but it better integrates architecture, material culture, and history.  The later Tennessee's New Deal Landscape went deep into the impact of federal agencies throughout the state in the 1930s.  The strong sense of place gained from the landscapes study, however, clearly influenced the design and content of the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, both the print version of 1998 and an online edition of 2003. 

Another trend in my Tennessee work was to create new platforms for more inclusive and more 20th century scholarship.  While I was editor of the Tennessee Historical Quarterly for almost 20 years I tried to shape new directions in scholarship in addition to my own efforts. Throughout this work, themes of diversity, race, place, change, faith, and continuity are important.  The textbooks on state history and then African American history had those same goals--gather together scholars to create new avenues of research and interpretation.  The editing anthologies of Tennessee History: The Land, the People, and the Culture and Trial and Triumph: Essays in Tennessee's African American History were also parts of that strategy of placing better texts in the hand of teachers, students, and the reading public who engage with state history. The capstone of this effort was the collaborative production of A History of the Arts in Tennessee: Creating Traditions, Expanding Horizons, which is a first-of-its-kind in the literature of Tennessee history and culture.  Then that was expanded in a digital way through the partnership with the Library of Congress, Teaching with Primary Sources across Tennessee, and the digital websites of the last ten years in partnership with MTSU's Walker Library.

Of course my best known work nationally comes from field projects, and we are currently working not only in the South but throughout the midwest and into the southwest.  Our community-anchored work drives everything at the Center for Historic Preservation.

 

 

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Publications

 Nashville Architecture: A Guide to the City.  Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2015. 

Tennessee in the Civil War.  Edited volume. Nashville: Tennessee Historical Society, 2011. 

Getting Started with Heritage Areas.  Co-author with Brenda Barrett.  Washington, DC: National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2006. 

A History of Tennessee Arts:  Creating Traditions, Expanding Horizons...

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 Nashville Architecture: A Guide to the City.  Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2015. 

Tennessee in the Civil War.  Edited volume. Nashville: Tennessee Historical Society, 2011. 

Getting Started with Heritage Areas.  Co-author with Brenda Barrett.  Washington, DC: National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2006. 

A History of Tennessee Arts:  Creating Traditions, Expanding Horizons.  Editor.  Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2004. 

Trial and Triumph:  Essays in Tennessee’s African-American Past.  Editor.  Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, October 2002. 

Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture:  Revised and Expanded Electronic Web Edition. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, August 2002 to present. 

The New Deal Landscape of Tennessee.  Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2001. 

Powerful Artifacts: A Guide to Surveying and Documenting Rural African-American Churches. Co-author with Caneta S. Hankins. Center for Historic Preservation and National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2000.   

The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture.  Editor-in-chief. Nashville: Tennessee Historical Society, 1998.

 Tennessee History: The Land, the People, and the Culture.  Editor.  Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1998. 

Tennessee's Historic Landscapes:  A Traveler's Guide.  Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1995.  

Capitalism on the Frontier: The Transformation of Billings and the Yellowstone Valley in the 19th  Century.  Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993. 

Images of Billings:  A Photographic History.  Billings, MT: Western Heritage Center Press, 1990. 

Tennessee Agriculture: A Century Farms Perspective.  Nashville: Tennessee Department of  Agriculture, 1987. 

A Traveler's Companion to Montana History: Exploring Historic Landscapes.  Helena: Montana Historical Society Press, 1986. 

DIGITAL HUMANITIES PROJECTS:

 “Trials, Triumphs, and Transformations: Tennesseans’ Search for Citizenship, Community, Opportunity,” James J. Walker Library, MTSU.  Honorable Mention, 2019 Garfinkel Prize, American Studies Association. 

“Montana’s Historic Landscapes” (montanahistoriclandscape.com).  In partnership with the Montana Preservation Alliance and the Montana State Historic Preservation Office, 2013 to present. 

SELECTED BOOK CHAPTERS: 

“The Tennessee State Tigerbelles: Cold Warriors of the Track.” Separate Games: African American Sport behind the Walls of Segregation, eds. David K. Wiggins and Ryan A. Swanson. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2016.

 “Sacred, separate places: African American cemeteries in the Jim Crow South,” The Changing World Religion Map:  Scared Places, Identities, Practices. New York: Springer, 2014.

 “The Pit and the Stack: Interpreting Two Montana Landmarks.” Drumlummon Views:  2009 Vernacular Architecture Forum Montana.  Helena: Drumlummon Press, 2009. 

“Creating an Irrigator’s Yellowstone: I.D. O’Donnell, Civic Capitalism, and the U.S. Reclamation Service.”The Bureau of Reclamation: History Essays from the Centennial Symposium.  Denver: U.S. Department of Interior, 2008.   

“Sacred Places of Faith:  Rural African-American Churches in Tennessee.”  Leslie Alexander and  Angel Nieves, eds.  African-American Place Making: The Struggle to Claim Space in the   United States.  Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2008. 

SELECTED ARTICLES: 

"Acculturation By Design: Architectural Determinism and the Montana Indian Reservations."  Great Plains Quarterly, VII(Spring 1987), 91‑102. 

"`The Best Kind of Building':  The New Deal Landscape of the Northern Plains."  Great Plains Quarterly, 14(Spring 1994): 129-41. 

"Continuity and Change in Tennessee Agriculture: The Century Farmers of Tennessee," Tennessee Historical Quarterly, XLVII (Fall 1988), 162‑168.  

"Democratic Ideology and the Antebellum Historian: The Case of Henderson Yoakum."  Journal of the Early Republic, 3(Fall 1983), 319‑339. 

“Depression Architecture” and “Tourist Architecture,” David Wishart, ed., Encyclopedia of the Great Plains.  Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004. 

"Greenfield Village:  A Landscape of the Past, Present, and Mr. Ford." International Journal of Museum Management and Curatorship, (London, Eng.) 13(September 1989), 263-78. 

"Perpetuating the Myth of America: Scottsboro and Its Interpreters."  South Atlantic Quarterly, 80(Winter 1981), 36‑48. 

"Reconsidering Western Historic Sites," North Dakota History, (#1, 1995): 2-13.

RECENT HISTORIC PRESERVATION DOCUMENTATION PROJECTS 

Macon County High School, Notasulga, AL.  Co-author.  National Register of Historic Places Nomination.  Alabama Historical Commission, 2020. 

Trail of Tears Road Segment, Princeton, KY.  Co-author.  National Register of Historic Places Nomination.  Kentucky Heritage Council, 2020. 

Hank Snow House and Studio, Nashville, TN.  Co-author.  National Register of Historic Places Nomination.  Tennessee Historical Commission, 2018. 

FAME Studio, Muscle Shoals, AL.  Co-author. National Register of Historic Places Nomination. Alabama Historical Commission, 2016.  

Shiloh Baptist Church Cemetery, Macon County, AL.  National Register of Historic Places Nomination. Alabama Historical Commission, 2016. 

RCA Victor Studios Building [Studio A], Nashville, TN.  National Register of Historic Places Nomination. Tennessee Historical Commission, 2015. 

Grand Ole Opry House, Nashville, TN.  National Register of Historic Places Nomination. Tennessee Historical Commission, 2014.

Sullivan Jackson House, Selma, AL.  National Register of Historic Places Nomination. Alabama Historical Commission, 2013. 

Tabernacle Baptist Church, Selma, AL.  National Register of Historic Places Nomination. Alabama Historical Commission, 2013. 

The Civil Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama, 1865-2013.  National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Nomination.  Alabama Historical Commission, 2013.

WSM Transmission Tower Complex, Brentwood, Tennessee.  National Register of Historic Places. Tennessee Historical Commission, 2011. 

The U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study in Macon County, Alabama, 1930-1975.  Multiple Property Submission.  National Register of Historic Places.  Alabama Historical Commission, 2009. 

The Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, Alabama, 1930-1979.  Multiple Property Submission.  National Register of Historic Places.  Alabama Historical Commission, 2004. 

Rural African American Churches in Tennessee, 1850-1970.  Multiple Property Nomination.  National Register of Historic Places.  Tennessee Historical Commission, 2000.

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Presentations

RECENT CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS

“K-16 Collaboration after the Teaching American History Grant, Now What:  Roundtable Discussion.”  American Historical Association Annual Meeting, New Orleans, January 2013.

 “U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Project.”  A Conference Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Desegregation of the University of North Alabama,” Florence, AL, September 2013. 

 Keynote, First Annual ...

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RECENT CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS

“K-16 Collaboration after the Teaching American History Grant, Now What:  Roundtable Discussion.”  American Historical Association Annual Meeting, New Orleans, January 2013.

 “U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Project.”  A Conference Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Desegregation of the University of North Alabama,” Florence, AL, September 2013. 

 Keynote, First Annual Slave Dwelling Project Conference, Savannah, GA, September 2014. 

“Fostering the Next Generation: Roundtable Discussion.”  Western Lands, Western Voices: the American West Center at Fifty. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, September 2014. 

“Where Giants Walked: American Baptist College and Selma’s Voting Rights Movement.”  Nashville Conference on African American History and Culture, February 2015.

 “Paths Chosen, Not Chosen:  Planning the Alabama Bicentennial: Keynote Address.”  Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation: Summit for the Alabama Bicentennial, Montgomery, February 2015. 

“New Understandings of the Material Culture of the Southern Backcountry Era.” 64th Forum on Decorative Arts and Material Culture, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, February 2015. 

“Unfettering American Trade Before and After the Revolution.” 65th Forum on Decorative Arts and Material Culture, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, February 2016. 

“History and Future of the National Historic Preservation Act.” National Association of Preservation Commissions Forum, Mobile, Alabama, July 2016. 

“Pathways and Challenges: Rural African American Preservation Today.”  Preserving Communities of Color Conference.  Prairie View State University, TX, November 2016. 

“Macon County’s Rural African American Churches and the Syphilis Study.”  Organization of American Historians, Philadelphia, April 2019.

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Awards

Career Achievement Award, Middle Tennessee State University, 2016

Career Achievement Award for Research, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Tennessee, 2018

Career Achivement Award, Montana Preservation Alliance, 2016

Career Achievement Award, Metro Nashville Historical Commission, 2017

Public Service Award, Middle Tennessee State University, 2019

Tennessee State Historian, Appointed in 2013 by Gov. Bill Haslam

Research / Scholarly Activity

Current projects include:

Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

El Camino Real and Santa Fe National Historic Trail

Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery, Alabama

Creative Activity

Collaboration with Nashville Opera for "One Vote Won," including the production of a study guide with Layla Smallwood (September 2020)

Courses

Seminar in Historic Preservation

Seminar in State and Local History

Seminar in American Material Culture

Seminar in American Architectural History

Seminar in Essentials of Historic Preservation and Cultural Resources Management