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Remembering Walter Durham

Former Tennessee State Historian Walter T. Durham "Walter Thomas Durham, Tennessee’s state historian for the past decade and author of 24 books on Tennessee history, died on May 24, 2013 at the age of 88. For additional information about Mr. Durham, read the tribute "We Pause to Remember our State Historian" by Dr. Wayne Moore.

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State Historian

Tennessee State Historian Dr. Carroll Van West Dr. Carroll Van West is the director of the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University, where he is also a professor of history. In July 2013, Governor Bill Haslam appointed West to a four-year term as State Historian. West also is the co-chair of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and is director of the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area. He is the resident visiting professor for the annual Summer Institute in Southern Culture and Material Culture, a program administered by the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (Old Salem, NC) and the University of Virginia. He served as the Senior Editor of the Tennessee Historical Quarterly from 1993 to 2010 and was the section editor for “Architecture” in the Encyclopedia of Appalachia (University of Tennessee Press).

His research interests lie in 19th and 20th century southern and western history as well as architecture and material culture. He continues as the editor-in-chief of the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture website (with the University of Tennessee Press) and most recently compiled the anthology Tennessee and the Civil War (Tennessee Historical Society, 2011). Earlier books include A History of Tennessee Arts: Creating Traditions and Expanding Horizons (University of Tennessee Press, 2004); an edited anthology, Trial and Triumph: Readings in Tennessee’s African-American Past (University of Tennessee Press, 2002), the first such textbook on Tennessee’s African American history in over 20 years; Tennessee’s New Deal Landscape (University of Tennessee Press, 2001); The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture (Tennessee Historical Society,1998); the edited anthology Tennessee History: The Land, The People, and The Culture (University of Tennessee Press,1998); Tennessee's Historic Landscapes (University of Tennessee Press,1995); Capitalism on the Frontier: The Transformation of Billings and the Yellowstone Valley in the 19th Century (University of Nebraska Press, 1993); Images of Billings (Western Heritage Center Press, 1990); Tennessee Agriculture: A Century Farms Perspective (Tennessee Department of Agriculture,1987); and A Traveler's Companion to Montana History (Montana Historical Society Press,1986).

As a professor in MTSU's history department, he teaches courses in architectural history, historic preservation, and state and local history. West has directed to completion approximately 100 M.A. theses of MTSU graduate students in history as well as 14 doctoral dissertations.

West serves on the board of advisors for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Lewis and Clark Trust, and the Teaching with Primary Sources program of the Library of Congress. He has worked with museum/preservation projects in many other states and has been recently working on historic preservation issues in Alabama and Montana. He has directed and completed hundreds of historic preservation projects across Tennessee. He has written numerous articles, chapters, and book reviews in southern and western history. His blog,, documents and interprets 30 years of preservation work in the state of Montana.

A native of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, West holds a B.A. from MTSU, a master's degree in history from the University of Tennessee, and a PhD in history from the College of William & Mary. He is married to Mary Sara Hoffschwelle, and they have two children, Owen and Sara.


State Historian Publications
Tennessee Heritage
The State of State History in Tennessee series
Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury and Tennessee (2012)
The State of State History in Tennessee in 2010
The Underground Railroad in Tennessee to 1865 (2008)burst
The State of State History in Tennessee in 2006burst
The State of State History in Tennessee in 2004burst

Dr. Van West's Blog


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Updated December 20, 2013