About Anne Whisnant
Anne Mitchell Whisnant is a professional historian whose teaching, research, speaking, consulting, and writing focus on public history, digital and geospatial history, and the history of the U.S. National Parks. She is a public historian in private practice, working with her husband David Whisnant as co-principal of the public history consulting firm Primary Source History Services, based in Chapel Hill, NC.
During 2016-17 she was Whichard Visiting Distinguished Professor of History at East Carolina University, and before that, for ten years (2006-16), she was Deputy Secretary of the Faculty and Director of Research, Communications, and Programs for UNC-Chapel Hill’s Office of Faculty Governance.
Dr. Whisnant received her Ph.D. in history at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1997. In 2006, UNC Press published her book, Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History. At UNC-Chapel Hill, she served as scholarly adviser for Driving Through Time: The Digital Blue Ridge Parkway, an online history collection developed collaboratively with the Park Service and the UNC Libraries. Her teaching in public history has always incorporated significant digital components, and her students have developed a number of web exhibits related to Blue Ridge Parkway and university history. In 2010, she and husband David published a Parkway book for children, titled When the Parkway Came. As a consultant, Dr. Whisnant has been the co-principal historian on several other National Park Service projects. Most recently, she chaired a task force commissioned by the Organization of American Historians and the National Park Service to study historical practice within the Park Service. The resulting report, Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Park Service, won the 2013 Excellence in Consulting Award from the National Council on Public History and is helping set a vision for future NPS historical work.
Anne’s full CV is online here.
Contact Anne about Speaking
Anne loves to speak about Parkway history to groups large and small. She is an experienced, energetic speaker whose talks feature engaging visuals and extensive interaction with audiences. She will not read you a series of Powerpoint slides!
Topics about which she can present include:
Taking Another Look: New Views of the Blue Ridge Parkway
In this program, Dr. Anne Mitchell Whisnant leads audiences on a Blue Ridge Parkway journey different from the one they take either when driving the road or when reading about it. Going beyond Parkway views, scenery, and wildflowers, campgrounds, bridges, and tunnels, Whisnant delves into the complicated and often contentious processes that brought the road into being from the 1930s into the 1980s. Looking at stories of Asheville, Little Switzerland, Ashe County, Cherokee, and Grandfather Mountain—Whisnant explores historical conflicts over land purchases, routing, Parkway access and use.
This presentation also demonstrates how new technologies are changing the stories that we can tell about the past. Drawing upon her experience as the scholarly advisor to “Driving Through Time: The Digital Blue Ridge Parkway,” (http://docsouth.unc.edu/blueridgeparkway/) an online portal to Parkway history, Whisnant demonstrates how digitally overlaying historical maps on present-day landscapes help us visualize what was at stake in historical conflicts and what might have happened had different decisions been made.
Throughout, the presentation makes the point that the Parkway looks like it does because of specific past choices–outcomes in which some people got what they wanted and others did not. The program concludes with a few thoughts about how understanding these historical processes can empower us to act on the Parkway’s behalf in the present and future.
The Unbuilt Blue Ridge Parkway
This program reviews Parkway projects that were planned but never built. Based in part on work that Anne’s UNC-Chapel Hill public history students completed in 2013, the presentation explores a proposed (1930s) segregated recreation area for black travelers at Pine Spur, Virginia; the “Americana Village” installation planned in the 1960s for Julian Price Memorial Park; the abandoned plan to include Virginia’s scenic Pinnacles of Dan area in the Parkway corridor; and an extensive and much-discussed proposal for an extension of the Parkway southward from North Carolina to a point near Atlanta, Georgia.
Grandfather Mountain: From a Proposed National Park to the Parkway’s ‘Missing Link’
This program explores the long story of Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina, including early twentieth century proposals that the mountain be made a National Park and the fierce 1950s/60s battle between owner Hugh Morton and the National Park Service over plans to build the Parkway across the mountain.
Other National Parks-Related Topics
Anne can also develop other talks focused on the history of the National Parks and National Park Service and specific histories of several other North Carolina national parks, including Cape Lookout National Seashore (focus on Portsmouth Village) and the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site.
All talks require a lectern, microphone, VGA projector with cables (for use with presenter’s laptop computer), projection screen. An internet connection is helpful.
Speaking fees are somewhat negotiable, but at minimum should include payment of all travel costs as well an honorarium. (Travel costs not required for organizations within 50 miles of Chapel Hill, NC.)
Anne can be booked through the Road Scholars program of the North Carolina Humanities Council (which provides organizations a small subsidy to offset speaker’s costs) or by contacting her directly at email@example.com or 919-618-8026.