Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area Staff


Carroll Van West (carroll.west@mtsu.edu) is the director of the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University. He also serves as editor-in-chief of The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture web site, and director of the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area, the only National Heritage Area administered by a university department.

His research interests lie in 19th and 20th century southern and western history as well as architecture and material culture. His most recent book is A History of Tennessee Arts: Creating Traditions and Expanding Horizons (UT Press, 2004), the state’s first comprehensive history of the arts. He recently published chapters on “Rocky Mountain Architecture” for Rocky Mountain Cultures (Greenwood Press, 2005), “Architecture” for the Encyclopedia of Appalachia (UT Press, 2006), and co-authored a National Trust for Historic Preservation booklet, Heritage Areas: Getting Started (2006).

Earlier books include: an edited anthology, Trial and Triumph: Readings in Tennessee’s African-American Past (UT Press, 2002), the first such textbook on Tennessee’s African American history in over 20 years; the web edition of The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture (UT Press, 2003), which includes many more visuals, maps, videos, audio, and illustrations than the original print volume; Tennessee’s New Deal Landscape (UT Press, 2001), the first statewide book on New Deal-era structures, buildings, and parks; The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, co-winner of the Tennessee History Book Award and recipient of an AASLH Award of Merit in 1999 (Tennessee Historical Society, 1998); the edited anthology Tennessee History: The Land, The People, and The Culture (UT Press, 1998); Tennessee's Historic Landscapes, a study of history and architecture, (UT 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, a photographic history of Billings, MT, (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. Dr. West has directed to completion over seventy M.A. theses of MTSU graduate students in history, historic preservation, and public history. Dr. West serves on the board of advisors for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He has worked with museum/preservation projects in many other states and has been recently working on historic preservation issues in California, Mississippi, and Montana, He has written numerous articles and book reviews in southern and western history. Recent articles include a chapter on rural African American churches in, African American Place-Making and the Struggle to Claim Space in the United States (University Press of Colorado, 2007). He regularly speaks to history, museum, preservation, and civic groups and conferences in Tennessee and across the nation. A native of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Dr. West holds a B.A. from MTSU, a master's degree in history from the University of Tennessee, and a doctorate in history from the College of William & Mary.


Laura Stewart Holder (laura.holder@mtsu.edu ) serves as the part-time Federal Liaison for the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area. Ms. Holder received a B.A. from the University of Kansas and a M.A. in public history with emphasis in historic preservation from Middle Tennessee State University, completing her thesis on the establishment and preservation initiatives of the historic African American Natchez Street neighborhood in Franklin. She served as manager for the Heritage Area for four years before moving to a part time role as Federal Liaison. In her current role, she assists wtih daily operations, publications, and project administration. She has developed heritage tourism initiatives for communities across the state, including driving tours and feasibility studies. She serves on the Governor's Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, and the advisory board of the Tennessee Civil War Preservation Association, the Mississippi River Corridor-Tennessee, the Alliance of National Heritage Areas Heritage Development Institute, and the Battle of Franklin Trust marketing committee. She has also contributed to the online edition of the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture.


Antoinette G. van Zelm (antoinette.vanzelm@mtsu.edu) is the Assistant Director for the Center for Historic Preservation and historian for the Heritage Area. She provides research, writing, and editing assistance to partnering organizations. Major projects she has worked on include a traveling exhibit on emancipation and Reconstruction in Tennessee, a book of Freedmen’s Bureau labor contracts, and exhibit panels for the General Longstreet Headquarters Museum. She also works on Civil War-related materials for the Teaching with Primary Sources Across Tennessee program.

Dr. van Zelm received her Ph.D. in American History from the College of William & Mary, completing her dissertation on the transition from slavery to freedom among women in Virginia during and after the Civil War. She is active in the Southern Association for Women Historians (SAWH) and serves as book review editor for H-SAWH. She has written about the transition from slavery to freedom in both Tennessee and Virginia in several publications and is now researching Tennessee women's involvement in the Woman's Relief Corps, the women's auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Michael Thomas Gavin
December 24, 1946-January 9, 2013


Our dear friend and colleague, Michael Thomas Gavin, passed away in January after a lengthy illness.

A native of New Jersey, Michael earned his undergraduate degree from Rutgers University before launching a career of community activism that took him across the country before bringing him and his wife Linda to Tennessee as one of the founding families of The Farm in Lewis County about 40 years ago. Michael received his M.A. from MTSU in the early 1990s before joining the Center for Historic Preservation in 2002 as the preservation specialist for the newly launched Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area. With over twenty-five years experience in rehabilitating historic buildings, Michael was largely responsible for the Heritage Area's exemplary record of community service and research excellence. He contributed to and shaped preservation and research projects across the state. Among his monuments are: the Iron Furnace Trail, the Tennessee Civil War Trail marker system, the Glen Leven Farm project in Nashville, Doe Creek School in Henderson County, and Promise Land school in Dickson.
Michael took great pride in his scholarship about Tennessee's vernacular architecture, especially log construction. His publication Barns of Tennessee, essays in The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture and A History of Tennessee Arts, together with numerous articles, reviews, and reports, remain seminal works.Michael was more than a productive scholar and a dedicated preservationist. He also was a good friend and colleague to those who worked at the Center for Historic Preservation, whether as a member of the Center or as one of the many graduate students that he touched with his insights, knowledge, and humor. We at the Center will miss his expertise, good spirits, and personal touch profoundly; Mike Gavin really cannot be replaced. He left a significant legacy of buildings saved and lessons learned that will shape Tennesseans for decades to come. Click here for obituary from the Daily News Journal.