Anne Whisnant History Faculty

Dr. Anne Mitchell Whisnant

Whichard Visiting Distinguished Professor
Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Office: Brewster A305


Anne Mitchell Whisnant received her Ph.D. in history at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1997. Since then, she has pursued a hybrid career that has blended fourteen years in academic administration with teaching and an active public history practice. 

From 2002-2006, Anne directed humanities programs under a Mellon Foundation grant for the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University. From 2006-16, she served as Deputy Secretary of the Faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill, providing professional support for the campus-level shared governance bodies serving Carolina’s nearly four thousand faculty members. As a PhD-prepared full-time administrator, Anne has been a leading proponent of so-called “alt-ac” (alternative academic) career paths for PhDs.

Anne’s teaching, research, consulting, and writing, meanwhile, have focused on public history, digital history, and the history of the U.S. National Parks. In 2006, UNC Press published her book, Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History. Anne has also been the co-principal historian (with David Whisnant) on several National Park Service projects including an administrative history of De Soto National Memorial (FL) and a Historic Resource Study of Cape Lookout National Seashore (NC). Most recently, Anne chaired a task force commissioned by the Organization of American Historians and the National Park Service to study the state of historical practice within the Park Service. Its award-winning report, Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Park Service, is catalyzing change in the NPS.

At UNC-Chapel Hill from 2006-16, Anne taught both North Carolina History and Introduction to Public History and served as adviser for Driving Through Time: The Digital Blue Ridge Parkway, a digital history collection developed collaboratively with the UNC Libraries. Her teaching has always incorporated significant digital components, and her students in Public History have developed a number of digital exhibits related to Blue Ridge Parkway history.  

Beginning in 2014, Anne began to turn her attention to ways to approach the university campus itself as a public history landscape. Such a turn seemed especially timely as universities nationwide were being called upon to look more critically at their pasts. In 2015, Anne reoriented her public history course project to look at university history and helped the students research and construct a new website, Names in Brick and Stone: Histories from the University’s Built Landscape. It employs deeply researched long-form illustrated essays and a flexible visualization about the over 250 structures that UNC classifies as “major buildings”.

Beyond UNC-Chapel Hill, Anne served as co-convener of the “Campus History as Public History” working group at the 2016 National Council on Public History meeting. As an outgrowth of this project, she and her collaborators will be developing a national directory of ongoing campus public history initiatives. 

Selected Publications:

  • Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Park Service [with Marla Miller, Gary B. Nash, and David Thelen] (Organization of American Historians/National Park Service, 2011). Available online: http://www.oah.org/programs/the-oah-national-park-service-collaboration/imperiled-promise-the-state-of-history-in-the-national-park-service/ (Winner: 2013 National Council on Public History Excellence in Consulting Award).
  • Gateway to the Atlantic World: Cape Lookout National Seashore Historic Resource Study [with David E. Whisnant] (National Park Service, 2015). Available for download here: https://irma.nps.gov/App/Reference/Profile/2226090.
  • When the Parkway Came [with David E. Whisnant] (Primary Source Publishers, 2010). First book for children and youth about Blue Ridge Parkway history.
  • Small Park, Large Issues: De Soto National Memorial and the Commemoration of a Difficult History [with David E. Whisnant] (National Park Service, 2007). Available for download here: https://irma.nps.gov/DataStore/Reference/Profile/2193526.
  • Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History (University of North Carolina Press, 2006). First full scholarly analysis of the history of the most visited site in the American National Park system.