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Mapping Nashville

Nashville is full of opportunities to practice American Studies outside the classroom. From its role in the development of the quintessential American music to its important place in civil rights history to continuing struggles over gentrification, the city itself can be seen as a sort of library. And cities encourage their own forms of reading – not the linear, chronological progress of a text or lecture, but instead a meandering walk through a built environment that consists of many different accumulated experiences and histories, and extends in all directions.

The first map below presents resources related to American Studies at Vanderbilt and to Nashville more broadly, including student and faculty research, community resources, and records of journeys of exploration into the city. Wherever possible, we include audio resources and suggest possible routes so that you can experience guided tours led by local experts, but we also encourage you to explore at random, to seek connections, to look for the points that are not yet on this map and help us to fill in more stories from our city.

The second map below is an interactive digital-humanities project created by the 2020–2021 American Studies HASTAC Fellows: Maren Loveland and Ricky Sakamoto-Pugh. Their project explores the history and legacy of the WWI-era Du Pont gun powder factory in Old Hickory, Tennessee. The area around the factory was a significant nexus of war, migration, race, art, culture, and community.


How to read the map. Each color represents a different theme across the city. Stars are sites with audio guides. Lines show the routes of past American Studies city walks and other outings.

Blue – cities and neighborhoods are always changing. Explore issues of segregation, urban renewal, displacement, gentrification, and more.

Navy – global Nashville: the Kurdish, Somali, and Latinx presence (with major contributions by the American Studies Global Nashville course, spring 2019).

Green – parks and recreation! Nature is never just natural – it always has a deeper history – and even sports can be windows into important academic themes like race, class, and gender.

Orange – what is remembered? What is forgotten?

Pink – classic icons of Music City. Learn the histories of the places that make Nashville unique.

Have a Nashville story you want to tell? American Studies takes an interdisciplinary approach to the city and to the many people, struggles, forces, institutions, and cultures that inhabit it. We can work with you to add your story to the map using text, images, video, or audio. Contact to find out more.

THE OLD HICKORY ROAD TRIP: A local and global Nashville story

Maren Loveland & Ricky Sakamoto-Pugh

Just before the end of World War I, the United States Army and Du Pont established a gun powder factory along the Columbia River, just minutes outside of Nashville. This powder plant attracted thousands of local and international workers seeking employment at the factory. . . .