VFOA United States

Preservers, Pathbreakers, and Pioneers

In every community there is someone, usually a woman, who everybody knows has old newspaper clippings, and has the history of the community in her house, whether it is because her children were kindof so involved with everything, or she was the teacher in the one-room schoolhouse of that place, or she is kind of a history buff. So that person is the Preserver that I imagine, the person who everyone does not necessarily…folks who are looking for the public history scholar, or the librarian who everyone knows, would miss this person. Also, Preservers include the archivists who have been working at state libraries, and nonprofit libraries for a long time, and kind of compiling collections of materials. Someone like, formerly, Diana La Shattalaniere [sp?] at Shanberg [sp?] Center. There are those individuals – Juanita Murray at Vanderbilt University who have taken on the job of archivists and have been doing that yeoman’s labor for a long time and it is not labor that people see, but it is labor that is invaluable to the preservation of this history of  a particular community.  

 Pathbreakers – the idea is individuals, regardless of generation, individuals who have done what some people today call ‘disruptive innovation.’ So, individuals who have come up with something new in their community, in their organization, in their context. It can involve, an academic who has come up with a new theoretical framework for thinking about a particular issue, a particular way of thinking about diaspora. But it can also be someone who came up with the concept of “lean in.” People who came up with the context of TED Talks. So, someone who is an innovator, someone who has come up with something new, but is not necessarily a “foundation generation” person. 

 The pioneers are what I would call “foundation generation folks.” In a kind of U.S. context, that would be someone born in the 20s, 30s, probably a little bit in the 40s, who really was the one who had to fight the battle to be the first. Thinking here of someone like Rosetta Miller Perry, editor of the Tennessee Tribune here in Nashville. Thinking of someone like a Hortense Spiller, here at Vanderbilt University, like a Houston Baker  — individuals who really were the pioneers in a particular field, in a particular arena. So those are kind of the Preservers, Pathbreakers, and Pioneers.