Public History and the Fractured Past: Colonial Williamsburg, the Usable Past, and the Concept of an American Identity

No Thumbnail Available
Highfield, Elaura Danielle
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
Colonial Williamsburg's educators have used the past to create a historical context around the colonial city and to construct an American history and identity. I study Colonial Williamsburg's publications to explore how the site defined early Americans and how this definition changed over time. From the site's inception in the 1920s and 1930s until the 1960s, Colonial Williamsburg's educators used the past to create a homogenous American identity that favored the white and wealthy. The social history movement of the 1960s and 1970s, along with newly hired interpreters and academic pressure to accommodate new standards, challenged Colonial Williamsburg to alter its usable past to form a more inclusive American identity. Along with studying the changes in the site's public depiction of an American, I also research how Colonial Williamsburg's American identity interacted with historical diversity and conflict.
Colonial Williamsburg, Intellectual history, Public history, United States