All Dressed Up, With Everywhere To Go: Plimoth Plantation and the Future of Public History

Taylor Stoermer, who has been quite critical of the path being taken by Colonial Williamsburg away from teaching history toward entertainment, shows that he can do more than just criticize. In his most recent piece, which I am reblogging, he points to how another large, well-known living history site is achieving success by “doubling down” on their commitment to teach history rather than just entertain.

Perhaps the Board and leadership of Colonial Williamsburg would do well to study the path that Plimoth Plantation has chosen.

The History Doctor

A month or so ago, a friend of mine and I sat on the front porch of Concord’s Colonial Inn, our regular place of refreshment, and talked about the reasons behind the steady decline of large, recreated public history sites like Historic Deerfield, Old Sturbridge Village, and Colonial Williamsburg. A pioneering public historian who established the program at the College of William & Mary that educated many of their former leaders, he posited that the age of such sites as viable heritage attractions was simply over. Whatever success they once enjoyed was part of post-World War II trends in tourism that have disappeared with the passing of the generations that followed them. Economic downturns and poor management have contributed to the general drop in visitation for many of the sites–even the precipitous collapse of at least one of them as a legitimate non-profit heritage institution–but, all things considered, they are part of an era in the history of…

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