The Politics of Public Memory

Tourism, History, and Ethnicity in Monterey, California

By Martha K. Norkunas

Subjects: American History
Series: SUNY series in Oral and Public History, SUNY series in Advances in Applied Anthropology
Paperback : 9780791414842, 136 pages, July 1993
Hardcover : 9780791414835, 136 pages, July 1993

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Table of contents



Introduction: An Intellectual Journey to the Politics of Culture

Ethnography and History: The Monterey Example

The Construction of Public History Texts

The Literary Landscape and the Industrial Past

Nature, History, and Ethnicity

Public History, Tourist Landscapes, and the Reconfiguration of Reality: Concluding Thoughts

Appendix: Site Descriptions of the Path of History




This book examines American public culture and the means by which communities in the U.S. reconstruct the past and reinterpret the present in the development of tourism. Norkunas shows how public culture is not confined to just museums or monuments, but can be constructed on many different levels and in different settings, such as community ethnicity, natural setting (environment), literary landscape, and history. In her case study of Monterey, the author explores the particular ideologies that prompt the community to represent itself in tourism, and that also act to legitimate the current social structure.

Martha K. Norkunas is Cultural Affairs Director of the Lowell (MA) Historic Preservation Commission.


"Many people will find the elements of the Monterey experience familiar: a history represented by upper class homes; socially elite governing boards and societies; outdated and non-inclusive interpretive exhibits; the tour guide who is a local history 'gatekeeper;' emphasis on decorative arts and furnishings on a historic house tour; the lack of emphasis on industrial history; the commercial exploitation of adaptively used industrial buildings. The commonality of these problems will indeed make the book useful and an important reference point to what each of us is doing at home." —John A. Herbst, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania

"This is a well-written book that provides good, hard, informed analysis of Monterey's historic sites and history-related developments. The sites here are representative of others, and the issues raised apply nationwide. These are important issues, too, concerning as they do the uses of history in contemporary society. The book deserves a wide audience." — Robert Weible, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission