The New England coast is an ideal space to understand the relationship between history, heritage, and tourism in creating a sense of place. Tourists have visited the coast for its natural and cultural attractions since the eighteenth century. But only in the twentieth century did the efforts of individuals, institutions, businesses, and government agencies collectively – but not collaboratively – create the modern portrait of the region, which I call the "Old Coast." Four chapters trace the formation of this sense of place from the 1860s to the 1980s. Old salts emerged in the early twentieth century as a popular coastal icon celebrating Anglo-Saxon heritage, but one that also hid the increasingly diverse ethnic composition of the region's fishermen. Mystic Seaport in the 1940s and '50s built a replica nineteenth-century New England seaport, with its founders balancing history, filiopiety, entertainment, and education as they developed what became America's leading maritime museum. Edward Rowe Snow relied more heavily on entertainment than did Mystic as he combed the region's coastal lore for tales with mass appeal: pirates, treasure, lighthouses, shipwrecks, and ghosts. This focus allowed him to make a living as a popular writer from 1946 to 1981, and raise public awareness of local history. The National Park Service strove to provide public access to the new national seashore it was developing on Cape Cod in the 1960s, while protecting and interpreting the park's history and nature for millions of visitors. In the 1980s, public opposition successfully challenged the Park Service's limited definition of what it considered historic cultural resources. Taken together, these public history practices – commemorating people in traditional maritime occupations, preserving historic artifacts, sharing local stories, and preserving history and nature in situ – coalesced by the late 1960s into an evocative portrait of coastal New England that was well known nationally and abroad. The conclusion updates the four chapters, revealing the new era of shared authority between public history practitioners and local communities, and how these practices continue to shape coastal New England's identity in the twenty-first century.
Olly, Jonathan Morin,
"Imagining the Old Coast: History, Heritage, and Tourism in New England, 1865-2012"
American Studies Theses and Dissertations.
Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.