Thursday, July 4, 2019

Why Are We No Longer Visiting Our Nation's Historical Sites?

From Intellectual Takeout:
Mitchell B. Ries, President and CEO of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation places some of the blame for the disinterest in Civil War sites and events on recent controversies over Southern symbols. But the disinterest is broader than just Civil War sites. According to Ries, Colonial Williamsburg attracts only half the numbers of people it attracted 30 years ago. Colonial Williamsburg lost an average of $148,000 a day in 2016, and the Foundation is now over $317 million in debt. Williamsburg has outsourced many of its functions and laid off staff. According to Jennifer Tiedemann and Karen Marsico at the Federalist:
History museums across the country are seeing similar problems. In 2012, only 24 percent of Americans older than 18 visited a historic site in 2012—13 percent lower than in 1982. Attendance drops are particularly pronounced among younger Americans. Only 20.5 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 visited a historic site in 2012—down about 8 percentage points from just 10 years earlier.
Ellis Island is in a sad state of disrepair. All the shops at Sargeant York's homeplace, once a popular destination, are closed. Even George Washington's home at Mt. Vernon was put on the list of endangered historical sites.

Part of the problem, says McWhirter, is "changing tastes." But Mike Brown, a Civil War battle re-enactor, has another explanation: “The younger generations are not taught to respect history, and they lose interest in it." Williamsburg's Ries makes the same observation: "[L]ess American history is being taught in schools." I don't think my wife and I saw a single school group during our entire visit to Philadelphia. 
Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch, Custer Battlefield National Monument in Montana, West Mesa Petroglyphs in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Penn School in Frogmore, South Carolina, Cannery Row in Monterey, Calilfornia. These places, prominent fixtures in the imaginations of generations of adults and schoolchildren, are receding into oblivion, thanks to an education system that doesn't seem to value our heritage. (Read more.)

From The Federalist:
Americans are losing interest in the Civil War—or at least they are losing interest in learning about it and visiting historic battle sites. The Wall Street Journal reported recently that the country’s “five major Civil War battlefield parks—Gettysburg, Antietam, Shiloh, Chickamauga/Chattanooga, and Vicksburg—had a combined 3.1 million visitors in 2018, down from about 10.2 million in 1970.” Gettysburg, America’s most famous and hallowed battlefield, drew fewer than a million visitors last year, and just 14 percent of the visitor total in 1970.

In addition to fewer tourists, the number of Civil War re-enactors is also declining. Many are growing old, and younger men are not stepping in to replenish their ranks. As one 68-year-old re-enactor, who recently helped organize a recreation of the Battle of Resaca in Georgia, told the Journal, “The younger generations are not taught to respect history, and they lose interest in it.” (Read more.)

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