Love them or hate them, Disney theme parks have become some of the most culturally significant locations of collective memory of the American experience. Rather than focus, as most discussion has, on whether this should be viewed as “good” or “bad,” this essay seeks to lay a groundwork for understanding how Disney parks gained their cultural authority. In doing so it will suggest that public historians could benefit from framing the interaction between history and the public at Disney parks as a location-specific process by which the public and a corporation are engaged in a cultural ritual of transforming historical fact into the national narrative.
Mirror, Mirror for Us All: Disney Theme Parks and the Collective Memory of the American National Narrative
Bethanee Bemis is a museum specialist with the Division of Political and Military History at the National Museum of American History, where she works to ensure the intellectual and physical care of the division’s 150,000+ political history objects. She has been part of the exhibit team for several exhibits at NMAH, including most recently American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith. Her fields of interest include the development of national symbols and the evolution of the national narrative, particularly with regard to the Disney theme parks.
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Bethanee Bemis; Mirror, Mirror for Us All: Disney Theme Parks and the Collective Memory of the American National Narrative. The Public Historian 1 February 2020; 42 (1): 54–79. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2020.42.1.54
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