Cultivating Memoryscapes: The Politics of Language at Plantation House Museums in the American South

Reference work entry


For every story told, there is a decision made not to tell another story. At plantation museums, the decision to tell a story typically privileges the stories of the white elite. Scholars of memory and heritage tourism have found that plantation house sites dedicate considerable resources to telling stories of planters and “southern belles” but fail to provide substantive interpretations of slavery and the enslaved. In this chapter, I approach language heard and read at plantation sites as inherently political and examine the influence of language on physical spaces and places of memory. The majority of plantation museums were founded on traditions of erasure, apologist attitudes, and Lost Cause ideologies. However rooted plantation museum historical interpretation is in overtly racist place-narrative, they are far from static. Narratives at plantation museums are both deliberate and organic. Histories sold and told at memory sites grow and change as they are performed by tour guides and consumed by visitors. Navigating space and verbiage of plantation memoryscapes is a dialectic process, and narratives are in a constant state of becoming as they are subverted, adapted, and reified. This essay situates the plantation museum in the broader conversation about slavery, memory, and the vitality of narrative.


Public memory Slavery Historiography Museums Plantation 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA

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