Hi folks! I’m Eli Dollarhide and I’ll be a senior Anthropology major next fall. My honors thesis project centers on the ‘Revolutionary City’ series of street performances in Colonial Williamsburg. Since the rise of the ”new” social history in the 1970′s, many academics have critiqued the narrative of history told at CW. Often, the story of America’s “great men” and founding fathers has been trumpeted in the historic area of Williamsburg at the expense of other members of colonial society (especially women, enslaved Africans, and lower-class workers). The ‘Revolutionary City’ street theatre production directly responds to these criticisms by telling a more holistic story that focusses on the challenges and consequences the American revolution brought to all members of Williamsburg society.
Previous anthropological studies of Colonial Williamsburg have centered on telling the story from the perspective of the foundation’s leadership and interpreters. Equally important, however, is the impact of CW’s interpretive/educational efforts on the site’s visitors. So, for the next four weeks, I will interview visitor/viewers of ‘Revolutionary City’ in the hisotric area, directly after their engagement with the performance.
I’m particularly interested in examining Colonial Williamsburg as national historic site. The CW foundation operates under a mission to explore the origins of the idea of America. Colonial Williamsburg thus becomes a distinctly American cultural heritage site. Globally, interpretations of the past have been critical in the establishment of modern nation-states. I hope my work will join the larger canon of literature on the use of history and landscapes of the past in the modern world.
My interviews have been going really well so far! Visitors in CW have been really willing to take time out of their trip to give me their thoughts on “Rev City”–it’s a pretty thought-provoking production. The hard part is getting more than one interview a day; people just scatter as soon as the performance is over. I’ve talked to a pretty broad variety of people, though most hit 50+ range on the survey sheet. Transcribing and going over all the interviews in the evening is a bit of a time-consuming process. A couple of my interview questions need a bit of tweaking, but, overall, things have been going pretty smoothly so far!