I sent back a few observations:
I don’t feel qualified to comment about Boston’s tourism advertisements.Not all of that got into the published article here.
I have noted that the region’s historic sites reflect New England’s old tradition of separatism. The Freedom Trail includes city sites, state sites, federal sites, private non-profit museums, working churches, and a burrito restaurant. Places important in the 1775-76 siege of Boston fall into four separate National Parks (Minute Man, Boston, Boston Harbor Islands, and Longfellow-Washington Nat’l Historic Site) and a multitude of municipal museums and parks. It’s amazing all those organizations work together as well as they do!
I think there’s also a tension between education and entertainment for tourists, students, or anyone else. The new Boston Tea Party Museum seems to take the most entertainment-oriented approach: visitors are constantly moving or watching and hearing a presentation or movie. Contrast that with Old South Meeting House, site of the big tea meetings. There we get to sit in the actual historic space—but of course we’re sitting in wooden pews listening to speeches, and that might just not be as exciting.
Serious historians tend to wrinkle our noses at “ghost tours” and other sensationalism. Yet as far back as the late 1700s visitors to Boston were paying to see bodies of British officers killed at Bunker Hill laid out under the Old North Church. So people have always liked sensationalism.
The photo above is from Ben Edwards’s coverage of the 2009 reenactment of Boston’s tea meetings inside the Old South Meeting House at Teach History. This year’s reenactment is coming up on Sunday, 16 December, at 4:00 P.M., and is sponsored by both Old South and the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum. Tickets are on sale now.