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Grant number: FEL-257468-18

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Paul Hardin Kapp
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (Urbana, IL 61801-3620)

Heritage and the Great Depression: How Historic Preservation Created the Old South

Research and writing a book-length history of the preservation of antebellum landmarks in Natchez, Mississippi, during the 1930s.

For over eighty years, tourists have come to Natchez in search of the “Old South.” But what they encounter is an invention: the commodification of history constructed during the economic hardship of the Great Depression. My book is the first to tell the surprising story of how Natchez was transformed from a backwater town into a cultural tourism destination by a group of progressive-minded women; and how it continues to shape our shared understanding of the Old South and its complicated legacy, particularly regarding race. Attending to the history of preservation helps us to understand how cultural meaning is assigned to place. This book draws on a rich archive of historic images, architectural documents, and popular culture. In showing how and why the buildings of the “Old South” were first preserved, commercialized, and transformed into a brand, the book aims to make a much-needed contribution to ongoing, often polarizing debates over the meanings attached to cultural patrimony.

Project fields:
American Studies; Architecture


Research Programs

Total amounts:
$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2018 – 7/31/2019