A Colonial “Living History” Museum Addresses Colonialism: Plimoth Plantation in the 21st Century

Authors: Nancy Koppelman

Disciplines: Anthropology, Art, History, Native American Studies, Political Science and Public Administration, Psychology, Social Work and Sociology

Themes: Cultural Preservation, Economic Development, Education Reform, Family and Youth, Indian Identity, Media, Racism and Prejudice

Tribes: Wampanoag

This case examines Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum founded in 1947 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The museum is a major destination for tourists who are interested in the colonial history of New England. 25 years after it was founded, the museum decided to broaden its focus. In 1971 curators began to revise its displays to include the history of Native American peoples of the region whom the Pilgrim settlers met when they arrived. This case examines how a colonial museum has tried to depict 17th century Native people in ways that are responsive to the concerns of modern Native people. It asks how a colonial museum can do justice to the activities and experiences of both English colonists and 17th century Native peoples in its efforts to sustain broad appeal to the public that it serves.