Baltimore is poised to make a mistake.

It wants to move tourists out of the Inner Harbor and around town on a marked history trail of some sort. The planners, using Boston's Heritage Trail as a model, are stumped because the Heritage Trail has a single theme ... the Revolutionary War sites around Boston. Baltimore, well it just has too much history to limit one walk to one theme. So somebody in Baltimore has to write a unifying narrative to marry disparate historical periods into a single story associated with a single walk.

This is all wrong, of course. Multiple stories can be mapped to multiple walks (I would love to walk the route of the Massachussetts regiments mobbed en route to Baltimore's train station in 1861). Likewise, a walk with many points of interest and no unifying theme will also do very well, because tourists like variety and surprises. Drafting a single story covering multiple sites will produce a phony concept underpinning a politically acceptable civics lesson. It will be bad history and no fun.

Really, Baltimore and Boston both have too much history to limit one walk to one theme. The pity is that Boston has thrown away 350 years in favor of what it currently likes best about the itself, its revolution against the Crown of England.

You have to experience the political-historical culture of Massachusetts to understand life in a post-communist or post-fascist state. Its political concept of itself seems to be based on the good guys having overthrown the bad guys, except that now all the old history is unpalatable: Utah celebrates Thanksgiving with more zest that Massachusetts. One can imagine a Bay State politician referring publicly to the Founders of the Republic, but never, ever to the Puritan founders. Senator John Kerry once wittily compared the Commonwealth to Bosnia-Herzogovina. Yes. There are historical figures who no longer exist because the public cannot emphathize with them.

Georgia is currently trying to solve the same problem by deciding whether its state history should be taught from Reconstruction forward. We instinctively understand that the current population of Georgia can better identify with post-reconstruction society and politics than with the antebellum polity. We sympathize. And this resembles the situation in Boston that produced the travesty of an an "anti-Heritage Trail," the single theme suitable for public consumption.

There are places where the people are less alientated from their state's histories; the mid-Atlantic states, for example. Maryland should seek its own way and Baltimore should ground historical tourism in, yes, history.

Let all the history be seen, be taught, be visited. Let the city supply the trail, the markers, the police. Let the tourists supply their own information and opinions.