It would seem that Richard Norton Smith, who will oversee the conversion of the Lincoln Library and Museum into a tourist mecca, may have enough self-discernment to understand the role he is playing. In a recent speech he notes,
"By his reckless embrace of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Franklin Pierce helped touch off a civil war, even if he did wonders for the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau."
I hope we need never say, "By his reckless embrace of heritage tourism, Smith triggered a nationwide replacement of scholars with celebrities - doing wonders for visitor bureaus everywhere."
Smith's writing is highly entertaining. It should be: he collects the best bon mots for any given president and packs them around fairly ordinary historical insights. But the history behind the writing rarely rises above the level of cafe (or dorm lounge) chatter.
See for yourself here and here.
Thanks for the laughs, but is this an Algonquin Roundtable approach to history? Are we sufficiently amused yet?
This talk was part of his leave taking from the Dole Library. Have Dole studies been advanced? Are there Dole studies?
A better use for such going-away speeches is this. Describe scholarship you admire. Tell us how you will advance Lincoln scholarship. Amuse us last of all.