Heritage tourism delerium is recession-proof

The seamy Civil War "heritage tourism" dynamic generated among chambers of commerce, local government, and "public historians" recently surfaced again in this story in Helena's (AR) Daily World newspaper.

A couple, making their living as public history consultants in Arkansas, met with the Helena Rotarians to pitch tourism attraction ideas. It immediately generated the hysterical newspaper headline, "Helena’s Civil War story could mean some major tourist dollars."

Sick stuff. If you have any doubt whether this is P.T. Barnum country, read on.
Brent said that people, who aren’t from the Delta, would find the story of Phillips County “fascinating.” Brent showed a brief taste of the design for Helena, which includes 27 locations for waysides, Kiosks, enhanced walkways, camps, buildings, audio displays, public art and murals. The green space on Biscoe that used to house dilapidated homes and was torn down through the efforts of the Delta Bridge Project and the city of Helena-West Helena, will be Freedom Park and detail the African American troops that fought during the Civil War. Estevan Hall, which has been bought by Southern Bancorp and the American Trust, will house a welcome center, if all goes according to the plans. Brent said that 900,000 people visit Vicksburg and the Civil War sites there. “You’re well situated to attract the tourists and you have the story. The story is compelling and they’ll (tourists) go tell their friends.”
The Brents are selling what desperate governments are buying: hope in a magical economic solution. What the accumulated disappointments will do to history, public and otherwise, is not good.