By and large tourists look for novelty in a landscape, what is not back home, whereas local residents look at the landscape as a web of memory sites and social interactions.

-David Glassberg

This quote by David Glassberg (Public History and Memory20) emphasizes some of the conflicting expectations that tourists (outsiders) and locals (insiders) bring to their understandings of their landscape. In a tour guide written by "locals" of a state whose industry and sense of identity hinges on tourism, these tensions can have particular resonance.

Critics of the Federal Writers' Project have long pointed to the stylistic criteria imposed by the national office in challenging the idea that the state guides actually represented the "voices" of the states themselves. State editors have spoken out on the (sometimes inconsistent and confusing) editorial desires that they tried to satisfy.

Stetson Kennedy in Florida described the effort to do "our very best to see to it that everything that went into the Guide was couched not only in staid Federalese but also in the specific guidebook jargon set forth in the FWP Style Manual" (McDonogh xix); the staff in Oklahoma railed against the expectation that they speak in plain American voices, wondering "why we must use simple declarative sentences (and that is what they are, even when connected interminably by semicolons) when the most feeble impulse in our brains demands something else" (Bold 10); Minnesota's State Director, feeling the pressure to deliver the right kind of color, reported that "we were completely baffled by the tendency of all federal editors to regard us as inhabiting a region romantically different from any other in the country" (Bold 30). With all the controversy over the regulation of local voices by central authorities, it seems easy to read the compositional choices made in Florida: A Guide to the Southernmost State as reflecting more about national agendas than particular ones.

Florida provides an interesting analytical challenge. It wasn't a state like Idaho, with a director who famously frustrated the designs of the national office by resisting their stylistic instructions and pulling together a handbook before the D.C. volume was ready, thus snatching away the honor of publishing the first FWP state guidebook (Penkower 126). The relations between Florida and the national office were markedly more cooperative and less dramatic.

What the Florida guide does offer, perhaps more than any other volume in the series, is an interesting amplification of the dynamics inherent in all the tour guides. As a state whose modern development was dependent on tourism and migrancy, its particular identity, its Floridaness, was linked to the perspective of the visitor or outsider.



Juliet Gorman, May 2001