One might expect that an essay in the local color style about Florida would treat the issue of tourism and folkculture. What is surprising is that the "Contemporary Scene" is organized around the trope of the tourist's visit to Florida and that it assumes, almost without exception, the point of view of the tourist.

This is not an approach that all the state guides took, even though they were all intended to be tour guides. The national office included in their American Guide Manual, the handbook that was distributed to instruct project employees on the style and form that the guidebooks should take, a supplement on the Contemporary Scene essay. It was a sample, introduced as "an admirable example," of the opening essay for the North Dakota guide. There was no explicit mention of tourism and certainly no adoption of the tourist perspective. This seems logical in the sense that North Dakota had nothing like the tourist industry in Florida. We shouldn't read the difference between the Florida approach and this sample essay as a transgression of the national office's wishes, since the supplement stated at the outset that "no two States will afford the same contemporary picture; no two treatments of the subject, therefore, need resemble each other. But whatever the method of handling the theme, the essay should reflect the character of the State from an understanding and unbiased point of view" (Supplement #11-D to the American Guide Manual).

You can read over the sample essay that the national office recommended.

What we should ask is what specific meanings emerge when the essay speaks from the point of view of a tourist? The guidebooks were supposed both to stimulate tourism and engender a sense of local pride on the part of residents. Insiders and outsiders were supposed to be readers, at least according to the rhetoric of the FWP. When the essay assumes the tourist perspective exclusively it signals a very particular intended audience. The quote from David Glassberg at the start of this discussion identifies some ways that visitors and natives ask different things of landscapes, (both physical and cultural). Does the "Contemporary Scene" lose the ability to capture the landscape as a local would see it? At one level, we can assume that Florida residents who lived with the phenomenon of tourism might have appreciated the wit with which it was rendered. Another way that the essay may resolve or try to resolve this problem is through the account of the acculturation of the tourist.



Juliet Gorman, May 2001