Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


American Studies


Leisa Meyer

Committee Member

Grey Gundaker

Committee Member

Hannah Rosen


This thesis addresses the practice of historic preservation, situating preservation and tourism as substantial arms of the Lost Cause movement in the late nineteenth-century. Through this case study of the Association of the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA), I illustrate how, in the aftermath of the Civil War, southern historic preservation efforts were primarily acts of self-preservation. The APVA exemplifies how identity can be created and maintained through the very performance of it – by securing of a stage on which to do so. Heralding a specific brand of tradition, the APVA reached for the more distant grandeur of colonial and early America. Their conjuring of a pre-existing white, elite identity enabled them to forge a broader identity that unified whiteness across class boundaries through their preservation and performance. An elite women’s organization based in Williamsburg, Virginia, the APVA deployed their femininity and whiteness dexterously in the service of broader white supremacy. In the context of the post-Civil War South, I show the intentionality with which the APVA selectively preserved sites from which white elites traditionally wielded power and the ways in which nostalgia and memory have been embraced as historical reality. What results from these methods are sanitized depictions of slavery and the glorification of white male figures. This thesis serves to problematize the authority with which heritage tourism sites are afforded by exposing the ideological and exclusionary praxes, which undergird the entire operation.



© The Author