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Date of Graduation
Master of Arts (MA)
Department of History
Most Americans’ idea of Route 66 is misinformed. The collective memory of the iconic highway was built on the existing problematic image of the American West, shaped by early Route 66 boosters, and perpetuated through popular media and amateur preservationists, all of whom stood to benefit from a selective, marketable version of the highway’s past. The gaps left by these promotional revisions are indicative of problems with the transmission of collective memory on a larger scale, in which elements of history that do not align with the desired image are softened or removed. The sense of continuity and shared identity created by collective memory gives an unbalanced proportion of privilege and power to those it represents. Thus, groups excluded from the accepted narrative face a similar displacement from the group’s collective identity and decreased influence within the community.
This thesis examines expanded historical narratives and fills in gaps in the collective memory, correcting the flawed understanding most Americans have about Route 66. National Register of Historic Places nominations for sites along Route 66 provide a lot of insight into these overlooked histories, but still lack the stories of people excluded from nominated sites and those of sites that were never nominated, meaning that even this improved Route 66 history is still incomplete. Correcting the popular misunderstanding perpetuated in the collective memory through the information found in sources like the National Register nominations, those whose history has been ignored or altered might regain the authority that representation provides.
Corsentino, Jessica, "America's Main Street misremembered: The myth of Route 66" (2022). Masters Theses, 2020-current. 168.