Project Showcase: Gilmore Girls and the Stars Hollow Historical Society

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

After Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life premiered in November 2016, my fellow Temple University graduate students Ted Maust and Ariel Natalo-Lifton and I started discussing the proliferation of references to public history and heritage tourism in the popular television program. We quickly realized it could serve as an engaging way to interrogate the presentation of history in popular culture.

Gilmore Girls follows the story of single mother, Loralai Gilmore, her studious and book loving daughter Rory, and her wealthy parents in the fictional town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. Throughout the show’s seven-year run, Stars Hollow residents started a town museum and hosted numerous Revolutionary War reenactments, while both Emily and Rory participated in the Daughters of the American Revolution.

At the beginning of our project, Maust created a Google spreadsheet to track the show’s public history references. What began as a spreadsheet turned into something bigger when I started a website called The Stars Hollow Historical Society. The website began accepting submissions for posts on Gilmore Girls and the public humanities, broadly construed. Existing posts deal with “Founder’s Chic” in Stars Hollow, but planned future posts will discuss references to Stalinism throughout the series, the treatment of Sylvia Plath and mental health, a character’s visit to the Mark Twain House and Museum during one episode, and the role of the Daughters of the American Revolution on the show. We have had interest from friends, colleagues, and museum professionals from across the country!

The recent revival of the series has caused renewed interest in Gilmore Girls and an opportunity to explore the intersection of popular culture and public history interpretation. It might seem silly, but these kinds of portrayals of public history, heritage tourism, and the public humanities are widely viewed by audiences who may not consider themselves public history consumers. By interrogating and engaging with the show seriously, we can gain an understanding of the ways Gilmore Girls presents history and the humanities to the public. We might not want to admit it but television shows like Gilmore Girls reach far more people than most historical sites. Analyzing the ways Gilmore Girls portrays history can help us engage with history that is reaching the public.

Please feel free to submit a post or a pitch to Holly Genovese.

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