Public history sites like the West Indian Museum of Panama and the Miraflores Visitors Center have different approaches to narrating the Panama Canal story, ranging from tales of man’s triumph over nature and celebratory discourses of nationalist victories, to testimonies of the racial histories silenced by official renderings of the past. Given the important role of museums as educational institutions, sites that inform public opinion, and representational platforms for national tourism, this article explores the relationship these institutions forge between visitors and canal history. Through a comparative analysis of the narratives and experiential strategies at each site, I evaluate the degree to which Panamanians are cast as spectators in grandiose histories of triumph, or as agents, responsible for shaping the past, present and future. In contrast to these physical sites, I consider how The Society of Friends of the West Indian Museum of Panama constructs a living past through memory practices that challenge the petrified histories traditionally found in museums.


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pp. 130-153
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