Authentic Musical Washboard
Authentic Musical Washboard, River City Music Experience, Davenport, IA

After touring many historical and not-so-historical sites, I begin to wonder just what constitutes an “inauthentic” artifact or experience. Some attendees at RSA complained about the crassness of Beale Street, as if it were somehow a “phony” or sham experience. But is it any more contrived than other “managed” tourist districts like the French Quarter in NOLA (before or after the flood)? If everyone knows that it is artifice, why be outraged that it is artificial?

Often, artificiality is more moving than the real thing. Visiting the “authentic” summer home of Buffalo Bill was interesting enough—that is, until I visited the tourist museum in his birthplace in Iowa (to be uploaded tomorrow). Though the pretense of “Buffalo Bill’s birthplace” had little or no claim to authenticity, it served as an organizing trope for one of the best small town experiences I’ve ever had. I’ll have to expand on this later.