A few years ago, the Smithsonian National Museum of Art in Washington, DC, opened an exhibit that sought to reconsider the nature of the images that defined the American West. Part of the goal was to show how images of heroism and conquest were propped up by (and served to mask) systems of exploitation and even genocide in the West. The exhibit sought to show that the Western myth was just that, a myth. As Stephen Daniels describes the exhibit, "Some images are described [by text accompanying them] to be less about the West than a projection of social tensions, around immigration and labor unrest, in the eastern cities where many of the art-works were produced and consumed." The reaction to this exhibition was immediate and strong. Politicians in both parties condemned the Smithsonian and threatened to cut off its funding. Museums in other cities (including St. Louis and Denver, two key locations for Western development) canceled their plans to host the show. And, in the press and on television, on the floor of Congress and in classrooms, a wild debate developed on the proper representation of history and geography - a debate that has reverberated in a series of increasingly strident battles in the culture wars around everything from the teaching of Western history, to the role of museums in promoting national culture. (114-15)

Cultural Geography: A Critical Introduction (2000)
Don Mitchell