Date of Award


Degree Type

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

David Messenger


In 2016 “America’s Best Idea”, the United States National Park System, celebrated a century of national heritage in natural resource stewardship. As the NPS progresses into its next century, reflection on the semiotics of national park tourism offers a critical perspective on meanings of American nationalism and identity with management implications for a twenty first century audience. This research acknowledges the originating confluences of artistic and literary romanticism, commercialization of natural resources through tourism and political annexation of public land during Reconstruction Era in the establishment of a model that advanced an American flavor of nature monumentalism. This research analyzes the varied political ecology of cultural landscape themes through the historic design and rhetoric of national sites contrasted with statistically documented presence of social groups. This research will offer clarifying perspective the relationship between institutional nationalism and membership constructs in the American National Park System.