"Put Your Stamp on History": The USPS Commemorative Program Celebrate the Century and Postmodern Collective Memory

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Abstract

This essay offers a reading of one of the largest public commemorative projects in recent U.S. history, the Celebrate the Century stamp program, in order to explore the ambivalent potential of collective memory in postmodernity. Celebrate the Century exhibits the tension between aesthetic and political heterogeneity, on the one hand, and the tendency toward commodification and political amnesia, on the other. The essay develops by considering the evolution of commemorative postal iconography and its relation to postmodern simulacra, the process of selection of stamp subjects for Celebrate the Century, and the array of display strategies that helped to frame the collection as a commodity, the public as tourists, and history as progress toward consumer democracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalQuarterly Journal of Speech
Volume89
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education

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