This is a book about why history matters. It shows how popularized historical images and narratives deeply influence Americans' understanding of their collective past. A leading public historian, Mike Wallace observes that we are a people who think of ourselves as having shed the past but also avid tourists who are on a 'heritage binge,' flocking by the thousands to Ellis Island, Colonial Williamsburg, or the Vietnam Memorial. Wallace probes into the trivialization of history that pervades American culture as well as the struggles over public memory that provoke stormy controversy. The recent imbroglio surrounding the National Air and Space Museum's proposed Enola Gay exhibit was reported as centering on why the U.S. government decided to use the A-Bomb against Japan. Wallace scrutinizes the actual plans for the exhibit and investigates the ways in which the controversy drew in historians, veterans, the media, and the general public. Whether his subject is multimillion dollar theme parks owned by powerful corporations, urban museums, or television docudramas, Mike Wallace shows how their depictions of history are shaped by assumptions about which pasts are worth saving, whose stories are worth telling, what gets left out, and who is authorized to make the decisions. Author note: Mike Wallace is Professor of History at John Jay College, City University of New York. He is the co-author, with Edwin G. Burrows, of "Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898", winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for History.