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Looking for Laura: Place, History, and the Authentic "Little House"

Wednesday, September 16, 2015
12:00 AM
Benzinger Library, East Quad, 701 E. University

The 'RC Faculty Talks' Forum Welcomes Michelle McClellan

or generations of readers in the United States and around the world, Laura Ingalls Wilder defined the American pioneer experience in her beloved “Little House” books.  This eight-volume series has sold millions of copies in dozens of languages since it was published in the 1930s and 1940s.  Many dedicated readers wanted more, and they sought out the places where Wilder and her family had lived in the Upper Midwest and Great Plains.  Local residents capitalized on the “Little House” connection by creating memorials and replica structures, as well as restoring original buildings.  Today, tens of thousands of tourists annually visit these locations.  This talk explores the complex connections among history, fiction, and landscape that fans encounter when they go looking for Laura.

A lifelong fan of the "Little House" books, Michelle McClellan grew up in the small town of Richmond, Michigan, where she often packed her Barbie dolls in a shoebox to pretend they were the Ingalls family going west in a covered wagon.  Today, she is an assistant professor in the Department of History & the Residential College at the University of Michigan.  Complete with sunbonnet, Michelle is writing a book on heritage tourism associated with “Little House” sites throughout the country, to be called Looking for Laura: Place, History, and the Authentic “Little House.”