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Montana: The Magazine of Western History

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Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806), Documentary films


Reviews Ken Burns's 1997 public television documentary on the Lewis and Clark expedition, 'Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery.' In his documentaries Burns seeks not just the "dry relation of fact," but a portrayal of the emotional truth of the historical event that allows viewers to connect with it as human drama. Burns has exploited well the inherent drama of the expedition's story to produce a compelling documentary. Rather than labeling it a work of history, based on explanation through critical inquiry, it is better seen as a "heritage" film. The latter identifies and celebrates virtues of the American character as they appeared in the past. While not history, Burns's films do serve to connect the public with their past.


This is the publisher's final PDF. Article appears in Montana: The Magazine of Western History 1998 Montana Historical Society

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