In his "irreverent pilgrimage" to as many halls of fame as he could find in his circuitous 10,000 mile trip around the United States, Sports Illustrated writer Jerry Kirshenbaum summarized his perceptions of Americans and their hero worship by noting, "Where the ancients built temples to their gods and gave them human attributes, the current practice is to honor humans by making them god-like" (69-71). Throughout American history, the deification of individuals within various pantheons became more and more comprehensive. Beginning by lavishing praise upon a still living George Washington and the memorials to John Adams and Thomas Jefferson upon their deaths, honoring men within halls of fame slowly began to include a broader scope of heroes; spreading from the many founding fathers, Civil War heroes and those enshrined in the Hall of Fame for Great Americans to the Baseball Hall of Fame and its manifold successors. The explosion of halls of fame today reflects this trend of incorporating more people into the world of "fame" and the splintering of a broad American culture into several different microcultures.
In glorifying their heroes through halls of fame, microcultures use nostalgia to elevate their honorees to almost untarnished immortality. The halls of fame serve as shrines to perpetuate the praise of these individuals and as museums to educate the "pilgrims." Immersion into an exhibit or an honored individual at a hall of fame removes one from the pain of disconnection with past (at least temporarily) and allows the participant the opportunity to live completely in the nostalgic world of the hall of fame. Interactive exhibits, such as those at the Hockey Hall of Fame and International Tennis Hall of Fame, multiply exposure to the culture and enhance the feeling of removal from the present. However, the introduction of much of this technology may signal and end to the "shrine" as we know it.
The Internet's influence on halls of fame seems to have caused further dissolution in the meaning of a pantheon. Some halls of fame no longer have a "place;" they've merely become a method of recognition. Merely existing as a list of names on a web site, added to in something as ceremonial as an annual banquet or as minimal as an email request, these halls of fame democratize what it means to be honored. Yet what does the Internet mean for the future of halls of fame?
The instant availability of information, images and commercial items through the World Wide Web, much in the same fashion as the media and consumer culture of the "Roaring 20s" provided, has broadened the reach of many traditional halls of fame. The vast reservoir of information and images stored within the databases of the Baseball Hall of Fame's website, the online, interactive tours available of the Hockey Hall of Fame and the online gift shop for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at once enhances the hall's publicity and exposure and almost makes the journey there unnecessary; after seeing the exhibits interactively, learning about the culture and buying souvenirs, some may no longer feel the need to visit the location for the experience.
The Internet has helped in taking the democratic principles which opposed honoraria to extremes. As Rubin stated, "the divorce of fame and achievement is now complete, the only achievement most halls of fame celebrate these days is the achievement of fame itself" (Rubin). The idea of fame has been narrowed down to such a small scale, and the Internet has made information universally accessible, that virtually anyone can be famous amongst a particular microculture. The issue of recognizing greatness in the nineteenth century seems to have reached an accord with the idea of democratic egalitarianism; it seems everyone's honored, in some way, amongst some group. The turmoil that inevitably appears in reaction to the homogeneity of mass society has become the norm. Online everyone is equal… but the shrines remain.
The nostalgia inherent in traditional halls of fame will forever attract people longing for the past across great geographic distances. The past, embodied in the personalities that contributed to their microculture, make halls of fame a vibrant source of nostalgia. People visit to bathe in the "healing waters" of memory, bask in the historic glow of memorabilia, and pay homage to those that enriched different aspects of these varied niche groups. As the future of technology and the online world exponentially expand, buildings and institutions that house halls of fames, whether it's honoring those that contributed to the advancement of American tradition or robots who remain obscure to everyone but the most ardent fans, will always remain shrines of American microculture.