Monticello: Change and Continuity

By Walters, Susan C. | The Historian, Summer 1995 | Go to article overview

Monticello: Change and Continuity


Walters, Susan C., The Historian


Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's estate near Charlottesville, Virginia, is one of the best-known icons of American history. It exudes the grace and charm of the Old Dominion and suggests a static image of immutable history, but the work of the non-profit foundation that owns and manages Monticello reveals that the historicity and ethos of Jefferson's home are caught up in changes and complexities.(1)

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation has a dual mission of preservation and education, and its staff of 225 (including 7 Ph.Ds) must confront daily all the current, pressing issues of historic preservation and interpretation. Daniel E Jordan, Ph.D., the president, admits that the foundation "has come late to some of these issues." Perfect solutions are elusive, but serious attention to criticism - internal and external - has become an integral part of the foundation's management philosophy. Such evaluation comes in a variety of forms, including comments from Monticello's many, varied visitors as well as from scholarly historians in both the applied and academic spheres. Such criticism has been especially important when confronting such difficult issues as how to interpret slavery more accurately at Monticello. …

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