Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Material Culture Minute No. 4 (#TMCM): News from Jefferson's "Little Mountain"

Last week, I had the pleasure of revisiting Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia.  I spent a week at the home of Thomas Jefferson in the summer of 2016 as a Barringer Fellow, during which time I was immersed in Jefferson's life and ideas in his favorite spot on earth.  On this most recent trip I played the part of tourist with my family and took in the many changes the staff at Monticello has made to the house and grounds in such a short amount of time.

I started thinking about those changes and how they could instruct students on the power of historical investigation.  This "TMCM" is about one of the most exciting transformations to Monticello, the excavation and reconstruction of Sally Hemings' living space in the South Dependency.

There, in the corner of this picture, is where Monticello's archaeology department is working to restore the living space of Sally Hemings, slave and mother to possibly six of Thomas Jefferson's children.  When I visited in 2016, this was a popular spot among tourists-it served as the men's bathroom-which was installed in 1941.  

Current discoveries include the original brick floor, a hearth, and traces of shelves.  Once this excavation is complete, it will introduce a completely original connection to the most well-known person owned by Jefferson, as well as a major contribution to the story of enslaved lives at Monticello.  

Below is a news story from CBS Evening News on the Hemings' project at Monticello.  Make sure to visit "TMCM #4" Resources page for ideas on how to use the ongoing work in your classroom.

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