Friday, August 12, 2011

Goodbye TJ

Well, my internship at the Jefferson Library is over.My Barbary pirate article got published just before my departure! You can read it here. I was a little sad my last day, but mostly I am happy that my first real experience working at a library was such a positive one. I made the decision to pursue a Masters in Library Science because I liked the idea of it and reading program descriptions from several grad schools encouraged me that I was choosing a career that was right for me. Working at the Jefferson Library has only further enhanced my desire to pursue the degree and it helped me experience several different aspects of library work (albeit from the perspective of a small specialized library). I would like to express my intense gratitude for the opportunity that I was given by the staff at the Jefferson Library. I am especially grateful to my supervisor, Anna, who took time to share her own experience with me and who made my work environment immensely enjoyable. I'm going to miss everyone from the library!
It's going to be a little strange not concentrating on Thomas Jefferson everyday. I feel like I should learn a little more about the other founding fathers to sort of even things out a bit.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Encyclopedia Articles

The past week at the library has been fairly productive. I've mostly been answering simple reference questions, which has left me with a lot of time to work on encyclopedia articles. My expansion of the Fraternal Organization article (formerly titled Freemasonry) has been published! Click here to read it.

I was also working on a revision of an article about The Forest, which was John Wayles' (Thomas Jefferson's father-in-law) plantation. The revision was spurred by a question from one of our patrons about what happened to the plantation after John Wayles died. I did a little digging and it turned out that it is impossible for me to determine that with the resources I have available. It is fairly certain that the house burned at some point, but my review of newspaper articles of the time did not allude to whether the house burned during the Civil War (which is local legend) or whether it burned at a later date. There is a picture of the alleged house from the 1890s which suggests it burned later. Unfortunately, it is also hard to determine when the land exchanged hands because Charles City County (the location of the plantation) lost many of its records during the Civil War. All that is left is an inventory of John Wayles' property in Thomas Jefferson's handwriting (he was one of the executors). So this subject was pretty much a dead end, but you can read what we do know about the property here.

Of course my major article of the summer, The Barbary Wars, is not yet published, but I am getting ever closer to perfecting it, so stay tuned in!

Sunday, July 10, 2011


If you are wondering why it has taken so long for me to update this blog, it is not entirely because I am lazy. I have packed a lot of activity into the past couple of weeks, and now here I am to tell you all about it!

I think I will back track a little and start by talking about the lecture I went to at Monticello on June 23rd. The speaker was Michael Kranish, a journalist and former fellow at the International Center for Jefferson Studies (located next to the library). Kranish was discussing his book, Flight From Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War. I have not gotten the chance to read it yet, but after hearing Kranish speak, I think I will have to get around to it soon. The book is about the low point in Jefferson's governorship of Virginia during the Revolutionary War. Jefferson was accused of being a coward because he fled from Richmond when the British invaded Virginia, in a mission led by Benedict Arnold who was attempting to capture Jefferson. Kranish tried to redeem Jefferson somewhat by showing how most of his actions can be explained by a desire to protect his family, not himself, and if you really look at the details, Jefferson actually acted quite bravely. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and there are many things Jefferson could have done differently. Kranish shared all sorts of amusing anecdotes, which he assured us were included in the book. One story he shared with us was Jefferson's meetings with British officers who were prisoners of war - for the purpose of playing music with them. If you are interested in the Revolutionary War in Virginia, and Jefferson's role in it particularly, this would be a good book to check out.

The Friday after Kranish's talk, I decided to take a nice historical trip to Philadelphia. My boyfriend, Richard, was kind enough to accompany me on this trek through the city. We visited the Liberty Bell Center, glanced at Independence Hall and the Betsey Ross house, and stopped by the Declaration House and the old courthouse. The old courthouse was probably my favorite part.
  The Old Courthouse

All of our other stops were a little bit disappointing. the Declaration House, especially, was a little bit lame. The liberty bell was a little smaller than I anticipated and in order to reach it you have to walk through an endless stream of exhibits telling you a variety of interesting and trivial facts about the bell. I was glad that I went to Philadelphia, but overall, I was not too impressed with the historical sites I visited.
 Richard in front of the Liberty Bell

When I returned to Charlottesville, I had a couple days to recover and then my mother and two brothers came for a visit! While they were here, we visited Ocean City, Maryland - where I got an atrociously uneven sunburn, because apparently I am not capable of applying sunscreen properly. Oh well. On our way back from Maryland we stopped by Washington D.C. for the day so that my younger brother could see the monuments. This time I got to visit the National Archives and the Air and Space Museum, both of which I enjoyed very much. I really enjoyed the exhibits at the National Archives, but the part where you get to see the original Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights, was not quite as compelling to me. My father joined our group on Saturday in Charlottesville and was able to spend the 4th of July with us! I went with my parents to the Naturalization Ceremony that the Foundation hosts on the West Lawn every year. The speaker this year was Muhtar Kent, the CEO of Coca-Cola. It was a hot and humid day, which made it a little difficult to completely enjoy the ceremony, but I did really enjoy the part at the end where some of the new citizens were asked to share their personal stories. It seemed like a large percentage of them had already been living in the US for a couple decades. Unfortunately, thunderstorms prevented us from enjoying a fireworks show that evening, but overall I had a pretty good 4th!

Now, my family has left and I am getting used to my old schedule at work again. The summer is going by so quickly - I only have four weeks of my internship left! :-( I think I am sort of getting the hang of cataloging, but I'm pretty sure that is not the direction I want to pursue in my career.  I'm becoming more and more grateful that reference is the department that selected me for this internship. I love answering reference questions and working on the encyclopedia articles! Speaking of which, I finally finished a draft of my Barbary Pirates article, so hopefully that will be revised and online within the next couple of weeks!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Preservation and the Jefferson Papers

Last week was book preservation week, and while it is a necessary task, covering dust jackets in plastic and gluing loose pages back into books just did not seem that blog-worthy. Although, there is something strangely satisfying about dust jacket covering :-). Thankfully, this week has brought tasks that are a little more exciting. I am currently working on preparing a finding aid for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation's digital archives (a finding aid is basically a detailed outline of the content in a collection). I have come across pictures of several events at Monticello that many high-profile people have attended. Just to name a few, Monticello has received visits from Bill Clinton and Al Gore (before their inauguration), Mikhail Gorbachev, several Supreme Court Justices, Emperor Akihito of Japan, and Margaret Thatcher.

Today, the interns got together for the first time since orientation to hear some of the editorial staff from The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: The Retirement Series tell us about their work. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson is a project that has been undertaken by Princeton University with the goal of publishing a comprehensive, annotated collection of Jefferson's writings. The project began in the 1940s and because of the immense amount of material to sort through, they have only published about 36 volumes, and they have not even reached Jefferson's presidential years. Because the project was going so slowly, the guys at Princeton decided to clone the project and have a separate group of people working on the other half of the material. That is how an editorial team of about 10 people ended up working on the third floor of Jefferson Library to publish the papers of Thomas Jefferson written after his retirement. The group has been able to publish about one volume a year. They are up to volume 7, and they estimate that there will be about 23 volumes by the time they have completed their work. This talk was interesting to me for a couple reasons. First of all, I was unaware that this important project has been going on two floors above me this whole time. If you remember my last blog post, you know that the Jefferson Papers have been an extremely helpful resource when answering reference questions - especially because of the annotations. It was also interesting to hear about the work that goes into each volume. It involves scavenging for missing manuscripts, multiple proof-readings of transcriptions, and a lot of attention to detail.

Keep your eyes peeled for an encyclopedia article expansion I am currently working on. It involves the mysterious world of secret societies.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Adventures in Research

So, for the past couple of days I was hard at work, tracking down the ownership history of a plot of land, in response to a patron's question. (*warning* if you do not wish to read a long, drawn out account of my pursuit of the answer, just skip down to the bottom and read the results of my search). The patron had read somewhere that TJ gave Thomas Mann Randolph and Martha Jefferson Randolph a tract of land from his Poplar Forest estate when they got married.  Then, Jefferson left the Poplar Forest estate to his grandson, Francis Eppes, in his will. It was not entirely clear what happened to the thousand acre plot of land, given as a dowry to the Randolphs, in the meantime. First, I found a promising book written about Poplar Forest, but the only information I could glean from that source was that Jefferson did indeed convey 1,000 acres (which somehow turned into 1,441 acres later on) to his daughter and son-in-law in 1790. There was no mention of what happened to the plot after that, but I did confirm that it was not part of Francis Eppes' inheritance. Eppes actually received considerably less acreage than Jefferson originally owned at Poplar Forest, because a lot of it was left for Jefferson's other grandson, TJ Randolph. Some for his personal use, and some to sell off to help cover TJ's outstanding debts. Next, I consulted a biography on Thomas Mann Randolph (there are too many Thomas's in this family). Then, I stumbled upon a brief paragraph about the property and I thought I had hit the jackpot. The author reported that TM Randolph had sold the property to John Watson in 1810, citing a deed draft that is part of a collection of Jefferson papers at UVA. So, naturally I had to see this deed for myself. But while searching the Bedford County records on microfilm, I discovered a deed conveying 840 acres of the Randolph land at Poplar Forest to Anne Moseley in 1810. You might be wondering, how could the Randolphs sell all of their Poplar Forest land to John Watson and also sell 840 acres of the same land to Anne Moseley? Well, the answer is, they couldn't and they didn't. (this is the part where I bang my head against a wall). My supervisor pointed me in the direction of the Princeton published Thomas Jefferson Papers. It turns out that the whole story was laid out pretty concisely in a handy little footnote. The deed to John Watson was drawn up, but the sale was never completed (explaining the absence of documentation in the county records). 840 acres of the land was sold to Anne Moseley in 1810, and the Randolph's conveyed the leftover land to their oldest daughter, Ann Cary, as a dowry upon her marriage to Charles Lewis Bankhead.

So, that is the saga of the Poplar Forest land. I regret that it took me nearly 8 hours to find this information, when it was so readily available, but I guess that's an inducement to hone more efficient research techniques.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Spurious Quotes

Today I got to write my first article for the online Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia! It isn't a very long entry, but it is a contribution to a very interesting section of the encyclopedia which sets the record straight on many quotes that are believed to have originated from Thomas Jefferson. In this case, I was not able to determine the real origin of the quote, but I feel confident in the conclusion that it is not a Jefferson quote. Click here to see the article.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Jefferson and Pirates, ARGHHH!!!

Well, I have concluded my second week at the library. This week I learned a little about collection development. Depending on how you look at it, collection development at the Jefferson Library is either very simple or more difficult than at more diverse libraries. On the one hand, since the library has such a narrow focus, we accept anything and everything that has to do with Thomas Jefferson, his legacy, or his time. I got to look through several publications to find newly published materials that we might want to add to our collection, and having such specific guidelines makes that job pretty simple. On the other hand, we have to pass up a lot of great stuff because it does not fit the parameters of our institution. That is the difficult part.

I also embarked on some research for one of the encyclopedia articles I will be writing this summer. The subject is the Barbary Wars- the first of which took place during Jefferson's presidency. But Jefferson had had several run-ins with the Barbary states before he assumed the presidency. The United States' dealings with the Barbary states (Algiers, Morocco, Tunis, and Tripoli) had been an issue almost from American independence. Without the protection of a strong navy, American shipping was fair game for the corsairs of Barbary (corsairs were the equivalent of privateers at the time, meaning they were acting under the direction of the government). Jefferson had the responsibility of appointing a consular to Algiers while he was secretary of state. Although negotiations with Algiers had occurred before, tensions between the US and Algiers were becoming increasingly tense, so an experienced diplomat was a necessity. This predicament leads us to the curse of the Algerian consular appointment...dum dum DUM. Jefferson's first choice was John Paul Jones, an experienced naval fighter whom Jefferson believed could exert some pressure on the Algerian ruler to back off on his demands. Sadly, before Jefferson's appointment letter arrived, Jones had died. It was a sad loss, but not the end of the world. There were other people who could fill the position. Jefferson's second choice was Thomas Barclay, who had previously negotiated a treaty with Morocco which did not include having to pay tribute. So Jones' name was crossed out of the letter and Barclay's was filled in. Barclay received the commission and began making preparations in Lisbon, only to die a couple of weeks later. Third choice was David Humphreys, the American minister to Portugal (If I were him, I would be afraid to receive that letter). Humphreys actually made it to Algiers in 1793, the year that Jefferson resigned as Secretary of State. It took several years, hundreds of thousands of dollars and more diplomatic agents to bring about peace between Algiers and the U.S.. And even then, it would not be a lasting peace. War with the Barbary States would flare up again during Jefferson's presidency.
Here's a picture of a battle with Algiers in 1816 (which I borrowed from wikipedia), because it's always great to have a visual.

Of course, I still have a lot of research left to do to get a complete picture of this aspect in American history. But so far, my exploration has turned up very interesting facts.