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.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mac and Cheese!...and other things

So, I have completed my first week at the library. This week I mostly just got an introduction to the library's collections and on how to run the reference desk. I got a chance to answer a couple reference questions and I learned just how varied these questions can be. It is an interesting experience working at a library that revolves around one historical individual. Because Jefferson is the focal point of the library, detailed questions about his life are to be expected. One patron wrote to us requesting Jefferson's favorite mac and cheese recipe and flower arrangement for his dinner table. This patron had heard that Jefferson loved mac and cheese ( if that turned out to be true, he and I would have had something in common!). However, I could not confirm that this was the case, and after some research I found that Jefferson actually referred to all pasta as "macaroni." Several cookbooks that I consulted that are associated with Jefferson's time at Monticello suggest that "macaroni" was typically used in soups; however there was one baked mac and cheese recipe that was common during the time period.

I then turned to the flower arrangement question. It turns out that the use of flower arrangements as a decoration for dinner tables was not that common in Jefferson's era. Instead, elaborately displayed food dishes were the focal point of the table. So, it is possible that Jefferson never incorporated flower arrangements into his dinner parties. Of course, Jefferson was extremely interested in growing all sorts of plants, including flowers. The staff at Monticello have worked hard to recreate the gardens that were so important to Jefferson. If you want to learn more about them, the historic gardens section of the Monticello website is a very interesting source.

I have also found some time to do a few things outside of work. Last Saturday, I went to Washington D.C. with my brother. As this was my first trip there, I wanted to see all I could, but we ran out of steam after seeing a few sites. Our trip included the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
Here I am at the Lincoln Memorial!

Hopefully I can get back to D.C. someday and see more of the city.

I also took another fun side trip to the Shenandoah National Park. My brother and I hiked the Jones Run Trail and were rewarded with this view:

Yes, the waterfall is pretty, but if you want my advice, you should admire it from afar -unless you want to slip and fall into freezing water. But then again, if you are a little less clumsy than me, go for it!

Friday, May 20, 2011

History, Archaeology, and the Wine Industry

Orientation is over and I am excited to begin my summer work in the library! However, I am going to miss all of the lectures and tours that were a part of the orientation process. As an introduction to our lecture on history and Monticello, we were asked to read the introduction to The Purpose of the Past: Reflections on the Uses of History by Gordon S. Wood. It was a very interesting read and I recommend it. I would like to read his entire book. In this article, Wood discussed the transition from a focus on elite history by historians leading up to the 1960s to cultural history, beginning in the 1960s and continuing to the present era. Elite history is comprised of politicians, military leaders, and others who have held power and cultural history is more about the life of ordinary people during historical periods. The shift from elite history to cultural history did not take effect until pretty recently. One reason for this is that obviously most people are coming to Monticello to hear about Thomas Jefferson. They come to see the house he designed and to see the rooms where he entertained his important guests and where he studied. But interestingly, the Foundation has shifted from focusing solely on Jefferson and his positive contributions to American history to his complicity in the the culture of slavery. Recent activity has been focused on developing narratives about the individual slaves who lived at Monticello. This has resulted in projects like the Mulberry Row reassessment. Mulberry Row is an area next to the house where slaves lived and worked, but there is no longer many remnants of that activity. Jefferson documented these buildings and their purposes at one point in his life, but now the curators and archaeologists at the Foundation are trying to create an accurate reconstruction of those buildings based on recent findings. I for one think this project is very important. It is important to recognize that although Jefferson was a wonderful orator, politician, and idealist, he was also a part of a dark period in American history.

Today, we had another lecturer who discussed Jefferson's public life. It was interesting to be reminded of all the positions Jefferson held in his lifetime: lawyer, governor, minister to France, Secretary of State, Vice President, and President. But one aspect of this lecture that I found especially interesting is the comparison between politics at the beginning of the Republic and politics these days. Jefferson was the third president of the US and his presidency marked the first transfer of power between political parties - the Federalists to the Democratic-Republicans. Some of the rhetoric in this period is reminiscent of the rhetoric these days. The Federalists were concerned that if the "french loving, jacobite, aetheistic" Republicans gained power the country would go to hell. Sound familiar?

We were also taken on a lovely garden tour today; courtesy of Gabriele Rausse, who has been dubbed by some as the "Father of the Virginian Wine Industry" Mr. Rausse was very enthusiastic as he took us through the flower and vegetable gardens which are kept up as Thomas Jefferson had them when he lived at Monticello. It is amazing to see the wide variety of plants that are grown on the premises. Mr. Rausse is a very interesting person. He told us the story of pursuing wine production in Virginia despite the opposition he faced from many scientists and government officials who believed it could not be done. Jefferson himself pursued the growth of grapes on his property, but he was never able to achieve success. Mr. Rausse proved many people wrong and since he embarked on his project in the 1970s, there are now around 190 wineries in Virginia. 

That's all for now. I will report back next week after I start a project at the library!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Politics, Architecture, Horticulture...oh my!

Orientation began today. I joined about 15 other interns for a day of immersion at Monticello. We began the day by learning a little bit about the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and its mission statement. One thing I found interesting is that the Foundation is targeting a global audience to "engage in a dialogue with Jefferson's ideas", rather than just reaching out to Americans who wish to learn more about their country's foundation. After our introduction, we were set free to experience Monticello as a visitor would. We took the standard house tour - which takes you through the rooms on the first floor of the house. These rooms included the entryway, the schoolroom utilized by Jefferson's grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Jefferson's personal study and bedroom, the show-case parlor, as well as two rooms used for entertainment. The tour guide supplemented our viewing with amusing anecdotes about Jefferson and his many guests. What really stands out in the house is the number of innovations Jefferson created to make life more comfortable. These included a calendar clock and dumbwaiters in the fireplace to transport wine from the basement.

A word of advice to visitors: Ask the tour guide questions! They have a whole spiel rehearsed that they run through every time, but it makes the tour more interesting when someone is asking more in-depth questions. The guides have a wealth of knowledge to draw on and can usually answer your questions.

 After our free exploring time, we met back up and had another little lecture reviewing some basic facts about Jefferson's life. Of course, we all know that Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, was the third President of the United States and built a beautiful and innovative home that still attracts 350,000 visitors a year, but today I learned a few interesting facts that seem little known (at least to me). So I think it is time for some Jefferson trivia!

1. Monticello is the only home in America listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (due to its stunning architecture)
2. Monticello is the only home featured on a piece of American currency (the nickel)3. Jefferson's grave site is located next to Monticello, but it is owned by a separate organization who decides who is a legitimate descendant of Thomas Jefferson and is therefore eligible to be buried on the site
4.  Jefferson's grave indicates that he was born on April 2 1743, but he was actually born on April 13, 1743. The discrepancy is due to a switch from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar during Jefferson's lifetime.
5. Jefferson tried to amend the Constitution to guarantee a right to a public higher education
6. Jefferson gathered seeds from all over the world and put a lot of effort into a his 1,000 foot garden and many other horticultural endeavors

Of course, not everything about Jefferson's legacy is positive. One thing that stood out to me is the way the Foundation handles controversial topics like Thomas Jefferson's stance on race and his alleged relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings. The Foundation acknowledges that Jefferson's writings indicate that Africans were an inferior race, common to the ideology of the time, but they try to ameliorate this acknowledgment by pointing out that Jefferson also believed that slavery was wrong and should one day be abolished. According to a few people who I met today, the tour guides avoided the subject of Sally Hemings altogether when they took the tour many years ago. But ever since DNA evidence has emerged, it is the official position of the Foundation that Thomas Jefferson fathered at least one of Sally Heming's children, if not all. Of course there are still those who refuse to accept the available evidence, which is not 100% fool-proof.

 That's all for now! I still have another 4 days of orientation; then I begin my work at the Library!


Hello! My name is Elizabeth and I just completed my junior year at Clark University . This summer I have an internship at the Jefferson Library at Monticello. The Jefferson Library was opened in 2002 and it is a small library with three full time staff members. The library specializes in anything regarding the life, times, and legacy of Thomas Jefferson. So far, I know that my duties will involve answering reference questions and researching to create entries to expand the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia.