Thelen: [Feedback] Now why does it doing that, is it because the mics are too close to each other? That seemed to be… Franz


Staples: Just the facts ma’am, just the facts. Charles



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Staples: Just the facts ma’am, just the facts.

Charles: As they are archaeology at the sites and they know where people lived, it is very interesting to see the quality of things Betty Hemings has or they found slates and pencils at Betty Hemings’ house. As far as they know, she is illiterate. But it does suggest that she is taking care of kids and the kids are at here place and they have got their little homework to do, maybe not official homework, but somebody is showing them how to do things. So there is just a richness here that is terrific.

We did a little work at Stratford Hall, they know much less about their slaves. Now partly they have not been doing this work for twenty, thirty years, but there also just seems to be a lot less documents preserved. Jefferson must have kept every piece of paper he ever wrote on. The documents are his documents, so they are from his perspective.



Staples: In his hand.

Charles: In his hand, and that becomes a problem. We have had at times a number of discussions about, we do not always want it to be Jefferson’s quote about somebody. How do you make it their presentation of themselves? I think these six figures downstairs go a real step forward to say, “I am who I am. I am a real person. I am as big as you are. I lived.” And so on.

Thelen: I was going back to another thing we were talking about. Jefferson says my family, our family…

Charles: Souls in my family.

Thelen: Souls in my family. To frame, to illustrate what you guys now want to talk about, the Hemings and Jefferson. [background noise] You decide to do the families or two families.

Charles: I am not sure I would…

Thelen: Maybe I am misunderstanding.

Charles: Let us go back to that notebook.

Thelen: What is at stake here is the view of the participant and the view of the scholar or designer. The outside view and the inside view.

Charles: The view of the visitor when you say participant or the view of Jefferson?

Thelen: The participant, the person at the time, in this case Jefferson. Maybe there is contradictory evidence where he says families. I have my black families and my white families.

Charles: No I do not think there is that. I think this is, as far as I know there is only one document like this, so it is seventy-six. It is certainly very paternalistic, it is these are all the people I am responsible for.

Thelen: So that is how he is defining family at that point?

Charles: It seems to be, at least a way I am reading it.

Thelen: It makes sense to me.

Charles: That he is saying, these are all the people I have to, whatever quality of life I am giving them, I have to give them blankets, I have to give them food, et cetera. So he is listing them all as the souls of his family. It is the people of Monticello. Certainly in the exhibits today I do not think we would say all these people are one family. There is a real effort to talk about families and they know who is related to whom. I do not think that we pursued it to the degree at the time that you are pursuing it now Dave. The soul of my family’s quote is here. The two Jefferson families, the Hemings family is here and the white family is over here.

Thelen: This is all in one room or one hall.

Charles: This is one big case area at one end of a gallery about the plantation. We talk about living at Monticello on the kind of archaeology evidence that they are finding out on the site. This was a place to show the kind of material culture that is being found. And to put some names and people and kind of give us the extent of particularly Betty Hemings family, but just the numerical differences and interrelationships.

There are multiple families, when we did the signage at the graveyard, the black graveyard, the people are grouped to the extent that they are known familial relationships, rather than just say in alphabetical order. There are families. There is no text here that will say, “Jefferson paternalistically will say all the souls of my family, but in fact there are many many families at Monticello.” It is not that open, hit you on the head.



Thelen: I do not want to pursue something that is not, well anyways. The question is and it is really a question of and if there is a better example or a better case we should be talking about, let us shift cases. The problem of identifying the theme. I do some work with the park service and they have to have interpretative themes for the same reason you do, what is going to be included and what is not. I could readily see a tremendous debate about meaning of family in different eras for example. Here is my problem, I really understand why you want to talk about two families in the case of Jefferson. I understand why you would put him at the top of two family trees.

Charles: He is not at the top.

Thelen: Well in the middle.

Charles: He is just wherever he showed up.

Thelen: He is an intersection point in two, but you are presenting two families in this story and I understand why he is featured.

Charles: He is same type size as everyone else.

Thelen: I understand why he is the same type size. But you have constructed two families. He had constructed one family, in this one quote. We are interpreting and calling it paternalistic and all that. He may never have thought of the word paternalism. That is what tripped off his pen and he wrote words off his pen, we will give him that. How - this is a big issue, these multiple perspectives and controversy. How to deal with different ways of understanding something as important as family. What we would think it is what maybe somebody else on those two families did see it that way. It would be interesting to know if his sons and daughters on side saw there being two families and on the other side…

Charles: That is the problem nowadays as to who is - there are reunions at Monticello and it is a very contested issue at Monticello.

Thelen: Whether to see this as one family or two?

Charles: Oh yes. Or there is only one family, the white family. From descendants on one side.

Thelen: So there is clearly an issue.

Charles: Oh it is contested turf.

Thelen: Real contested turf. So as designers, let us come at it, how do you decide to deal with the contemporary controversy or to ignore it?

Charles: Well this was probably as strong a statement - I am going to back up on that. Monticello has accepted the DNA evidence. Monticello as an institution has accepted the DNA evidence and the supporting historical evidence. There are a lot of other studies that go with it. When is Jefferson at Monticello, et cetera. That Jefferson is in all probability the father of Sally Hemings, as they say four or six children, four survive, somehow I think there is six. I am not sure. That is an institutional position that has been accepted and I would say over the years we have been working on this project, the wording of how they accept it has gotten stronger. From possibly to probably, et cetera. Certainly Annette Gordon-Reed’s book has supported that also.

Monticello as an institution has to deal with the annual gathering of the white descendants and a few of whom have invited black descendants. There have been big controversies. Sometimes the black descendants come and some of the white descendants are there. There is clearly, there are people who do not accept this. There are parts of this particular exhibit that probably via docents who had advance documents, were leaked and there was a fairly anti-, small column in a Richmond paper, somebody that they pretty much understand will always write against their position, that did write against this before it came out. What we did here, of basically putting it out there without a lot of editorializing. There is this family, there is this family, we put all of the people of Monticello in one case, in one area. The black people, the white people. Betty Hemings is the matriarch of the black community gets her own case, partly it has to do with what sites have been excavated. This was a statement to say, “this was all a community. These are all the people who are living here.” I think it is also saying that there are separate black and white families.



In that sense, while we put the souls of my family front and center and it is probably my choice because I find that piece fascinating. And there was debate about it. At times I was pushing to have that as a quote, as a big quote in this area. It is not there. That was not other people’s view. This is, this was seen as a forceful statement at the time that it was done, illustrating Harriet was another step in that direction, a big step in that direction. Mulberry Row, while it will not particularly focus on the Sally Hemings-Jefferson relationship, while Sally may have lived in one of the houses, is a continuing effort to bring the non-house on the hill households forward. All the work forward, to try to convey to visitors that this is a whole community that is a working establishment, that is more or less economically successful. Sometimes less economically successful and a lot of the stuff that Jefferson is trying to do is for economics, with his nailry and different stuff. The discussion, families was not a topic, per say.

Thelen: That is to me interesting.

Charles: What the topic really was the people of Monticello and how to convey them. Those people live in families and there are two major families on this hill, Betty’s family and Jefferson’s family. So we have tried to convey that there are two major families on this hill. The title here is Living at Monticello, it is not the families of Monticello.

Thelen: I do not want to pursue this too much.

Charles: I find that document amazing.

Thelen: I do too.

Charles: The souls of my family.

Thelen: I find it extraordinary. Almost as extraordinary as something else he wrote in 1776.

Charles: And because it is 1776. There is no question that if I can find the big version of it, you can actually read it. Anything that is 1776, you tend to pick. [papers shuffling] This is the first list, where he is listing who is at Monticello. This is seventy-four, Betty has come, but I do not think the children, I think that is the Betty we are thinking about. This is Great George, that is the first list that is available. I love these names. Jupiter is, this is a topic I do not think anybody has worked on, but I think they should. Jupiter is exactly Jefferson’s age, grows up with him, probably as a playmate, goes with him to William and Mary. Then comes back and becomes a stonecarver and other things. James Madison, there is a boy Sonnie, exact same age, playmate, goes with him to Princeton. Now what are these slaves learning at college. What are they doing at college? I suspect that every one of these kind of first sons of families that were sent off to college, that a slave went with them.

Thelen: I know there has been work done on the ones at Harvard. The Southern kids that brought their slaves to Harvard.

Charles: What are the slaves doing?

Thelen: What are they learning? Fantastic question, great question.

Charles: This is the document. So it is headed blankets, beds, et cetera given to slaves. So Shoemaker Phil gets a blanket, Betty Hemings gets a blanket, Lucinda Ned-Gamy blankets, blankets sent to Bedford, that is another plantation and to John’s wife, Black Sal, Sam blankets, Black Sal, Doll, beds. So here, number of in my family in Albemar, that is Monticello as given in this year. Males of sixteen years…

Thelen: This is interesting too. His first category is not free and slave, it is male and female.

Charles:Here is free and here is slaves.

Thelen: Free and slaves. So he saw his family as having males and females and free and slave.

Charles: Males below sixteen, females below sixteen. Number of free and slaves and number of in the whole.

Thelen: Fascinating document.

Charles: This is not just, I mean the free would include his family, but also the white workmen, anybody on the mountain top presumably.

Thelen: I am not sure, I think maybe the best way to talk about themes and stories is case by case. [background noise] There is no general, you do not have a general. You have clients to deal with, you have sources that are available for a person. Maybe it will be more productive.

Charles: I just would say the theme ought to cover the whole exhibit. Then there are subthemes or stories for different parts.

Thelen: Combining that with the question about empathy. Historians and museum exhibitors, historically, were the eye of God announcing the truth.

Charles: The curators and so on.

Thelen: Exactly, and the text on an old museum thing would say, this is the truth. This is our authority. Historians would write books in that way. In the last, basically your time as designers, very much questions, come up with alternative voices and alternative perspectives. Multiple perspectives becomes a way of thinking of it, empathy becomes - there is just a whole bunch. I would be very interested in your general thoughts about it. If you do not think that is a good way to go, we can just deal with it case by case. To me it is a revolutionary change in how a museum or a site presents itself.

Staples: I think one of the things that is obviously happened in our careers is that the big man idea has disappeared.

Thelen: And that is part of it, the big man has disappeared.

Staples: Right, and you are interested now in the little people who make the big man what he is.

Charles: I think there is a cycling going back. I hope and I think it is happening. I am going to use Montpelier. They have been struggling with what is their theme.

Thelen: Other than the Constitution.

Charles: No, that is the issue. This house is important because of the Constitution, I think that everybody agrees. Monticello on the other hand could be very important even without the Declaration.

Montpelier had really been struggling and we have been working with them on how to get the idea that the seed and germ of the Constitution was written at Montpelier in the idea of the Virginia Plan and that Madison is very responsible, not only for the ideas going into the Constitutional Convention, but lobbying very hard to get Virginia in particular to vote for the Constitution and pass it.

I think particularly for historic houses or historic sites, trying to struggle with why is it even here and I wish more of them would even ask that question and what should we be getting across? I do not know if you what Catherine Kane has been doing up at the Stow Center, which is Harriet Beecher Stow’s house.

Thelen: I do not.

Charles: They are doing wonderful work on social issues today. It is a site now for discussions and all kinds of things going on about, not only looking at Uncle Tom’s Cabin in new light and so on, but really trying to talk about today’s issues and so on. I think that she has done brilliant work with that. I think more houses - if Edison’s house is saved because he developed the electric light bulb, why do I have to look at living room suites?

We have tried to advocate totally unsuccessfully that more spaces in houses ought to be exhibit spaces about topics rather than furnished spaces. I think they do that more in Europe than in places here. We tried very hard to advocate for the Martha Mitchell apartment in Atlanta and we were fired from the job. I am not sure we were fired for this, I am sure there were a number of other reasons. They only had a very few artifacts, but of them was her typewriter which was pretty cool and they had a few other things and the rest like a lot of houses, they were going to get the bed that looked like or the lamp that looked like. You do not even know what the wallpaper is, why do not we paint this whole apartment in shades of white and gray, enough so you can differentiate where furniture is and you get spatial sense, but only the typewriter, only those things that are absolutely real have color because they are real and they are there. We have never gotten anybody to buy that idea.



Staples: I mean maybe Montpelier is the closest thing we have come to that. The solution of the diners around the table.

Thelen: Talk a bit more about that Bob.

Staples: I think Barbara has got some documents. They have created quite a nice little package for this brand that they have gotten in a study period that we are participating in is to get them, to get the grant that they want.

Charles: They have had a little NEH interpretative grant, not a lot of money. The idea was how to get ideas into this place. They are doing some great work. This is actually their slave site, where they are beginning to rebuild buildings. And they have very exciting archaeology programs that you and I could go down there for a week and do archaeology and they bring in kids. It is a very aggressive program. This was a whole slave housing site and a kitchen in view from the house. When I was down there they have two of these buildings up now, they are going to do all of them. With the money after many discussions, it was decided, and it has to do with the tour also…

Staples: Peopling the house.

Charles: Peopling the house. One idea was right when you first come in to get visitors aware that there are slaves in this house, it is not just Madison. This was a little idea to get Sonnie and young James Madison working together bringing furniture into the house when the house first gets built. It is right when they first come in, when visitors first come in, this is in the first room.

Staples: This is their table, right?

Charles: That is Nellie, the mother’s real table.

Thelen: This is an actual table.

Charles: It is a real table.

Staples: It is not a simulated table, it is a real one.

Charles: They have carefully, Williamsburg was great, lent clothing. James has slightly better clothing, but they both have their sleeves rolled up, but his is better quality. He has buckles on his shoes, just the coloring. It was really nice. Just decided the simple eggheads would say black and white, we did not have to go to ten thousand dollars for carved figures. Visitors see it immediately, they cannot miss that there are slaves in this house. A little farther in, and they are now going to do visitor studies. The guides already love it. It has given them a whole new way to do the tours. When you come to the dining room, we did a hypothetical.

Staples: The walls of the dining room have been restored.

Charles: That is the real wallpaper.

Staples: But that table that they are sitting around is a loaner, it is not the table that was in there.

Charles: It is from Williamsburg, but we put a tablecloth on it.

Thelen: Is this living history? Is there going to actually be actors sitting there?

Charles: No these are just drawn…

Staples: By the same woman that drew the ones at Monticello.

Charles: These are all people who dined there. We had big discussions, should we make it a real dinner or should we make it a hypothetical dinner? I think it should have been one dinner with people they know were there together. This instead are more famous people who all were there at different times. We have Lafayette and Jackson and Jefferson. I mean Jackson comes after Jefferson is dead, so it is not a possible dinner. The idea, Madison sat in the center of the table, not at the end so he kind of carried forth talking to everybody from his central position. Dolly they know always sat at the end closer to the kitchen, controlling things. We have Sonnie, it is not Sonnie, it is Jennings standing up as a waiter at the end of the room. I do not know if he is in that picture?

Thelen: He is not.

Charles: That is another experiment there, is to just, you are not just looking at a dining room. You are trying to talk about what is happening in this dining room. They have not a real discussion, but noise that is going on in here.

Thelen: So is part of that to illustrate a dinner or is part of that to talk about a dynamic out of which the Constitution or some, what does that have to do with the Constitution as a theme?

Charles: It has more to do with Madison post-Constitution sharing ideas, talking to people. He is very involved up until his death to get his papers in order and I think to keep conveying his ideas to people and he is supposed to be a great raconteur. So it is more about how the house worked and the entertainment and the number of people that came here and who would be coming. The idea that other presidents are coming here to get his ideas and check on him and so on.

In a stairway, here are two of the slave people. This is Sonnie standing there. Then in the stairwell as a different way of getting people in, we photographed Lennie Sorinstin, she is the black interpreter from Monticello and we have her in costume bringing food up a stairway. That is going to be a little bit of a discussion, I guess, with visitors, I hope. Had do you feel about having photographs of real people there who might have been a slave?



Thelen: So they have got some ideas here and they are now going to bring in visitors and say what do you think of this, what do you think of that.

Charles: They are studying them all summer long.

Thelen: In other words something is set up now, but it is not the final.

Charles: It is not necessarily the final, it is all ideas. On the dinner table we have taken one of these drawings from the nineteenth century and just drawn plates. They do not have all the china, but said they have got lobster, and they are based on foods they know they had.

The key issue on the Constitution was how do you get that in? They have changed the tour. The tour used to only be the first floor, but the room they always thought the Constitution ideas might have been drafted in was the second floor room, they do not know. They know this room was a little later than that, called the old library. When the new library is built where he does his final work, there is a place called the old library on the second floor. They have assigned that to be the Constitution room for better or for worse.

In there, when you first come in and you just are sitting down, quite large on the walls are quotes and the idea here is that Madison is reading like two hundred books in seven languages, but he is getting ideas from Aristotle, from Montesquieu, from Cicero, from John Adams. Our people that we work with at Montpellier worked with the Constitutional scholars there to pick pairs of quotes to say here is an idea from Montesquieu, here is a Madison quote.

Thelen: Which he might have taken. So they might have the books underlined or something like that.

Charles: I do not think they have that, but I think the scholars working on it can pretty much say, they may have underlined. I do not know what the basis of this is. To get across this idea that in this library you are reading ideas, this is not coming out of his head, just blossoming.



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