Resting in the hills above nearby Charlottesville, Va., stands a monument to one of the greatest American minds. When visiting Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s incredible eighteenth-century plantation, visitors are granted a peek into the colorful life of the third president and author of the Declaration of Independence.
Last Friday, Southern Virginia’s Travel Study program hosted an excursion to Monticello. As a history nerd and government junkie, I leapt at the opportunity to travel and learn more about Jefferson and his way of life. I was also excited to see how many other students decided to join the trip; in fact, Professors Francis MacDonnell and Jeremiah John led many of their students through the tours and related much of the new information to previously learned content from their classes.
Students had the opportunity to take a tour of the main house, meander through Mulberry Row — Jefferson’s extensive garden — and experience the “Slavery at Monticello” tour, which allows visitors to learn about the day-to-day lives of the plantation’s workforce.
Once inside the house, students were captivated by the innovative genius of Jefferson. From the architecture to the artwork, the enlightenment thinker customized his home with the same sense of innovation and careful thought given to his drafting of the Declaration. Throughout the tour, the guide emphasized Jefferson’s consistent and careful blending of old and new: maps of Europe and America, relics of Native American Indians and ancient European literature, busts of new age thinkers and classical philosophers. Thomas Jefferson created a home where the physical aspects of the building mirrored his own beliefs and ideas.
After the tours, students were given time to explore the extensive grounds; they could even walk back to the visitors’ center on a brick pathway that led through the forest and right by Jefferson’s gravesite.
Climbing back on the bus, I dropped into my chair with a grateful sigh. While fascinating, my poor feet were exhausted from all my over-zealous exploring. So, I pulled out a paperback copy of a book and some animal crackers that I bought in the bookstore and let my mind continue the adventure.
(Post and photos by Erin Seage ’16.)