Monticello: American Experiment


  • Elizabeth Chew, Ph.D., Curator, Monticello
  • Bill Barker, Thomas Jefferson interpreter, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Aerial, Monticello with Mulberry Row and Vegetable Garden
Photograph by Leonard Phillips

Thomas Jefferson believed reason and knowledge were the surest paths to human progress. Influenced by Enlightenment thinkers, Jefferson continually gathered and shared information on many subjects. He used his roles on the public stage to advance his progressive vision for a self-governing American nation. The Monticello plantation became his private laboratory where he could apply the latest thinking to his various enterprises.

In his fields, gardens, plantation industries, and house, he tested new ways of using science and technology to improve efficiency and productivity and to make life more comfortable and convenient. His ambitious plans for Monticello depended upon the labor and contributions of many people—male and female, young and old, enslaved and free.

In this session, Monticello’s curator Elizabeth Chew and Bill Barker of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (in character as Thomas Jefferson) will discuss Monticello as Jefferson’s Enlightenment laboratory.

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