Jefferson at Home
While I may be ambivalent about many of Jefferson’s policies and politics, I must admit I am very excited about his approach to domestic life. I find I share many of his interests and approaches and wish that I would have the kind of resources and time that would allow me to take them to something approaching the same level.
There is an overall experimental approach to everything on the plantation. Every thing was a chance to try something new. Working with a new approach or methodology, utilizing new technology and inventing new devices, trying new plants, hybrids and agricultural techniques, new ways of using architecture and even social practices.
This experimental approach, of course, requires extensive measurement, data and record-keeping and Jefferson seems to have documented everything in endless ledgers, account books, notebooks, sketchbooks, diaries and maps.
I was excited to see the influence of Jefferson’s many passions reflected in Monticello. Many of them are passions I share including food, gardening and of course books. Thousands of books, not just for display, but part of the enlightenment project of rational, methodical learning and improvement. This desire for learning was also reflected in his view of his house as a museum. A place to organize, display and communicate ideas, learning and information. I was particularly drawn toward his displays of Native American items, Fossils and designing the various rooms to be a real life, full-size catalogue of Andrea Palladio’s five Roman orders of architectural and ornamental style.