Changes Coming to Monroe's Ash Lawn-Highland

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Changes are coming to the Albemarle County home of President James Monroe. Ash Lawn-Highland is under new management and plans to present the fifth president's history in a whole new way.

Dozens of people came out Sunday for a tour of the historic site. Those tours will soon be changing. Members of the staff say it's all to better define Monroe as a president - and a person.

Dennis Bigelow - a Monroe interpreter - gave a first-hand look into the mind of the former president.

"I am anxious to make sure future leaders understand that there are certain responsibilities when it comes to citizenship," Bigelow said.

Citizenship was a theme of Sunday's tour of the historic home of Monroe.

"What makes Monroe interesting? What makes him significant historically? I think he's less well defined than his counterparts in the area," said Sara Bon-Harper, the executive director.

Those are just a few of the questions Bon-Harper says guides hope to better answer. She believes Monroe is overlooked in the community with so many famous presidential sites in central Virginia.

"Monroe is not very well defined, by historians or in the public eye," she said.

The historic home is owned and operated by The College of William & Mary. Bon-Harper's vision of the site includes new governance - possibly independent from the college - to give the newly appointed Monroe Commission the freedom to make changes.

Bon-Harper also says Ash Lawn-Highland needs physical upgrades and programming changes.

"The presentation of the material to the public, the presentation of a narrative to the public, has to be based on scholarship," she said.

The changes begin with how the home's tour is done. They currently start in one of the newer areas. Soon, guests will enter through one of the very oldest parts - Monroe's original front door.

Bon-Harper says she hopes some of the tour changes will better and more accurately represent the late president's life.