James Madison's Montpelier Awarded Collaborative Research Grant from the NEH
The Montpelier Foundation announces a 3-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to study the Overseer's House at Montpelier.
Wednesday, August 14th 2019, 8:50 PM EDT
James Madison's Montpelier Press Release:
ORANGE, VA - The Montpelier Foundation is proud to announce the receipt of a 3-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to study the Overseer's House at Montpelier. This grant will further Montpelier's understanding and interpretation of the Madison's overall agricultural complex, within which the Overseer's House is located. Studying the Overseer's site, through archaeological excavation and analysis and documentary research, will provide a more complete picture and allow for fuller interpretation of all people who lived and worked at James Madison's plantation in the early 19th century.
This grant is highly prestigious and very competitive. This is the second Collaborative Research Grant received by the Montpelier Foundation since 2010, and the second NEH grant awarded to Montpelier this year.
"The role of the plantation overseer - often a non-elite white man - is regularly overlooked by scholars as well as by historic sites that interpret slavery," said Terry P. Brock, Assistant Director of Archeology. "This work will expand our understanding of the overseer's role on the plantation, and the ways the institution of slavery shaped the lives of Montpelier's overseer and his family."
The grant will support two years of archaeological excavation and historical research as well as archaeological survey and preliminary investigations of the locations of other agricultural buildings and slave dwellings on the property. Project team members will create architectural renderings and a 3D digital reconstruction of the Overseer's House to aid in the site's analysis and interpretation.
"This grant marks the beginning of a larger project to research and interpret agriculture at Montpelier, and supports our overall goal of understanding the totality of the Madison's plantation landscape," said Elizabeth Chew, Montpelier Vice President for Museum Programs. "Overseers obviously played a critical role in the American system of plantation slavery and Montpelier will be among the first, if not the first, historic site to interpret an Overseer's House to the public."
This grant builds on a 2010 NEH grant that supported the study of enslaved African American sites across the Montpelier property. This earlier work was integral to Montpelier's ability to rebuild slave dwellings and work buildings adjacent to the Montpelier house and to organize the award-winning slavery exhibition The Mere Distinction of Colour. With the new grant, Montpelier experts will have the resources to delve deeper into the complex institution of American slavery and its legacies by extending their knowledge of the agricultural landscape. Critically, new interpretation will encompass the complex relationships of race, class, and status between enslaved African Americans, free white laborers, and the Madisons at Montpelier.
"We're humbled to receive this grant as a signal of the commitment from the NEH to this important work of engaging in whole truth history at Montpelier," said Kat Imhoff, Montpelier President & CEO. "We realize we have only scratched the surface of telling the complete story of the lives of all those who lived and worked at Montpelier and we're thankful to have the resources to further study and understand the totality of the lived experience on our 2,650 acres."