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Curating Jefferson

Erik Neil (Chrysler Museum of Art)

The most important architectural thinker of the young American republic was Thomas Jefferson. He also held captive more than 600 enslaved men, women, and children in his lifetime. Erik Neil takes us through the new Chrysler exhibit that explores the inherent conflict between Jefferson’s pursuit of liberty and democracy and his use of enslaved laborers to construct his monuments.

5 mins

Built Through Violence

Mabel O. Wilson (Columbia University) and Louis Nelson (University of Virginia)

Architects Mabel O. Wilson and Louis Nelson discuss enslavement, architecture history, and Jefferson’s conflicting ideals.

23 mins

Pillars of the Old South

Philip Mills Herrington (James Madison University)

Philip Mills Herrington says the white-columned plantation house is one of the most enduring and divisive icons of American architecture.

10 mins

Integrating Sculpture

John Ott (James Madison University)

The history of segregation is not just in our architecture, but in other public arts. John Ott is studying how artists in the early 20th century represented integration in their works, particularly in public murals and sculptures.

14 mins


Thomas Jefferson, Architect: Palladian Models, Democratic Principles, and the Conflict of Ideals is on view at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia October 19th through January 19th. The Chrysler Museum and the Palladio Museum in Vicenza, Italy, collaborated on the exhibition, which focuses on the ideas and key monuments of the Founding Father who shaped the architectural profile of America. It also confronts the conflict between Jefferson’s ideals of liberty and his use of enslaved people to construct his monuments.

Support for this episode was provided by Susan and Norman Colpitts, the Docent Council of the Chrysler Museum of Art, and Kirkland M. Kelley.

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