Forest, VA - Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest recently received a $79,000 federal grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in Washington, DC, to help the museum conduct research and interpretive planning that will guide its evolution from a historic preservation and rescue project to an audience-focused museum.
Poplar Forest is one of 244 museums across the United States to be recognized with an IMLS grant award.
"The Poplar Forest story continues to evolve with every new discovery made in our ongoing restoration and archaeological exploration of the house and plantation grounds. Thirty years ago, we began by telling the story of the house itself. The physical restoration of the house enabled us to expand on that to include the story of Mr. Jefferson's lifestyle at the plantation. Now, with our archaeological exploration of the plantation grounds underway, we're expanding that focus to tell the story of the plantation as a whole—to include the stories of the enslaved men, women and children who kept the plantation running," said Jeffrey L. Nichols, president and CEO of Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest.
"The IMLS grant will help us develop a comprehensive plan to make the Poplar Forest plantation more physically and intellectually accessible and more impactful to a broader audience." The museum staff and consultants have already begun the first phase of audience surveys that will help them define the essential story of Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest. The planning phase also includes an evaluation of Poplar Forest's strengths, challenges and opportunities, along with additional research and community outreach that will continue throughout the coming months.
"IMLS recognizes three valuable roles museums have in their communities: putting the learner at the center, serving as community anchors and serving as stewards of cultural and scientific collections," said IMLS director Susan Hildreth at the awards ceremony in September. "It's exciting to see the many ways our newly announced grants further these important museum roles. I congratulate the slate of 2013 museum grant recipients for planning projects that advance innovation in museum practice, lifelong learning and community engagement."
IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the 17,500 museums and 123,000 libraries across the United States.
About Poplar Forest
One of only two homes Thomas Jefferson designed for his personal use, the Poplar Forest retreat was the place where Jefferson "came to indulge in the life of the mind and renew his personal creativity." Jefferson and his wife, Martha, inherited the Bedford County plantation known as Poplar Forest from her father in 1773. When his presidency ended in 1809, Jefferson visited the retreat three or four times a year, often staying for several months at a time during planting seasons.
Designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior, and nearly lost to development, Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest plantation in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains was rescued in 1984 by a group of local citizens who sought to preserve it for the cultural and educational benefit of the public. Poplar Forest was opened to the public for the first time in 1986, in its "before restoration" state. Today, the neoclassical architecture of the octagonal house has been returned to Mr. Jefferson's design. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has recognized the meticulous research and restoration efforts with its highest award, and the plantation has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to Poplar Forest offers a unique opportunity to observe a "live" archaeological dig and historic restoration in progress, as efforts to reveal and restore Thomas Jefferson's vision for his personal retreat continue.
Poplar Forest is open daily from March 15 through December 30 (closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (last tour leaving at 4:05 p.m.), and winter weekends from January 18 through March 9, from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. (last tour leaving at 3:05 p.m.). For more information, visit poplarforest.org or call 434.525.1806.