Grant to help explore Montpelier's agricultural area

"Restored Mansion at James Madison's Montpelier" by Pthomaskmadigan/CC BY-SA 4.0
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ORANGE COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A grant is going to help the Montpelier Foundation study the agricultural area of the historic property.

According to a release, the three-year Collaborative Research Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities will be used to study the Overseer's House at Montpelier.

The funding will further the understanding and interpretation of the overall agricultural complex through archaeological excavation and analysis as well as documentary research.

This will then be used to provide a more complete picture and allow for a fuller interpretation of the people who lived and worked at the plantation in the early part of the 19th century.

"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, the Assistant Director of Archaeology. "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 release says the funding 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.

People working on these projects will create architectural renderings and a 3-D digital reconstruction of the Overseer's House to help in the 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 Madisons' plantation landscape," said Elizabeth Chew, 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 Oversee's House to the public."

The release says this is the second Collaborative Research Grant grant received by the Montpelier Foundation since 2010 and the second NEH grant Montpelier has received this year.

This one will build on a 2010 NEH grant that was used to support the study of enslaved African-American sites across the property.

That project was integral to the rebuilding of slave dwellings and work buildings near the house and to organizing the exhibition The Mere Distinction of Colour.

The new grant will give experts the resources they need to dig deeper into the institution of slavery in America and its legacies by extending their knowledge of the agricultural landscape.

The release says the new interpretation will encompass the complex relationships of race, class and status between the enslaved African-Americans, free white laborers, and the Madisons.

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