Crossroads Exhibition

The cellar level of the Monticello house was a horizontal and vertical crossroads constantly in motion. Here, enslaved domestic workers, Jefferson family members, slaves accompanying Monticello visitors, waggoners delivering supplies, and anyone else using Monticello's work spaces crossed paths.

Domestic work in the Monticello house is the focus of "Crossroads," the new exhibition installed in the house's central cellar, adjacent to the Wine Cellar and directly beneath the entrance Hall. Visitors get a sense of the constant interaction and activity required to keep Monticello running.

Life-sized figures in the space "present" enslaved butler Burwell Colbert; Jefferson's daughter and plantation mistress Martha Jefferson Randolph; Priscilla Hemmings, chief nurse to Jefferson's grandchildren; Israel Gillette, a teen-age house servant; Betty Brown, a seamstress and lady's maid who spent more time working in slavery at Monticello than any other person; and Harriet Hemings, an enslaved girl who learned needlework and other skills from her female relatives. Each figure is accompanied by a museum case of archaeologically recovered objects representing items they may have worn, carried in their pockets, or used in their jobs, including shoe buckles, a pocket knife, beads and earrings, thimbles, scissors, pins, and an iron.

The exhibition's interactive components include a model of the wine dumbwaiter for visitors to operate, a "servant's" bell, and functional door locks, emphasizing the importance of locked storage spaces that led Jefferson's granddaughters to refer to housekeeping as "carrying the keys."

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