Thomas Jefferson's World Trailer
20-second Clip from A Passion for Ordered Knowledge animation in the 'To Try All Things' exhibition
This is my second favorite feature from our new Visitor Center - It's so clever. If there's one thing I've noticed while working with Jefferson's manuscripts, it's that he really liked his lists and calculations! I love the way this exhibit vividly depicts Jefferson's "inner monologues" as he compiles these texts, bringing him to life in an interesting, believable, and fun way.
I have to agree with Chad on this clip. It may be irreverent--and its Monty Python roots are clear--but it also points out something I simply had not known before coming to work at Monticello, that Thomas Jefferson was an incredible record-keeper. I knew he was a prolific letter-writer, but I had had no idea that he kept such detailed records on so many aspects of life: seed counts, temperature and wind direction, distances, time of labor, the list goes on. These records have added immeasurably to our ability to interpret his life.
I have to pat myself on the back for this. The 90 second animation (found in the "To Try All Things: Monticello as Experiment" exhibition in the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center) was my idea, brought to perfect realization by the brilliant Salvatore Raciti of A More Perfect Union. We just have to poke a little fun at TJ for calculating measurements to five decimal places, counting to find out many peas fill a pint jar, recording the weather every day for forty years, and comparing the average weights of European and American mammals to show that America wins. (I mean, how did he collect his data for that one?) Bill Barker provides the voice for our favorite OCD president and Rembrandt Peale provides the face.
Of the features created for the exhibitions in the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center, this is about my favorite. I love its quirky and humor and its Monty-Pythonese animation. Jefferson's habit of recording so many things is one for which many scholars have been profoundly grateful. And while it might seem irreverent to portray Jefferson as a gleeful obsessive, it encapsulates, for me at least, this one critical aspect of his mind.
This clip isn't enough, you have to go see the full thing. I could watch it over and over. (And have.)