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Cleaning a 200-year-old, 11,000-square-foot house is a serious undertaking. How does Monticello’s staff do it?

“The short answer is, very carefully,” says Collections and Exhibitions Manager Tabitha Pryor Corradi. “Just like a private residence, historic homes have to be cleaned. What makes our task different is the age, sensitivity and value of the objects we’re handling.”

In January or February of each year, Monticello’s Curatorial and Restoration teams join forces for a three-day project, thoroughly cleaning Monticello from floor to ceiling. Affectionally dubbed the “Big Clean,” this event helps preserve the house and prepare for a new year of visitors.

The Big Clean begins before sunrise. A team of eight or nine people start the day at 6:30 a.m. and typically finish around 3:30 p.m. Visitors can see the work in progress and speak with the staff. “These are definitely my favorite work days of the year,” says Museum Technician Malia Sbach. “We’re usually behind the scenes, so we love this opportunity to interact with guests, answer questions and share the role that the Collections team plays in preserving the house and objects.”

Of course, the Big Clean isn’t the only time of year that the house receives attention.  Museum technicians spend two or three hours cleaning the house each day before visitors arrive — vacuuming and dusting throughout the house, and deep cleaning a different room each day. Yet, as Museum Technician Caitlin Hepner explains, the volume of foot traffic from more than 400,000 annual visitors makes the Big Clean a necessary addition.

“With two-story ceilings in some rooms, reaching every surface isn’t possible on a daily basis — nor is it desired from a preservation standpoint,” she says. “This is our chance to really address all the objects and spaces.”

 

Behind-the-Scenes House Tour

Get a fuller picture of life at Monticello with this exclusive pass that takes you behind the scenes. The tour winds through the first floor of Monticello and up the narrow staircase to explore the private quarters on the second and third floors, including the iconic Dome Room.