Today was the grand opening of the new Monticello Visitor Center & Smith Education Center, and we are sooooooo tired right now. It was a full-on, no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners, pedal-to-the-medal extravaganza, with a fife and drum corps, a gospel choir, the municipal band, Miss Virginia, radio stations broadcasting live, famous speakers, ribbon-cuttings, unveilings, pony rides, and I think a delegate from the state legislature. (Just kidding about the pony rides. That would have been totally awesome, though.) Despite the cold and rain, we had quite a respectable number of hardy souls who attended the festivities, or just showed up to see Monticello and got a whole lot more than they bargained for.
I must say though, having now seen the new exhibits in their full glory, that all the hoopla was more than warranted. The link above lists all the many different wonders of the new VC, but in particular I wanted to mention the new film - which I freely admit had me a little verklemmt - and the Jefferson animation in the "Monticello as Experiment" gallery. This last I find difficult to describe - I'll just say that it manages to be highly amusing and also to impart a real sense of the magnitude of Jefferson's habitual record-keeping.
Having worked somewhat-tangentially with the people planning and executing the exhibits, I really have to say that the scholarship and research underlying all of what you see at the new VC is unflinchingly meticulous. There is no watering-down in the final product - and yet they've managed to combine and present all their monumental work in a way that is lucid, engaging, and meaningful to any possible audience. I've said that Jefferson has something to say about pretty much any current event that comes along (or so it would seem), and our staff have managed to translate that very richness of subject material into a series of exhibits that can speak to anyone from a civil engineer to a toddler.
I've worked here five years and these exhibits have made me understand Jefferson in a way I never did before. By which I mean to say: it's wondrous, you really must come see!
931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville, VA 22902