The Curatorial Department is responsible for the care, preservation, study, and public presentation of the Monticello house and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation's collection of objects related to Thomas Jefferson, his family, and their lives at Monticello. Since the Foundation purchased Monticello in 1923, several generations of curators have worked to locate and acquire the approximately 5000 objects in this collection. The process is ongoing, and involves a combination of documentary and provenance research and connoisseurship.
Monticello houses the premier collection for the comprehensive study of Thomas Jefferson. Objects relate to virtually every aspect of Jefferson's diverse interests, and his and his family's activities. These include fine and decorative arts (paintings, prints, sculptures, furniture, textiles, ceramics, silver, glass, and clocks), natural history specimens, maps, books, scientific instruments, Native American materials, writing and drafting implements, musical instruments, and personal items such as clothing, jewelry, sewing implements, and pocket accessories. About 75 percent of these collections are exhibited; the remainder is available for study. Jefferson originally owned about 60 percent of the objects on display.
In June 2010, the Curatorial department unveiled several new initiatives as part of New Perspectives on Domestic Life at Monticello. These have ensured that Monticello now reflects the very latest curatorial research. The interior of the South Pavilion, the first structure built on Monticello mountain and the site of Martha and Thomas Jefferson's early life together, now evokes its appearance in 1772 after Jefferson spent a large sum to prepare his one-room living quarters for his bride. The Wine Cellar, including one side of the famous wine dumbwaiter, has been restored and opened for visitors to enter for the first time ever, and curators organized an exhibition entitled Crossroads: Domestic Work at Monticello on the cellar level of the house.
The centerpiece of this initiative was the reinterpretation of Monticello's dining room, now painted a vibrant chrome yellow, and containing a carpet, sideboard, serving table, French sofa, and works of art that were not previously there. This restoration effort has enabled a fuller understanding of how the room functioned for Jefferson, his family and guests, and the enslaved domestic servants who prepared and served the meals.
Monticello curators have been responsible for the ongoing restoration and refurbishment of Monticello's dependencies, or work spaces beneath the house, including the Kitchen, Cook's Room, Beer Cellar, Storage Cellars, and Wine Cellar.