Founded in 1994 by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.—the private, nonprofit organization that has owned and operated Monticello since 1923—the ICJS has created a network of scholars, teachers, and students who engage a global audience in a dialogue with Jefferson’s ideas and to foster Jefferson scholarship and disseminate its findings. Through a fellowship program, international scholarly conferences, panel discussions, teacher workshops, lectures, and curriculum-based tours, the ICJS establishes relationships with people from around the world. The center is based at Kenwood, a 78-acre estate located on land once owned by Jefferson approximately one-half mile east of the entrance to Monticello. Its facilities include the Jefferson Library, a 15,500-square-foot research facility opened in 2002; residences for visiting scholars; and offices.

The Foundation proposed to construct a $5.5 million, 14,000-square-foot, technologically sophisticated Jefferson Research Library at Kenwood to house an expanded collection of source materials, secondary works, and bibliographic aids, and to provide worldwide access to its collection through digital networks.

Jack Robertson, (former) Director of the Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library at the University of Virginia was appointed Foundation Librarian.

This time was characterized by rapid changes and growth, including the staff appointments of Bryan Craig in October 2000 and Jack Robertson in January 2001. The library’s mission statement, “Providing access to information on the life, times, and legacy of Thomas Jefferson,” was devised and bannered on the newly developed Library website. Pictured here is the Library's first home page from 2002.

Current Jefferson Library Website

The library staff started small but mighty with founding director Jack Robertson (left) and Research Librarian Bryan Craig (right) and grew and changed over the years.

The library was dedicated on April 13, 2002, planned to coincide with Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. In attendance were author David McCullough, Governor (and future Senator from Virginia) Mark Warner, and Senator (and former Virginia Governor) George Allen.

The Thomas Jefferson Portal online catalog was launched at the time of the library’s dedication. Envisioned as the gateway to Jefferson research, the TJPortal provides access to a wide array of books, rare materials, research reports, essays, electronic books and journals, including newspapers and manuscript collections.

Thomas Jefferson Portal

Left to right: Endrina Tay, Betsy Altheimer, Bryan Craig, and Jack Robertson

In 2003, the Jefferson Library became the home of the Ron Laycock Collection of Lewis and Clark Literature, courtesy of a gift from Mr. Ron Laycock, former President of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation. With over a 1,000 books, scholarly articles, programs, maps, and newspapers, this is one of the largest collections of material in the United States related to the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

The tenth anniversary of the International Center for Jefferson Studies in 2004 was a double celebration thanks to the remarkable $15 million gift from Robert H. and Clarice Smith, creating The Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies. The dedication was attended by the Board of Trustees and this major gift both secures the future of existing programs and initiatives of the Center.

Learn more about the ICJS

In 2004, the Foundation was awarded a three-year grant of $140,140 by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to fund the Thomas Jefferson’s Libraries project. The long term goal of the project is to compile and catalog the book titles Jefferson owned and utilized throughout his lifetime. Prior to the inception of this project, a comprehensive list of books in his various libraries had never been compiled, making this information relatively inaccessible to scholars and members of the public. In late 2008, this project became part of the Libraries of Early America project on LibraryThing. Work on this project is ongoing.

Explore the Thomas Jefferson's Libraries Project

Sixty-one donors gave material consisting of 977 items. Notable for quality and quantity were the gifts from the following individuals: James A. Bear, Groke Mickey, Betsy Tremain, Chip Stokes, Fred Stein, Ron Laycock, Noble Cunningham, and John Sanders.

Jefferson Library Collections

The Monticello Digital Archive Project was launched in June 2005 with the hiring of staff, acquisition of equipment, and design of the XML-coded database. This was the start of digitization efforts at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

Left to right: Jack Robertson, Endrina Tay, and Anna Berkes

Compact shelving installed in the Special Collections area more than doubled storage capacity for rare, unique, unusual, and fragile materials. The new system is designed to accommodate rare books, unpublished research reports, and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation archives. The new shelving system, funded by Mr. Robert H. Smith, also allowed for the relocation of the Articles File and the Information Files from a public area into the secured and climate-controlled environment.

In 2007, the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia was created by the project team consisting of Research Librarian Anna Berkes, Web Services Librarian Eric Johnson, and consultant Bryan Craig. Since 2007, staff have built content to over 1,000 articles covering specific plants, people, buildings, places, artworks that illuminate Jefferson’s world, and specific Jefferson quotations, including (especially) spurious quotes. The TJ Encyclopedia has proven to be an effective global educational outreach and research tool.

Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

Left to right: Endrina Tay, Eric Johnson, Anna Berkes, Jack Robertson, and Leah Stearns

Anna Berkes addressed the need to actively engage with web-based audiences by creating a blog, A Summary View … “details, both great and small” from the Jefferson Library at Monticello, which launched in September 2008.

Two dozen people were interviewed in 2009, and one dozen individuals were trained to carry out public services and technical processing functions.

Since its dedication on April 13, 2001, the Jefferson Library has become an epicenter for scholarship on Thomas Jefferson, offering physical and digital access to a vast assemblage of Jefferson material. On November 2, 2012, as part of the Fall Board of Trustees meeting, a formal dinner was held in the Jefferson Library in honor of its Tenth Anniversary and its patrons, the late Martin Davis and his wife Luella.

The Jefferson Library began utilizing Archon to create finding aids for the Foundation's archives.

In 2013, The Filippo Mazzei Archive, created from the personal papers and archive by Sister Margherita Marchione MPF, was presented to the Jefferson Library.

2014 is the double anniversary of the founding of the International Center for Jefferson Studies in 1994 and the endowment of the Center by Robert H. Smith in 2004. The two anniversaries were celebrated at the Fall Board of Trustees dinner at Montalto on November 7, 2014. The keynote speech was given by Michael Beschloss, a former member of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Board of Trustees. Former staff members, including Cinder Stanton, Bill Beiswanger, and Paula Newcomb were also in attendance.

In 2015, the Library commemorated the bicentennial of the sale of Thomas Jefferson’s Library to Congress in 1815 with an exhibit on view in the Jefferson Library from May 1 to October 31, a joint webinar with the Library of Congress on October 20, 2015, and various presentations. The Jefferson Library continues to enrich the book entries available through the project database and expand upon their knowledge and understanding of individual book titles held by Jefferson during his retirement period at Monticello.

Thanks to the generous bequest provided by the Trustees of the Jane Tarleton Smith Moore estate, Jack Robertson was appointed the first Fiske and Marie Kimball Librarian. (Photo credit: Fiske Kimball Papers, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library and Archives.)

Learn more about Fiske and Marie Kimball

On October 19, 2016, the Jefferson Library Collections Policy was endorsed by the Scholarly Activities Committee (a subcommittee of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s Board of Trustees).

The Jefferson Library successfully migrated from Archon to ArchivesSpace, enabling staff and researchers to more easily search the finding aids for the Foundation's archival collections.

156 volumes in the H. Guthrie Allen, Jr. Lews and Clark Collection were donated by Mrs. Marguerite Allen and her two daughters, Sarah and Ann. The collection contains 26 rare items in Special Collections, with the remainder of the volumes positioned for public use in the Nichols Room.

The “Enlighten the People Project” provides aid to the internet public to search and use rich, reliable, and relevant online sources. 45 topical searches were compiled, that allow for quick and easy access to information on Jefferson-related topics, such as federal power, free press, economics and commerce, books and maps, geosciences, friends, enemies, pop culture, legacy, etc.

Enlighten the People Project

On March 13, 2020, the Jefferson Library closed to the general public as part of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s effort to help mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Library staff continued to support and respond to resource and research requests from staff and research fellows, and address reference questions from the general public via email and virtual consultations on Zoom. Access to Library resources by research staff and scholars via our offsite proxy doubled in 2020. During this time, Jefferson Library staff fielded a total of 284 reference questions and 230 research questions on a variety of topics.

The Library took advantage of increased opportunities to engage new audiences online by sharing informative posts on Facebook about Jefferson, library resources, and new digital content.

Jefferson Library Facebook Page

After a 20 year-tenure with the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Jack Robertson retired in October 2020 as the Fiske and Marie Kimball Librarian Emeritus.

After remaining closed to the public for over 15 months from mid-March 2020, the Library reopened to the public on July 1, 2021. Library staff served a steady stream of research fellows and scholars who returned onsite, while continuing to assist patrons working remotely.

In September 2021, a new public interface for the Thomas Jefferson Portal was unveiled, providing improved accessibility to relevant resources.

Following the retirement of Jack Robertson in 2020, in October 2021 Endrina Tay was named the new Fiske and Marie Kimball Librarian.

The Library worked with the Getting Word Project to digitize the Getting Word Archive as part of a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities to the Foundation in 2021. This is the Library’s first large-scale digitization project.

In 2022, the Jefferson Library at Monticello celebrates its 20th anniversary. The library has fostered a vibrant and ever-expanding intellectual community of scholars, staff, volunteers, donors, and other patrons.​ From its modest beginnings, the library has developed a rich and diverse collection, with over 13,000 unique items.​ The library has played a vital role in helping Foundation departments carry out Monticello's dual mission of preservation and education, and its vision to bring history forward into national and global dialogues.