Week 1: Secondary Sources and the Jefferson Library

My research on the controversy surrounding the design and construction of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC, began with a dive into secondary sources on Jefferson’s legacy. I read R.B. Bernstein’s Thomas Jefferson, Francis Cogliano’s Thomas Jefferson: Reputation and Legacy, as well as Andrew Burstein’s Democracy’s Muse. Each work was useful in placing the construction of the Jefferson memorial into the context of American history. Bernstein’s book is considered the best and most recent brief biography of Jefferson and included a historiography of Jefferson as well. Cogliano’s Reputation and Legacy dove deeper into Jefferson’s legacy and described the “four stages in the history of Jefferson’s reputation.” The construction of the Memorial fits in to the third stage, where Jefferson was “fully rehabilitated as a national hero.” Andrew Burstein’s work investigated how Jefferson was used by political figures in the twentieth century and begins with a description of the Jefferson Memorial. Burstein’s work is beneficial to me because he determined the key figures in the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Commission (TJMC) and who they were influenced by. I intend to further research individuals in the commission and determine their role in the choice of site and design for the memorial.

To start my research, I visited the Jefferson Library in Charlottesville, Virginia. There, I discovered that Franklin Delano Roosevelt owned a vacation cabin just a couple of miles from Monticello, which further proves FDR’s reverence for Jefferson. At the library, I met with the research librarian Anna Berkes, who pointed me in the direction of some useful databases and pulled their box on the Jefferson memorial. I looked over a Congressional Hearing with the TJMC which will be useful in determining how members of the Commission responded to the public’s uproar about the memorial. I also found where other papers relating to the memorial were located, and have scheduled visits to UVA Special Collections, GWU Special Collections, as well as the Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives. These archives contain correspondence between members of the Commission as well as meeting minutes and other materials relating to the Jefferson memorial. I am looking forward to researching the individuals behind the construction of the memorial.