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Zinie Chen Sampson the Associated Press
Published: 18 September 2010

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (AP) -- Thomas Jefferson's clothes and linens did not get pressed on their own, and the meals for his lavish parties did not cook themselves.
Now, Jefferson's estate, Monticello, is expanding efforts to depict the lives and activities of the enslaved people who worked behind the scenes, allowing visitors to see that Jefferson had a lot of support for his achievements. Other sites have been undertaking similar updates, and in doing so, they are providing a more nearly complete depiction of history.
Curators at the third president's mountaintop home have been using Jefferson's detailed journals, archaeological finds and other research to expand Monticello's stories beyond the third president of the United States and his political, scientific, diplomatic, literary and other achievements. They also are speaking to a wider audience that includes a growing number of black visitors and other minorities, said Leni Sorensen, African-American research historian at Monticello.
``It isn't that (visitors) aren't interested in Jefferson. They are, and they want to see how was he allowed to live the way he lived; who was behind that work,'' Sorensen said. ``They'll see that competent, skilled enslaved people did the work and helped make it happen.''
A new permanent exhibit that opened in June in Monticello's cellar depicts a place where slaves who worked as cooks, housemaids and others worked together and crossed paths with Jefferson family members, visitors' servants and others. Called ``Crossroads,'' the exhibit includes life-sized figures of Jefferson's enslaved butler Burwell Colbert, Jefferson's daughter Martha, teenage house servant Israel Gillette and others next to artifacts found during archaeological research, such as thimbles, clothing irons and shoe buckles.
Ford Bell, president of the American Association of Museums, said that historic sites and museums are now reflecting a more multicultural approach, turning away from the ``great man theory'' that spotlighted only the achievements of Jefferson and other historic figures.
``The true story is the telling of millions of individual stories of all Americans,'' Bell said. ``It's truly about diverse cultural and ethnic groups that came together to create our country, and many of them were reviled or subjugated.''
Updating history also could help attendance. The nation's demographics are changing, but core museum visitors are still largely white, Bell said. To draw more diverse visitors, museums are offering stories that resonate with visitors of many backgrounds, including people from ethnic or religious minorities, he said.
In Richmond, Virginia, the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar was among the first to tell the story of the war from Union, Confederate and African-American perspectives. The Civil War, was fought by the northern Union and the southern Confederacy, ended slavery and buttressed the concept of federal supremacy. It began in April 1861 and ended four years later, in April 1865.
Opened in 2006 at the site of the Tredegar gun foundry, the Civil War center allows visitors to see the war's legacy, and to examine similar contemporary issues, including opposition to immigration and the increase in states'-rights rhetoric, said center President Christy Coleman.
The Hermitage, the Tennessee plantation home of the seventh president, Andrew Jackson, has updated its introduction film and opened a gallery exhibit that includes the Indian Removal Act that Jackson pushed for and signed into law in 1830. The measure led to the forced westward migration of thousands of Native Americans from five Southeastern tribes to make way for white settlers and slavery.
Some visitors have thought the presentation portrays Jackson as evil, or that Indian removal should not be discussed because it was a black mark on Jackson's legacy. But Marsha Mullin, the Hermitage's vice president for museum services, says it is important to present a fuller look at Jacksonian America.
``It is an era people don't know much about, between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War,'' Mullin said. ``We need to paint the picture in between so they know why the Civil War came along.'' The American Revolution began in 1775 and ended in 1783.
The National Park Service also is in the process of enhancing Civil War battlefield sites, said David Ruth, superintendent of the Richmond National Battlefield Park.
One project has been to create new exhibits at Chimborazo, site of the Confederacy's largest wartime hospital. Highlighted is the role of Southern women and slaves who tended to wounded soldiers, marking the introduction of women to the male-dominated nursing profession.
History and military buffs, of course, still will be able to immerse themselves in the battles and wartime strategy, Ruth said, but the war's bigger picture becomes clearer when it includes more depiction of real people's lives during that time.
``My sense is that by including a more complete context, we're going to be more relevant to a larger audience,'' he said. ``With a larger audience coming to our site, there's no question there's an economic impact in local areas by having more reasons for people to come.''
If You Go...
MONTICELLO: Charlottesville, Virginia.
http://www.monticello.org. Estate of Thomas Jefferson. Open daily,
March-November, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; December-February, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. New
``Crossroads'' cellar exhibit is included in basic house and
grounds tour, adults, $22 ($17, November-February); ages 6-11, $8
year-round (free for 5 and under).
http://www.tredegar.org/american-civil-war-center.aspx. Open daily,
9 a.m.-5 p.m. Adults, $8; children $2 (free for 6 and under).
THE HERMITAGE: Nashville, Tenn., http://www.thehermitage.com. Home of Andrew Jackson. Open daily, April 1-Oct. 15, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Oct. 16-March 31, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Adults, $17; ages 13-18, $11; ages 6-12, $7 (free for 5 and under).
RICHMOND NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD PARK: Richmond, Virginia http://www.nps.gov/rich/. Visitor centers at Tredegar Iron Works and Chimborazo open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; park battlefields open daily sunrise-sunset.

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