Lauren Massari Creates Digital Exhibit on Inspiration and Reality in Jefferson's Academic Village

October 11, 2019

The Chrysler Museum of Art, in Norfolk, VA, has teamed up with the University of Virginia as part of a new exhibit “Thomas Jefferson, Architect: Palladian Models, Democratic Principles, and the Conflict of Ideals.” The exhibit, which runs from October 19, 2019, through January 19, 2020, will examine the unresolved tension between the political and artistic ideals that guided Jefferson’s architectural designs and the choices he made in using enslaved workers in his construction projects.

The exhibit includes a digital component, created by IATH Multimedia Designer Lauren Massari, which draws from archeological, architectural, and archival evidence from the design, building, and daily maintenance of the “Mr. Jefferson’s University,” the University of Virginia’s Academical Village. As part of the larger Chrysler exhibit, it “will significantly deepen our visitors’ experience of the exhibition and help them think more carefully about how the built environment shaped the past and shapes their daily lives today,” notes Seth Feman, the Chrysler’s Deputy Director for Art and Interpretation.

The on-line material is based on extensive research that a wide range of students, staff, and faculty have been conducting in the Academical Village and the records of the planning and building of the University, and includes digital reconstructions of Jefferson’s original design for the Rotunda. Stories of individual enslaved workers and the work they did as part of the construction of the University are being pieced together, along with visualizations of the Academic Village circa 1827. Massari and a team of students relied on evidence from documents at the Office of the Architect, scans of original drawings and documents provided by the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, historic photographs found in the UVA Library’s Digital Repository, architectural drawings provided by the Facilities Management Resource Center, the 2013 Cultural Landscape Report, as well as other books written about the University and the expertise of University historians.

Over the past several years, UVA has been examining anew the complex and painful legacy of slavery in both UVA and surrounding communities. History and community legacies are revealing the costs and consequences of the space between the ideals that motivated the creation of UVA and the decisions and practices that built and sustained it. Efforts include the JUEL Project, the President's Commission on Slavery and the University, Educated in Tyranny, UVA Today's series on UVA and the History of Race, and the ongoing construction of the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers.