Department of Curatorial & Collections
CURATORIAL AND COLLECTIONS AT MONTPELIER
The Curatorial department researches and acquires objects that help provide context for those who lived at Montpelier, including the Madisons, the duPonts, and enslaved individuals. The Collections department is responsible for the maintenance and preservation of the 5,000 objects on exhibit and in storage at Montpelier.
Curatorial & Collections Projects
Many of the projects our department undertakes are not done within the view of visitors. Our work is seen in the interpretation of the rooms, exhibit cases, and in the care of the objects. Read about our projects to get a behind the scenes look at how exhibits come together and the special objects at Montpelier.
Digging Deeper Blog
Check out our blogs and read about our projects to learn about what we’ve done in the past and what our department is currently working on. Find out how we install objects, care for the Montpelier collection and what day-to-day collections work is like.
What’s in a Number?
When looking at labels in your favorite museum, you might notice that the objects are referred to with specific sets of numbers. Sometimes a combination of numbers, letters, and years, these sequences can often seem like another language…welcome to Museum Accessioning 101.Read More
The South Yard: Archaeology
What did the Archaeology Team find in the South Yard?Read More
The South Yard Dwellings: The Taylor and Stewart Families
The Taylors and Stewarts were two married couples who were likely born at Montpelier and served the Madison family for decades.Read More
South Yard Dwellings: Research
Learn more about the interviews conducted with the Works Progress Administration and the images found that helped to shape the South Yard Dwellings at Montpelier.Read More
South Yard Dwellings: Food & Cooking
We know enslaved cooks prepared food for the Madisons. How did the enslaved community cook and what did they eat themselves?Read More
South Yard Dwellings: Household Items
Work tools vs. leisure tools- what’s the difference?Read More
The South Yard Dwellings: Furniture
How did we know what furniture to put into the enslaved dwellings at Montpelier?Read More
Making Our List and Checking it Twice: The 2020 Collections Inventory
Learn how the Collections Team organized and implemented the 2020 Complete Collections Inventory.Read More
Creating the Guest Spaces
Take a look at how the last rooms of the House were furnished.Read More
Polishing a President’s Silver
Read about how silver in the Montpelier Collection is cleaned and care for in a special way.Read More
Every Object Needs a Rest
What exactly do we mean by letting an object “rest?” Read about two textile pieces coming off exhibit and why.Read More
The Pantograph; A Portable Copying Machine
What is a pantograph and did Madison use one?Read More
Beyond Closed Doors: The Intern
Read what Rebecca has to say about her internship with the Curatorial & Collections Department.Read More
If The Shoe Fits
Read about our first acquisition of 2019; Dolley Madison’s slippersRead More
Object Conservation at Montpelier
What is conservation and why is it done?Read More
Monticello to Montpelier: A Walking Stick’s Journey from One Founding Father to Another
Walk through history with this gift given by Thomas Jefferson to James Madison.Read More
Organization- 18th Century Style
Colorful bandboxes sparked joy in 18th-century organizationRead More
Pass the Cake Basket
Happy Birthday Mr. Madison! Let’s celebrate with a cake basket.Read More
The Ins and Outs of January Closure
What happens when Montpelier is closed to the public each January?Read More
Davenport in the Dining Room
A new Bamboo & Peony platter joins the dining room display.Read More
Furnishing a Bedchamber: Creating the Space
Transforming a bedchamber into an exhibition space.Read More
Furnishing a Bedchamber: The Objects
The objects in John Payne Todd’s room reflect his time in France.Read More
Furnishing a Bedchamber: Furniture
Read about the Madison family furniture in John Payne Todd’s bedchamber.Read More
The Mysterious Riding Garment
Learn how we uncovered the story of a curious set of Marion duPont Scott’s riding clothes.Read More
Working Together to Discover “Madison, the Person”
Going beyond Madison, the IconRead More
Furnishing a Bedchamber: Wallpaper & Textiles
How do we know John Payne Todd’s room had blue wallpaper and red textiles?Read More
Filling out the South Passage
How did the curators know which paintings to hang?Read More
From Family Memories to Historical Record
The ongoing task of preserving the duPont Family Scrapbooks.Read More
Polly the Parrot
Using primary accounts of Polly the Parrot, we have installed our very own macaw in the house.Read More
Read about our latest installations
January 2018 saw the largest internal transformation since the restoration.
Elizabeth Chew, PhD
Senior Director of Museum Programs and Chief Curator
An art historian, she holds a B.A. from Yale, an M.A. from the Courtauld Institute of the University of London, and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has worked at museums and historic sites since 1985, including as a curator at Monticello for thirteen years, and as the Betsy Main Babcock Director of the Curatorial and Education Division at Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, N.C. She has taught art history at the University of North Carolina, the University of Virginia, James Madison University, Wake Forest University, and Davidson College and published and lectured widely on ways that art and architectural patronage relate to gender, race, and family politics.
Jenniffer Powers, BA
Jenniffer Powers joined Montpelier in May 2014, after completing her degree in Historic Preservation from the University of Mary Washington. As the Collections Manager, Jenniffer works behind the scenes and beyond the ropes to provide care and maintenance for the entirety of the Montpelier Collections – both on display and off display. This includes everything from proper storage to vacuuming textiles, to cleaning silver and sweeping floorcloth! Jenniffer is passionate about making collections and collections management accessible to the public and loves using the Collections Department Instagram account to highlight pieces of the collections both on and off display as well as the work that it takes to preserve the objects and spaces for decades to come!
Alexis Atkinson, BA
Alexis Atkinson joined the Montpelier team in November of 2022. She earned her B.A. in Art History at Virginia Commonwealth University in May of 2022, and her A.A. in Liberal Arts, and Certificate in Fine Arts at John Tyler Community College in May of 2020. Alexis has a background in collections care and art history. In particular, she is knowledgeable about paintings and the decorative arts of 18th to 19th century America and France. At Montpelier, she works to maintain and preserve the decorative arts collections on display throughout the property. She also assists the Collections Manager with research, collections projects, and the collections’ social media accounts. Alexis is passionate about the histories which objects can share, their visual presentation to the public, and their overall preservation.
Leanna Schafer, BA
former Curatorial & Collections Assistant at Montpelier
Leanna Schafer earned her BA in Art History at Salem State University. Her background includes fine arts and material culture preventative care and American History. Leanna joined the Collections Department at Montpelier in 2018 where she safe-keeps collections objects and their exhibit spaces, orchestrates object conservation, assists in exhibit design, and creates educational content for the public and staff members through Montpelier’s Digital Doorway.
Leanna has since moved into the Communications Department at Montpelier, in late 2022.