Department of Research
DOCUMENTARY AND HISTORICAL RESEARCH AT MONTPELIER
Montpelier's African American Descendants' Project
The Montpelier Research Department conducts historical inquiry into the life and times of James and Dolley Madison, the Enslaved Community and their descendants, and the United States Constitution. Our research supports Montpelier’s educational and interpretive programs, curatorial exhibitions, and publications.
The Montpelier Research Department conducts numerous projects in support of our mission. Our digital database, available to researchers, scholars, and the general public by appointment, is regularly updated with historical documents and current research reports. To learn more about the work we do, see sample projects, and visit online exhibitions, use the buttons to the right.
Digging Deeper Blog
Our blog is where you can get a behind-the-scenes look at all of our projects, and learn more about what our researchers do. Dive into the day-to-day world of historical research!
Ten Words with James Madison
How does your vocabulary match up to James Madison’s? Take our Madisonian Vocabulary Quiz and find out!Read More
The Naming Project: John
James Madison received John as a gift from his father, along with John’s mother Sinar and his five siblings. John accompanied Madison to Philadelphia in 1787 and New York in 1788.Read More
Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: “The Guest of the Nation” Visits Montpelier
Journals, letters, and newspaper accounts help us trace Lafayette’s three stops at Montpelier in 1824-25, from ceremonial greetings to dinner table discussions to poignant farewells.Read More
The Congressional Election of 1789
Questionably-drawn voting districts, flip-flops, getting out the vote, and – surprise! – cordiality between the candidates. It’s election season, 1789.Read More
The Naming Project: Charity
Charity was listed on James Madison Sr.’s personal property tax records for three years (1782-1784), after which time she disappears from the historical record.Read More
The Naming Project: Demas (Demars)
Demas was born September 12, 1777. James Madison Sr. gave Demas – along with mother Eliza and his brothers and sisters – to his daughter Nelly when she married Isaac Hite.Read More
The Naming Project: Jason
In 1803, Jason escorted 11-year-old John Payne Todd from Montpelier to his boarding school in Alexandria, and then delivered horses to William Thornton in Washington.Read More
The Naming Project: Reuben
Reuben, a weaver, appears in James Madison Sr.’s tax records in the 1780s. In 1795-96, he had a 3-month bout of rheumatism that prevented him from weaving.Read More
The Naming Project: Katey
Born July 26, 1782, Katey was an infant when James Madison Sr. gave her, her mother Truelove, and her brother and sisters to his newlywed daughter and son-in-law.Read More
The Naming Project: Pamela Barbour Taliaferro
Pamela Barbour, enslaved by Nelly Madison, married Frank Taliaferro and had two children, Solomon and Judy. After Nelly’s death, Pamela was able to choose her next enslaver.Read More
Hilarie M. Hicks, MA
Director of Museum Programs
Hilarie M. Hicks came to Montpelier in 2010 and joined the Research Department in 2011. She served on the research and writing team for the award-winning exhibition The Mere Distinction of Colour. Hilarie’s current research interests include plantation operations, James and Dolley Madison, and any topic that she hasn’t looked into yet. Having earned her B.A. at the College of William and Mary and her M.A. from the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies, Hilarie’s historic site experience includes working as a historical interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg (VA), as curator of interpretation at Tryon Palace Historic Sites & Gardens (New Bern, NC), and as executive director of the Rosewell Ruins (Gloucester, VA). She is a board member of the Orange County Historical Society and volunteers as a judge for the We the People student competition.
Hilarie has since accepted the position of Director of Museum Programs at Montpelier in 2022.