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Retallack '00 On Jefferson and Lewis & Clark

Library Unveils Lewis & Clark Rare Book Collection

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Linda Retallack '00, assistant curator for interpretation at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home presented "Framing the West at Monticello: Thomas Jefferson and Lewis & Clark" on Feb. 4 in the Burke Library browsing room. Retallack, whose job is to supervise tour guides and write interpretation about the house, spoke about the theme of last year's exhibit at Monticello, celebrating the 200 year anniversary of Lewis & Clark's famous journey. She said that the Monticello home can be used as a tool to understand Jefferson's western vision and his relationship to the Lewis & Clark expedition. For example, Jefferson owned the greatest collection of books on North American geography and natural history during his time period, in addition to maps, globes and atlases. In fact, Jefferson wrote his own book on natural history, "Notes on the State of Virginia." Retallack said that Jefferson had been dreaming of a western expedition and its economic, geopolitical and scientific benefits for many years before his presidency, which contradicts the popular belief that the Lewis & Clark expedition was a direct result of the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson and Merriweather Lewis were close, and spent time together at Monticello planning the expedition. Lewis & Clark sent many specimens and accounts from their journey back to Monticello, where they were proudly displayed by Jefferson. Many of these artifacts were displayed again at the house for last year's exhibit, Retallack said.

After graduating from Hamilton in 2000 with a degree in history, Retallack received her master's degree in museum studies from the Cooperstown Program. Her presentation was in conjunction with Sophomore Seminar 295: "On the Trail of Lewis and Clark: An Interdisciplinary, Bicentennial Voyage of Discovery," and the Burke Library's exhibit of Lewis & Clark related books and maps from Hamilton's rare book collection, on display in the browsing room. The event was sponsored by the history department.

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