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June 3, 2011

Program at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg Illustrates Third President’s Passion for America’s Natural History

Author and biologist Lee Dugatkin re-creates the origin and evolution of the debates about natural history in America and returns the prize moose to its rightful place in American history during the program, “Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose.” This presentation take s place at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, June 13 at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum’s Hennage Auditorium.

In the years after the Revolutionary War, the fledgling republic of America was viewed by many Europeans as a degenerate backwater that was populated by subspecies of animals that were weak and feeble. Chief among these naysayers was the French Count and world-renowned naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon.

The American moose, which Jefferson claimed was so enormous a European reindeer could walk under it, became the cornerstone of Jefferson’s defense. Convinced that the sight of such a magnificent beast would cause Buffon to revise his claims, Jefferson had the remains of a seven-foot moose shipped from New Hampshire to Paris. Dugatkin’s lecture completes the fascinating tale about Jefferson’s passion to prove that American nature deserved prestige.

Dugatkin is a professor and Distinguished University Scholar in the biology department at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. He is the author of more than 125 articles on evolution and behavior in such journals as Nature, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and The Proceedings of The Royal Society of London. He has published four books – “Cooperation among Animals: An Evolutionary Perspective,” “Cheating Monkeys and Citizen Bees,” “The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness” and “Principles of Animal Behavior.”

A Colonial Williamsburg admissions ticket, museum pass or Good Neighbor Card provides access to this fascinating presentation.

Programs and exhibitions at The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum are supported by the DeWitt Wallace Endowment Fund.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg include the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, with more than 5,000 folk art objects made during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum exhibits the best in British and American decorative arts from 1670–1830.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are located at the intersection of Francis and South Henry Streets in Williamsburg, Va., and are entered through the Public Hospital of 1773. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. For museum program information, telephone (757) 220-7724.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121