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December 19, 2001

CW conserves, displays 18th-century model of Virginia Capitol building designed by Thomas Jefferson

Colonial Williamsburg conservators have conserved the sole surviving object of Thomas Jefferson’s design of the Capitol of Virginia–an 18th-century model of the Capitol building in Richmond. The model will be on display at Colonial Williamsburg’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum July 4, 2002 to Feb. 17, 2003. On loan from the Library of Virginia, "Jefferson and the Capitol of Virginia" will showcase this unique work that clearly illustrates why Jefferson is considered to be the father of American public architecture.

"The model is one of the many treasures in the Library of Virginia’s collections," said Nolan T. Yelich, Librarian of Virginia. "Colonial Williamsburg has done a marvelous job conserving this unique artifact, which allows us to display it in Richmond and Williamsburg." The "Jefferson and the Capitol of Virginia" exhibition will be on display at the Library of Virginia Jan.7-June 15, 2002.

"Conservation of the model of the Capitol of Virginia has afforded Colonial Williamsburg conservators the opportunity to study the history and development of one of the most significant surviving objects in public architecture," said Carolyn Weekley, Colonial Williamsburg’s Juli Grainger Director of Museums. "Working with the Library of Virginia on this multi-year project also has ensured that Thomas Jefferson’s model of the Capitol of Virginia will survive for future generations."

Jefferson collaborated with master architectural draftsman Charles-Louis Clerisseau to design the Capitol building while serving as minister plenipotentiary to France in 1786. Eminent model-maker Jean-Pierre Fouquet constructed the model based on their designs, but the original drawings have long since disappeared.

The Library of Virginia contracted with Colonial Williamsburg conservators to conserve the original model and to create a replica of it as well. Jefferson’s model and the replica will be the centerpiece of the exhibition. Foundation conservator John Watson is the project director.

Highlights of the exhibition will include a number of books and objects, including: "Notes on the State of Virginia," the only book Jefferson wrote expressing his opinions on Virginia architecture; "Antiquités de la France," which contains Clerisseau’s rendering "De la Maison Carree" from which Jefferson created the design of the Capitol building; architectural drawings of the Capitol; paintings and other images of the Capitol; and illustrations and maps showing the evolution of the design of downtown Richmond’s Capitol Square.

Visitors also will be able to learn through an interactive kiosk more about the conservation of Jefferson’s model and the collaboration between Colonial Williamsburg conservators, Library of Virginia staff, radiography specialists and CAD designers.

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121