Linnea Grim is the Hunter J. Smith Director of Education and Visitor Programs at Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello, in Charlottesville, Virginia.
If you had to choose one or two favorite historic sites, which ones are they and what about them interested you?
One of my favorite historic sites is the Jefferson Building, part of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. I suppose it’s a natural fit for someone who has worked at Monticello (another one of my favorite historic sites!) for nearly a decade. The story of Jefferson selling his books to Congress after the War of 1812 is one we relate often on tour. However, the Jefferson building fascinates me
for what it tells about the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. It simultaneously conveys the importance learning had developed within our society with the growth and prominence of Washington, D.C. at the end of the nineteenth century. I love the amount of detail and symbolism in the architecture. It also serves as a museum that contains some of the most jaw-dropping artifacts our country owns, not least of which is Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence. Most of all, though, I like the site because it is still a functioning building bustling with researchers. As Jefferson wrote to John Adams in 1816, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”
Which, if any, historic sites have you worked at? What was your job?
I’ve worked at the Museums of York (Maine), the Supreme Court of the United States, and at Monticello. In each of my positions, I’ve been involved in education and interpretation.
If you’ve worked at a historic site, what is one challenge of running a historic site that most people would be surprised to learn?
I’m intrigued by how disparate visitors’ perceptions can be. Two visitors can be on the same tour or involved in the same program and leave taking completely different messages. It’s a constant challenge – albeit a fun one – to learn from visitors and continue to refine what we do to create the most enriching experiences that we can.
What is a history site you hope to visit some day? Why?
St. Augustine, FL. I’ve worked with American history for such a long time that I feel St. Augustine would be a fascinating site to compare and contrast to those I know in Virginia and New England.
Why do you think people should visit historic sites?
Knowing more about the human experience can give us a sense of connection among one another and motivation to improve continually.
Our Favorite Sites is a feature on Historyplaces where I ask my public historian friends to talk about their favorite history sites and share some of the challenges they face presenting history to visitors. If you’re a public historian and you’d like to participate, please contact me.