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Jefferson lectures look toward bicentennial
Courtesy of the Montana Historical Society

By Robert Brickhouse

The vast transformation of America and the West that was launched by the Lewis and Clark expedition will be the theme of the inaugural Thomas Jefferson Foundation Distinguished Lectures by three noted scholars at U.Va. Oct. 10-12.

They are David Hurst Thomas, curator of North American archaeology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York; Kenneth Prewitt, dean of the Graduate Faculty at New School University in New York and former director of the U.S. Census Bureau; and Alan Taylor, Pulitzer Prize-winning professor of history at the University of California at Davis.

Aimed at stimulating fresh insights on subjects related to Jefferson, the first biennial lectures, drawing on new scholarship from a variety of fields, are open to the public each day at 5:30 p.m. in Campbell Hall room 153. The lecture series, which helps kick off national Lewis and Clark bicentennial programs at U.Va. and Monticello, is supported by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Inc., which owns and operates Jefferson’s home.

Lecture schedule

Wednesday, Oct. 10. David Hurst Thomas — “The Dead Have No Rights”: Jefferson’s Conflicted Legacy in American Archaeology

Thursday, Oct. 11. Kenneth Prewitt — A Nation Imagined, A Nation Measured: The Legacy of Jefferson’s Census

Friday, Oct. 12. Alan Taylor — Jefferson’s Pacific: The Geopolitics of Exploration

Each will also participate in classes, interdisciplinary seminars and discussions of their work as part of U.Va.’s Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Project. As the nation prepares to mark the 200th anniversary of the great expedition launched by Thomas Jefferson in 1804, the U.Va. bicentennial project involves faculty from many diverse fields who are developing a new course and broad-scale educational efforts focusing on the West.

The first lectures in the Jefferson series focus on the Lewis and Clark expedition not only because of the approaching bicentennial but because the opening of the American continent ranks among Jefferson’s greatest visions and achievements.

David Hurst Thomas, in addition to serving as archaeology curator at the American Museum of Natural History, is a founding trustee of the National Museum of the American Indian. In 1989, he was elected to the National Academy of Science. The author of numerous books, monographs, and scientific articles on archaeology, he discovered and excavated Gatecliff Shelter in Nevada, the deepest rock shelter known in the Americas, with stratified cultural deposits spanning 8,000 years. He also discovered remains of the 16th century Franciscan Mission of Santa Catalina de Guale in Georgia’s fabled Golden Isles.

Kenneth Prewitt, who became graduate dean at New School University this year, was director of the Census Bureau from 1998 to 2000, overseeing the recent census, the largest and most complex U.S. census ever undertaken. From 1995 to 1998, he served as the president of the Social Science Research Council, a position he also held from 1979 to 1985. He has also been senior vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation and director of the National Opinion Research Center, based at the University of Chicago.

He is the author or co-author of a dozen books and more than 50 contributions to professional journals and edited collections in the social sciences. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he has also served on advisory boards to the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and UNESCO.

Alan Taylor of UC-Davis won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize in history for his book, William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic. The work chronicles the life of the founder of Cooperstown in the frontier lands of upstate New York and examines American colonial society’s property and power structures. A fellow of the College of William & Mary’s Institute of Early American History and Culture, Taylor has also written Liberty Men and Great Proprietors: The Revolutionary Settlement on the Maine Frontier, 1760-1820, an account of social and political rivalry on the northern frontier during the Revolutionary era.


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