The Abbott Lowell Cummings Prize, established in 1982 and named after the founding president of the VAF, is awarded annually to the publication that has made the most significant contribution to the study of the vernacular architecture and landscapes of North America. Gail Dubrow, Elizabeth Milnarik, and I were privileged to read the many books nominated this year, and I thank them for their dedication and service. Our responsibility was to select the publication that best exemplifies the spirit of the award, "a work based on primary research that emphasizes fieldwork, that breaks new ground in interpretation or methodology, and that contributes to the intellectual vitality of vernacular studies in North America.?
In The Jeffersons at Shadwell, Kern deftly weaves archaeological fieldwork, rigorous study of material culture, and extensive archival research to paint a vivid and intimate portrait of life in late colonial Virginia. In eight chapters, she reconstructs a social history that cuts across race, class, and gender to reveal the daily experiences of the Jefferson family and their slaves at their plantation home, examining women’s work around the household, the labor of slaves in the fields and in their quarters, and the business and social activities of Jane and Peter Jefferson. Beautifully written, Kern’s book is remarkable for its fluid integration of the disciplines of archaeology, social history, material culture studies, and architectural history, telling a rich and compelling story of a family and its home place in the decades preceding the Revolutionary War.
Susan Kern is Visiting Assistant Professor of history at the College of William and Mary, and is a former archaeologist for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. The VAF congratulates Susan on this occasion, and recommends the addition of The Jeffersons at Shadwell, an important contribution to our field, to your reading list. Published in 2010 by Yale University Press as part of the Lamar Series in Western History.
Chair, Abbott Lowell Cummings Prize Committee