Educational Programs & Resources

Internships

At Poplar Forest, we are excited to offer internship opportunities to students year round. These include a paid summer research internship in historical archaeology, as well as unpaid semester-long internships in archaeology and landscape restoration.

Summer Research Internship in Historical Archaeology

The Department of Archaeology and Landscapes at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest is offering one funded research position for May 30 through July 28, 2017. This internship is intended for early-phase graduate students and advanced undergraduates who have previous field training and are looking for more experience conducting fieldwork and supervising field school students in a research-oriented setting.

Poplar Forest is the former retreat home and working plantation of Thomas Jefferson, and is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Lynchburg, Virginia. Over the past 30 years, archaeologists have uncovered evidence of Jefferson’s time on the property and the lives of the enslaved laborers who lived and worked on the plantation during the 18th and 19th centuries.

This year’s fieldwork will focus on archaeological sites associated with Poplar Forest’s enslaved residents as we attempt to better understand their lives by looking at the places they worked and lived. The primary site for this summer’s research will be the location of an early to mid-1800s structure that may have been a barn, stable, or quarters for enslaved laborers. The successful applicant will work alongside the Poplar Forest staff to assist in all phases of field excavation, including working with and teaching field school students during the six week field school starting June 5. This will involve strenuous outdoor labor in the hot Virginia sun, so good physical health is a must. In addition, the intern will need to be comfortable interacting with the public and explaining the archaeological process to site visitors. While in residence, the successful applicant will also be granted access to the collections and research facilities of Poplar Forest. This includes a collection of several hundred thousand artifacts; a database system containing both archaeological artifact and context records; and a complete inventory containing over 2,500 historical documents relating to Poplar Forest. By partnering with the Poplar Forest staff, these collections may then be drawn upon in the future to support the student’s own research, the products of which could include professional conference papers, journal articles, Master’s theses, and PhD dissertations. The intern will also have the opportunity to work alongside Poplar Forest archaeologists to write a technical report on the summer’s findings.

A stipend of $2,000 will be provided for the nine week internship, which will be held in conjunction with the field school. The intern will be responsible for making their own housing arrangements as well as providing for their own meals and transportation. Information regarding housing options will be made available through the Poplar Forest archaeology staff. Successful applicants should have at least one field school, and more field experience is a definite plus. Knowledge of historical material culture is required.

By April 21, 2017, send the following information to Jack Gary, Director of Archaeology and Landscapes, Poplar Forest, P.O. Box 419, Forest, VA 24551.

  1. Personal information: Include your full name, home address, home and work/school telephone numbers, occupation and e-mail address.
  2. A resume or curriculum vitae.
  3. A two-page statement of personal and professional reasons for participating.
  4. Two letters of recommendation from others addressing the following:
    1. Your academic and professional ability and performance
    2. Your personality and ability to work well with others

Selections will be made by the Poplar Forest Archaeology Department by April 25, 2017.

Any questions can be directed to Jack Gary at jack@poplarforest.org or 434.534.8105.

Unpaid Internship Opportunities

We also offer a wide variety of unpaid internships that are intended for all levels of undergraduate students. Below are a few suggested topics for semester-long internships at Poplar Forest. Each will be supervised by one or more staff members in the Department of Archaeology and Landscapes, and will be structured to meet the requirements of individual students and their faculty advisors.

Archaeology Practicum

The intern will divide his or her time between various members of the archaeology staff to gain a general understanding of methods and theories in historical archaeology. The intern will work in the archaeology laboratory, identifying, processing, and cataloguing artifacts; and will participate in an excavation within Jefferson’s curtilage, the area surrounding the main house. Interns will keep a journal documenting their experiences, which they will turn in at the end of each semester.

Material Culture Internship—Site A

The intern will work in the archaeology laboratory, analyzing and interpreting artifacts from Site A. Site A is the location of an antebellum slave cabin. It is located adjacent to a tenant house that was occupied into the 1970s. Therefore artifacts from Site A range from mid-nineteenth century into the late twentieth century. Artifact analysis will emphasize the antebellum period.

Jefferson–Period Ornamental Landscape

The intern will help the archaeology staff create an encyclopedia of the flowers, trees, and shrubs that Jefferson planted during his tenure at Poplar Forest from 1774-1826. This resource will provide pictures of each plant along with a brief description of its characteristics and natural history. The end result will be a new document that will add to our knowledge of the landscape of Poplar Forest and give insights into the man who designed it.

GIS Internship

The intern will help create a new ArcGIS geodatabase at Poplar Forest . This will include a wide variety of spatial information from excavations, written records, historic maps, and the natural environment. The result will be “a living document” that will house past, present, and future spatial data, as well as reveal new insights into the history and archaeology of Poplar Forest . The intern will learn from the archaeology staff how to use ESRI ArcGIS software.

Community History

Documentary and archaeological research are teaching us much about the antebellum landscape of Poplar Forest . Comparative data is needed to place these findings in broader perspective. The intern will work with the archaeology staff to research the history of the farming community living within 10 miles of Poplar Forest between 1840 and 1860. The population, slave, and agricultural schedules of the United States Census will be used with other relevant documents to reveal the community’s social, economic, and environmental history. During the course of this project, the intern will become comfortable using Microsoft Excel and SPSS software as they enter and analyze census data. At the end of the semester, the intern will write a detailed summary of their findings.

Material Culture Internship—Commercial Ties

The intern will examine the commercial relationships between Poplar Forest and various merchants in New London, Liberty, and Lynchburg during the period from 1805-1870 through historical documents in order to better understand the flow of consumer goods between town and plantation. Limited use of archaeological collections will augment this study. The intern will write a detailed summary of his or her research findings.

Historic Document Transcription and Analysis

This internship will focus on the transcription and analysis of various types of historical documents (e.g. census data, land grants, court documents, survey records) pertinent to the history of Poplar Forest , and the people who lived there, in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. The intern will be responsible for transcribing documents so that they can be placed in a searchable database in order to facilitate historic and archaeological research on the property. The intern will also be introduced to material culture from the relevant time period at Poplar Forest over the course of the semester.

Note: The data generated from these internships can be used by students for research papers, honors theses, or graduate projects. If you are trying to develop a research project and need some help identifying something that fits your interests, the archaeology staff will be happy to work with you toward that goal.

Contact Us

If you are interested in learning more about available internship opportunities at Poplar Forest, please fill out the form below to contact us.