SBC, Virginia DHR Strengthen Partnership to Develop Tusculum Institute

| June 12, 2008

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources has awarded a grant of $35,000 to Sweet Briar College to advance the development of the Tusculum Institute, a resource center for historic preservation that will make its home at Sweet Briar.

Formalized under a written memorandum of agreement signed by DHR Director Kathleen Kilpatrick and SBC President Elisabeth Muhlenfeld on May 30, the grant will help build the capacity of the Institute to carry out its educational and outreach mission to Central Virginia and the Sweet Briar community.

The grant will fund online material to share information about sustainable, historic preservation techniques; a conference, “Teaching with Historic Places,” to be held at Sweet Briar in 2009; and a three-dimensional architectural model of Tusculum, family home of the mother of Sweet Briar College founder Indiana Fletcher Williams and future home of the Institute.

Tusculum was once located north of Sweet Briar in New Glasgow, in what is now the community of Clifford. The 18th-century plantation house was dismantled in 2006 to make way for development and moved to a dairy barn on the Sweet Briar campus. It was later purchased by the College and awaits reconstruction as the Tusculum Institute.

At the conclusion of the acquisition process, Sweet Briar entered into a standing partnership agreement with the DHR, which subsequently established a satellite office at the College in 2007.

Under that foundational agreement, the College and DHR agreed to cooperate in nurturing the development of the Tusculum Institute and adapting Tusculum as the Institute’s new home. The new agreement and grant award are designed to strengthen that public-private partnership and carry it to a new level.

“DHR’s grant will go far to enable the Tusculum Institute in concrete and practical ways to become what it is intended to be,” Bob Carter, director of the DHR’s community services division and the agency’s on-site representative at Sweet Briar, said.

“It will help the Institute to create critically needed tools for the region and for Sweet Briar that can be replicated and used throughout Virginia and perhaps the nation. It will help the Institute to educate young people and citizens about the environmental, economic and cultural value of preserving historic buildings and historic places.”

The “Teaching with Historic Places” conference to be held at Sweet Briar will be co-sponsored by the College, DHR and the National Park Service, and will focus on encouraging educators to take their students to historic sites, including those at Sweet Briar College.

“Sweet Briar holds a wealth of opportunities, from our early twentieth-century Ralph Cram architecture to our nineteenth-century plantation complex, including an antebellum cottage and slave cabin,” Lynn Rainville, founding director of the Tusculum Institute, said.

“With the reconstruction of the Tusculum homestead we will add a unique eighteenth-century timber-frame structure to the landscape. Each of these buildings provides an opportunity to instruct students in architectural styles and the history of a place.”

Prior to her appointment in April, Rainville served as an assistant professor of anthropology and archaeology at Sweet Briar College from 2001 to 2008.

During that time, she conducted extensive research of African-American cemeteries in Amherst and Albemarle Counties, including the Sweet Briar plantation cemetery, and developed LoCo History, a Web site dedicated to preserving local history.

Also in the works is a Web site Rainville describes as an “interactive, online toolkit.” In addition to educating visitors about various aspects of historic preservation, the site will contain information about tax credits and other incentives available to people who restore old buildings and preserve the cultural landscape.

“One of Lynn Rainville’s many strengths is her facility in developing Web-based content materials and communicating effectively through the Web,” Carter said. “The whole world will benefit from Lynn and the Institute’s work through the eventual posting of all the products of this grant on the Internet.”

For DHR director Kilpatrick, who is a 1974 graduate of Sweet Briar College, the collaboration makes perfect sense. “As an alumna and as a manager of an agency, I have no doubt about the quality of our efforts going forward, because of my longstanding familiarity with Sweet Briar and its commitment to excellence,” she said.

“This is a no-brainer. We have a common purpose and vision and the opportunity to really do some good here for the community and the region and the Commonwealth and beyond.”

For more information, visit the Tusculum Institute’s Web site.

Category: Tusculum Institute