Declaration House

Declaration House, opening June 24, 2024 and running through September 8, 2024, is a public art and history exhibition presented by Monument Lab at Independence National Historical Park that explores the site where Thomas Jefferson and Robert Hemmings spent several months in in Philadelphia during the drafting of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The project poses a central question – What does the Declaration of Independence mean to us today? By moving Hemmings to the center of this moment in history, the project seeks to illuminate the entangled legacies of freedom and enslavement at the core of our nation’s founding. Declaration House presents the exclusive premiere of Sonya Clark’s “The Descendants of Monticello,” a public artwork that brings the historic house to life through a monumental montage featuring the blinking eyes of Robert Hemmings’ collateral descendants and others who are related to the over 400 people enslaved at Monticello, including descendants biologically related to Jefferson. Declaration House also includes public programs with creative residents Jeannine A. Cook and Ty “Dancing Wolf” Ellis, and a Welcome Station during summer weekend hours at the historic house where visitors are invited to respond to the project’s central question with hand-drawn responses that will be collected by Monument Lab and shared with Independence National Historical Park to inform future programming and reflection ahead of America’s Semiquincentennial in 2026. 

Credits

​​Lead Artist: Sonya Clark
Curatorial Team: Anna Arabindan-Kesson, Paul Farber, and Yolanda Wisher
Project Managers: Kerry Bickford and Amelia Carter
Lead Partners: Independence National Historical Park, Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s Monticello and its Getting Word African American Oral History Project
Programmatic Partners: African American Museum in Philadelphia, Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club, Free Library of Philadelphia, Harriet’s Bookshop, Independence Historical Trust, Independence Visitor Center, Lenapehoking Reestablishment
Project, Mural Arts Philadelphia, PhillyCAM, Wawa Welcome America, and WHYY
Creative Residents: Jeannine A. Cook and Ty “Dancing Wolf” Ellis
Research Advisor: Sue Mobley 
Documentation: MING Media, AJ Mitchell, Daniel Jackson, Evan Morsell, and Steve Weinik
Design: Connie Harvey and Blair Richardson (MiniSuperStudio), and William Roy Hodgson
Monument Lab Team: Kareal Amenumey, Maya Bjornson, Justin Geller, Kristen Giannantonio, Jonai Gibson-Selix,  Florie Hutchinson, Jenn McTague, Naima Murphy Salcido, Aubree Penney, Stephani Pescitelli, Julie Rhoad, Bella Rodriguez, Dina Paola Rodriguez, Nico Rodriguez, Cleary Rubinos, Yannick Trapman-O’Brien, and Elliot Waters-Fleming
Interns: Steve Baron and Hannah Fisher Gray 
Monument Lab Board of Directors: Lola Bakare (Secretary), Ellery Roberts Biddle, Amari Johnson, Monica O. Montgomery (Vice Chair), Stephan Nicoleau (Treasurer), Michelle Angela Ortiz, Samala, Kirk Savage, and Tiffany Tavarez (Chair)
Special Thanks: Laurie Allen, Niya Bates, Ty’Leik Chambers, Chisom Chieke, Andrew M. Davenport, Michael DelBene, J. Calvin Jefferson, Jane Kamensky, Jon Kaufman, Jenna Owens, El Sawyer, Superintendent Steven Sims and the staff of Independence National Historical Park, Gabe Wiener, Gayle Jessup White, Amber Wiley, Auriana Woods, and the many more people who made this project possible.

Major support for Declaration House has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from VIA Art Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts. Lead project partners include Independence National Historical Park and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s Monticello and its Getting Word African American Oral History Project.

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