Gunston Hall Restoration

Gunston Hall, located on the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia, was the colonial plantation of George Mason, author of the Bill of Rights.  In the early 1950’s the house was reopened to the public after restoration to its 1755 to 1758 glory.  The restoration included the remove of modern amenities and the return of the original marble mantel.  The estate was given to the Commonwealth of Virginia by its former owner, Mr. Louis Hertle who lived in the home until his death in 1949.  [Information from: Furman, Bess. “Old Gunston Hall: George Mason’s Eighteenth Century Home Has Been Restored and Reopened.”  New York Times 25 May 1952; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times pg. X14]

The Gunston Hall Library contains various historical documents relevant to the plantation’s history.  Items include correspondence, daily journals, property abstract, architectural drawings and inventories, and other documents.  [Information from Archive Finder:  Collection name: Hertle, Louis; Repository name: Gunston Hall Library; NUCMC no: 87-74]

For a picture of the Guston Hall plantation house click on the following link:

Copyright and Works Made for Hire


The web site is a marketplace where teachers buy and sell educational resources, such as Power Point presentations, games, activities, bulletin board displays, etc.  It is assumed that each product is the original work of the seller.  The site has an easily located copyright policy page and a copyright frequently asked questions page.  The latter page is very informative but it stipulates that it is not a substitute for legal advice.  In the FAQ’s each of the teacher-authors is encouraged to attach a Creative Commons license to their product.  This license specifically explains what the teacher-buyer may and may not do with the purchased product.

In accordance with the United States Copyright Office, works made for hire traditionally means that the employer owns works created by an employee within the scope of his or her employment.   Therefore, the teacher-authors need to insure, with their employer and possibly legal counsel, that they have the right to sell the product.

I do not question the ethics or legality of this web site.  The site is very helpful in providing general information on copyrights and procedures for alleged infringement.  Since this site’s sole purpose is to bring seller and buyer together, the onerous for insuring copyright ownership is on the teacher-author.

Editing Wikipedia

On February 17, 2015 I edited my first Wikipedia page. The article was about the Green Spring Plantation in James City County, Virginia. Green Spring Plantation was the home of Sir William Berkeley one of the most famous Colonial Governors of Virginia. The Wikipedia page claimed that the well-known Berkeley Plantation was named in his honor; however as described in David King Gleason’s book, Virginia Plantation Homes, Berkeley Plantation was named after the Berkeley Company of England. Even the Wikipedia page on the Berkeley Plantation claimed that it was named after the Berkeley Company and not the governor named Berkeley. It was exciting to help improve a page on Wikipedia. No matter how long my changes last I enjoyed learning a new skill that may come in handy during my career as a historian.


In chapter three of their book Digital History, Dan Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig described the process of transferring analog content, such as text and images from books and other printed material, into digital data which can be shared on the internet.  This process, known as digitization, is being used in libraries, museums, and other institutions to catalog their collections and to make them available to a larger audience.  There are many ways of digitizing text and each way has its advantages and disadvantages.  One of the easiest ways to digitize text is simply to take a picture of the hard copy.  This picture known as a page image is as close to an exact copy of the original one can get on the computer.  Page images have their drawbacks however, the largest of which is that they are not machine readable.  This makes them hard to look up on the computer and a pain to search through to find a specific word or phrase. In addition, they cannot be read by screen readers making them inaccessible for the blind and visually impaired.  Machine readable text however has its draw backs too. Its largest drawback is the loss of information about the original; for example, handwritten notes in the margins of the book, the style of font that is no longer used or other information that does not transfer well into digital form. For this reason historical institutions keep hard copies of digitized material.  Some scanners that turn analog text into machine readable text destroy the original in the process thus making them unusable on priceless documents such as The Declaration of Independence and other irreplaceable artifacts.


When historians look back on the lives of the early Virginian elite they often focus on their political activities and other headline achievements.  On a recent trip to Monticello I learned that Thomas Jefferson was interested in botany.  This has led me to ask the question: What other interests did early Virginia planter elites have beside politics?

Class Introduction and the Digital Landscape

In the introduction to their book Digital History, Dan Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig discussed some of the pros and cons of putting history on the internet.  One of the greatest benefits of the digital age is the ability to take an archive’s worth of data and place it on a computer that can fit on a desktop.  At one time historians believed that this ability would make it possible to record all of humans’ experiences thereby guaranteeing that nothing would be lost to history ever again.  In reality however the ever changing nature of the internet has caused many things to be lost to history by purposeful or accidental deletion or simply buried in the vast quagmire of cyberspace.  Like all inventions the internet and other digital technologies have their own set of potentials and perils.

After visiting colonial homes of Northern Virginia I am interested to learn more about the lifestyles of colonial planters.  For example, I am curious about what influenced George Washington’s design of Mount Vernon.  In addition, it would be fascinating to learn the history of agriculture in Colonial Virginia.  However, the subject that interests me the most is the hobbies of Virginia’s high society, for example Thomas Jefferson was fascinated with botany.  I am curious to find out what interest George Mason and other prominent Virginians.