MIT at Monticello

With an idea born from a Computation workshop to use digital media tools for capturing and surveying historic sites, drones recently flew over Monticello, the historic home of one of our founding fathers and the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. The resulting video showcases the architecture and landscape, revealing the scope of Jefferson’s plantation.  You can really be there walking the paths and soaring above the grounds with the use of two drones.

The historic and picturesque Charlottesville, Virginia site was the destination of recent class fieldwork led by MIT Professor Takehiko Nagakura, Architecture Historian Professor Howard Burns, and Research Fellow Daniel Tsai. Student team members are Xu Zhang (MArch), Nikolaos Vlavianos (SMArchS in Architectural Design), and Woong Ki Sung (PhD in Computation).

"The work is just a stepping stone of what we will imagine to be a great collaboration between MIT and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello," said Nagakura. "This in turn works to create the use of 3D modeling and panoramic video recording of the site to promote scholarly investigations and tourism, and bring light to a national figure."

Leslie Greene Bowman, president and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, said, “We embrace technology and innovation in our efforts to authentically reveal Jefferson’s world. This innovative video by MIT accelerates our ability to share a more complete representation of Monticello.”

The door is now wide open for the MIT team to explore other historic institutions and bring the wonder to fruition. Professor Nagakura welcomes other institutions to contact him. 

More on the Spring 2016 Computation Design Lab: "Digital Heritage Workshop”.

About The Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello
The Thomas Jefferson Foundation was incorporated in 1923 to preserve Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, in Charlottesville, Virginia. Today, the foundation seeks to engage a national and global audience in a dialogue with Jefferson’s ideas. Monticello is recognized as a National Historic Landmark and a United Nations World Heritage Site. As a private, nonprofit organization, the foundation’s regular operating budget does not receive ongoing government support to fund its twofold mission of preservation and education. About 440,000 people visit Monticello each year. For information, visit