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Sarah Thomas

Ph.D. Student (ABD)

Advisor: Dr. James Whittenburg
Current Research: material culture, vernacular architectural history, early Southern backcountry


Sarah E. Thomas graduated Summa Cum Laude with Highest Honors from The College of William and Mary in 2008. During her undergraduate years, Ms. Thomas interned at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Monticello's Gardens and Grounds Department, the Jefferson Library, and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. She received the Ellen Monk Krattiger Award in 2008 for her undergraduate honors thesis, From Shadwell to Monticello: The Material Culture of Slavery, 1760-1774. Ms. Thomas then attended the University of Virginia School of Architecture, graduating in 2010 with a Masters in Architectural History with certification in Historic Preservation. Traveling to Jamaica in the summer of 2009, Ms. Thomas documented buildings in Jamaica at the Falmouth Field School in Historic Preservation.

Returning to the College of William and Mary in 2010 in the MA/PhD program, Ms. Thomas took an architectural history assistantship at Colonial Williamsburg, working under Carl Lounsbury in researching early American buildings and churches. Continuing the research on eighteenth-century ironworking communities in the Shenandoah Valley that she first began at the University of Virginia, Ms. Thomas wrote her masters thesis, Down the Great Wagon Road: The Pennybackers and Ironworking in Shenandoah County, Virginia, advised by Dr. James Whittenburg. Ms. Thomas has taught the first half of the American history survey course (HIST 121), as well as a seminar, Williamsburg: Colonial and Revolutionary Eras, (HIST 220) that utilized material culture and field trips to provide new perspectives for her students. She also taught high school students through the National Institute of American History and Democracy in the summer of 2015. Currently ABD, Ms. Thomas is working on her dissertation, tentatively titled, Objects of the Backcountry: the People of Shenandoah County and their Material Culture, advised by Dr. James Whittenburg with Dr. Susan Kern. She has received grants and fellowships including two Coffelt Fellowships from Colonial Williamsburg's John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library, a research fellowship from Winterthur, a Mellon fellowship from the Virginia Historical Society, the Decorative Arts Trust Summer Research Grant, the Society of American Period Furniture Makers Education Grant, the Virginia Crouch Memorial Research Grant, and the Provost Summer Grant for Graduate Research, and given presentations at Colonial Williamsburg, the Jamestown Yorktown Foundation, the Virginia Forum, the Shenandoah Valley Regional Studies Seminar, and the Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians. She hopes to use furniture, buildings, and other material culture objects to tell stories about the people of the early Southern backcountry.