What is Highland?
William & Mary’s Highland is a historic site located outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. It is notable as the home of W&M alumnus and 5th U.S. President (1817-1825) James Monroe, and the site tells the stories of people and events reflecting significant years in the development of the United States. Highland — along with the Omohundro Institute, the Muscarelle Museum of Art, and the Bray School Lab — is a component of W&M’s Office of Strategic Cultural Partnerships. It has been part of the university since 1974 and provides a community setting for public history and serves as an active laboratory for creative and thoughtful exploration of history and its meaning in today’s world. At Highland, we are always learning new things and telling better stories.
Why Public History?
We believe that the ongoing study of history sparks imagination and fosters empathy, and that public history is a valuable way to engage members of diverse communities. Inclusive and thoughtful exploration of the founding and early national periods of U.S. history can expand and enhance historical narratives. At Highland, a respect for the histories of marginalized communities is especially important as it increases understanding of our commonalities, influences our perspectives in the present, and creates new and better futures.
Highland, as a public history arm of William & Mary, is committed to thoughtful and inclusive public engagement in the pursuit of history that serves broad and overlapping communities. We welcome continued discussions about the legacies of slavery at Highland and invite students, faculty and staff to join us on the path to reconciliation. We are also open to new interpretations as we recover histories long buried, dismissed and/or forgotten.
It is very timely to discuss narratives about U.S. history, founders, and slaveholding, as well as the ways this history has shaped our lived experience through today. Highland is committed to examining the past in ways that help the university, including developing new ways to engage public communities in reparative endeavors.
A Council of Descendant Advisors, made up of individuals whose ancestors were enslaved at Highland, closely collaborates with the site staff. The Council contributes to Highland’s direction in public history, provides input on our site interpretation, and speaks about history, race and the legacies of slavery at public engagements on and off campus.
In addition to our colleagues within the Office of Strategic Cultural Partnerships, we also collaborate with W&M’s Anthropology Department, providing students the chance to participate in archaeological excavations, and with the Lemon Project in contributing to community connections and the scholarship on African Americans and the university. Highland also works with the Institute for Integrative Conservation on year-long student projects about the legacies of the plantation system in Virginia.
Highland’s 535 acres of Piedmont Virginia property provides abundant research opportunities in a range of fields, including but not limited to geological, biological, environmental, ecological and geospatial possibilities. We are always seeking new collaborations.
Highland is committed to William & Mary’s teaching mission and offers a variety of educational programs for all ages and learning types. Most recently, two postdoctoral fellows supported by a $1 million dollar grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation co-instruct courses related to Highland and the Lemon Project.
Highland is open to the public for museum visits and public programs. A rustic trail system provides recreational opportunities for hikers and nature lovers, covering a range of landscapes and offering experiences from short, low-commitment walking to more challenging hillside hikes. Verify operating hours before visiting.