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FILLING MONTICELLO'S SMOKEHOUSE

Faux Hams for a Reinterpreted Site

Monticello hams

Photos: Monticello front: Frank Romeo, Two others: HistoricFauxFoods.com

Over the last ten years, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello has been extensively reinterpreted to broaden the recognition and history of its enslaved African Americans. The public is most familiar with the front of the mountaintop mansion's regal facade (above, left top). But out of sight, tucked below the main structure (above, left bottom), are the kitchen, cook's room, dairy and smokehouse where white laborers and enslaved Africans worked to keep the self-sustaining plantation in daily operation. HistoricFauxFoods was commissioned to make faux smoked hams for the refurbished smokehouse, above, right.

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The project began with a collection of real hams and bacon slabs provided to HistoricFauxFoods by Monticello. A big ham (above, left, top) was used to create a two-part plaster mold (above, right) from which exactly-detailed replicas could be cast in museum-safe materials.
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A key element of design was variety, with each smokehouse ham and bacon slab having its own look. Different-sized hams were hand-sculpted around cores cut with a band saw out of museum-safe Ethafoam. Each was then hand-contoured to full, ham-like roundness with its own unique features.
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Multiple layers of acrylic paint and surfacing materials were applied to each piece of smokehouse meat. Basic colors (above, left) came first, followed by subtle shading and a sheen suggesting a greasy feel (above, right)
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Monticello's smokehouse was somewhat unusual for the period in that it was underground -- a condition that fostered higher humidity and heavy growths of mold. Acrylic paints and gel mediums applied to the surface of each ham created the look of caked-on salt and soft bluish-green mold of the type Jefferson's own hams and bacons would have developed as they aged. See all our smokehouse faux meat products
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The finished hams and bacons are laid out on the floor of the smokehouse on installation day (above, left). Justin Sarafin, Monticello's Assistant Curator (above, right), headed up the project and spent much of a blistering hot day on a ladder.
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HistoricFauxFoods' Sandy Levins assists Sarafin, who had previously used paper cutouts to plot the exact position and symmetry of the display (above, left). Above, right, is the final look of the L-shaped smokehouse with some of the hams out of view around the corner.

All Rights Reserved © 2013, HistoricFauxFoods.com

Sandy@HistoricFauxFoods.com

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