Permanent Exhibits

You can watch video overviews of these four exhibits at our YouTube channel.


“James Monroe: An American Life”

“An American Life” provides visitors with an overview of James Monroe’s private and professional life. It highlights some of his greatest accomplishments, as well as some of his lesser-known achievements. Additionally, the lives of the Monroe women – Elizabeth Monroe and her two daughters, Eliza and Maria Hester – are presented as never before. Objects from all of the Monroes’ various homes are displayed, along with documents from the Museum’s archives. Visitors can also read about the connection between James Monroe and Fredericksburg and the early history of the Museum.


“The Making of a Revolutionary”

It is a little-known fact that James Monroe not only served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, but also was wounded at the Battle of Trenton and nearly died from his injuries. How did young James Monroe make the decision to take up arms against the British and put his life on the line for the cause? How did that decision affect the rest of his life? In this exhibition, we explore not only Monroe’s military career, but also his childhood and formative years, focusing on the people and events that made him into the man we study today. Many of the weapons and supplies Monroe carried into battle are displayed, as well as items of clothing from his college years, and furniture from his childhood home. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn exactly how involved James Monroe was in the war that created the United States of America.

Our Bowley Scholars for the 2010-11 school year, Rebecca Lee and Rachel Frederick, completed an addition to this exhibit. Called “The Continental Soldier: Young and Far Away from Home,” it shows through a display and an interactive component what life was like for Monroe and the other young men who joined the revolutionary forces. Rachel and Rebecca researched, designed and installed the exhibit on their own, and they’ve done a great job.


“The Era of Good Feeling: The Monroe Family in Washington”

James Monroe and his family resided in Washington, D.C. from 1811 (when Monroe was appointed Secretary of State by James Madison) until 1825 (when Monroe’s two terms as President ended). During that time, the Monroe family experienced the ups and downs of political life, and were responsible for establishing the style of living in the White House that is still the standard today. The Monroes were the first family to live in the newly rebuilt White House following the War of 1812. In this exhibition, visitors will have the opportunity to view furnishings that the Monroes brought to the White House in an attempt to fill up the many empty rooms of the mansion; see the formal dinner and dessert china that they purchased for entertaining; and learn about their complex relationship with Washington society. The famous “Monroe Doctrine Desk” is also on display. Family legend states that it was the desk at which Monroe was sitting when he penned this famous 1823 foreign policy statement.


“Americans in Paris: Monroe as Diplomat”

The Monroe family lived abroad in Europe from 1794 to 1797 and from 1803 to 1807, when James Monroe served as Minister to France and then Ambassador to France, England and Spain. The family traveled together and their experiences overseas, especially in Paris, would have a profound effect on the rest of their lives. They fell in love with French culture and the style of life there, and the French people embraced the Monroes as well. In this exhibition, visitors will see the Louis XVI set of furniture that graced the Monroe home in Paris, and was eventually brought to the White House. The recently-conserved gilt armchair that once belonged to Napoleon makes its debut in the exhibit, and an Irish lap harp played by eldest daughter Eliza Monroe is also featured.