By Caitlin Conley
December 19, 2014
Caitlin is a Research Assistant for the Bibliography Project and is part of the Papers of George Washington social media team.
We hope that you’ve liked our videos so far, because we have more coming your way! In January and February we’ll be posting four new videos featuring George’s animals, specifically his sheep, cattle, hogs, and mules. While they’re aimed towards younger viewers and will hopefully be of use in elementary school classrooms, they’ll be interesting to anyone curious about George’s favorite job: being a farmer.
The videos will feature voiceovers from George’s letters, with our editors giving cameo readings of fellows such as the fiery Arthur Young and the jovial Gouverner Morris. As an additional treat, Mount Vernon kindly gave us permission to film their beautiful heritage animals, including their Hog Island Sheep, Milking Devon Cows, and Ossabaw Island Hogs. For more about Mount Vernon’s animals, see their page “Animals at Mount Vernon”.
I’d been having uncomfortable visions of shouting my lines as narrator over a howling gale, but luckily, it was a lovely day last Saturday, which was when we trooped up to Mount Vernon to get our footage. In addition to me as narrator and writer, we had Claire Romaine, a first year at U.Va. and a new member of our social media team, who recorded sound and directed; Eva Lucy Alvarado, a first year in the film club at U.Va., who set up shots and filmed; and Spencer Park, also a first year at U.Va., who helped with setting up equipment and keeping track of what scene we were on.
It was quite an adventure, and we had a great time exploring Mount Vernon to find places to film. Our biggest obstacle to getting the footage we wanted was planes flying overhead and ruining the sound. I would be halfway through my line about manure, thinking that I was sounding pretty awesome, and then Claire would sigh and say “Stop! Plane!”
The other obstacle was the sheep. The first time we tried to film them, they sauntered away over a hill, one by one, so that there weren’t any left in the shot. The second time, they sat so still that we might as well have been filming statues. Fortunately, some kids passing by volunteered to baaaaaa at them and the sheep at last looked at the camera.
The sheep could have learned something from the cows, who were the opposite of camera shy. All four of us were enormously excited when some Mount Vernon staff members arrived in a red pickup truck to toss the cows their evening hay. We were probably quite a sight, jumping up and down and fumbling to set up the cameras while the cows peacefully munched away.
The scenery at Mount Vernon is breathtaking, which is, of course, a major reason why Mount Vernon was built there in the first place. We filmed in front of barns, forests, and fields.
Eventually, we realized that we were filming these videos the day before George’s death, 215 years ago. It was a little spooky walking around his grounds the rest of that day, and it made our trip feel extra special.
We hope you’ll enjoy watching the videos as much as we’re enjoying making them for you!