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Brooks Hall History

Brooks Hall at the University of Virginia:

Unravelling the Mystery
Jeffrey L. Hantman
Department of Anthropology
University of Virginia


The Department of Anthropology at the University of Virginia is located in a distinctive three story, Victorian/Gothic structure known as Brooks Hall. Brooks Hall is situated immediately to the northeast of Thomas Jefferson's Rotunda and Academical Village and stands in marked architectural contrast to the classical design of the historical core of the Univesity. Originally built as the Brooks Museum of Natural History, the names of natural historians and mysterious carved animal heads adorn its exterior walls. Brooks Hall has long been a curious and, at times, controversial, element in the changing cultural and architectural landscape of the University. This paper examines the social and historical context in which the Brooks Museum was established and given as a gift to the University in the late nineteenth century. Its roots are traced to three individuals who lived in Rochester, New York after the Civil War -- Lewis Brooks, Lewis Henry Morgan, and Henry Ward. In addition, the paper reviews the evolutionary content of the original exhibit, explores the meaning of that exhibit, and offers an explanation for the structure and arrangement of the "names on the wall" of Brooks Hall.

Read Hantman's full article.