Stratford Hall Announces Revitalized Focus on the Visitor Experience

Dr. Kelley Fanto Deetz to join staff as Director of Programming, Education and Visitor Engagement

STRATFORD, VA, (June 19, 2018) – John Bacon, President of Stratford Hall, today announced the creation of a new position that will sharpen the focus on the visitor experience at the historic site. Dr. Kelley Fanto Deetz, currently a visiting assistant professor at Randolph College in Lynchburg, VA, Director of the Shared History Project, and Research Associate with the James River Institute for Archaeology, is joining the Stratford staff as Director of Programming, Education and Visitor Engagement. In this capacity, Dr. Deetz will have management oversight of Stratford’s educational, interpretive and public programs, library and historical research, and collections. Her assignment includes developing new and innovative historical and cultural programming and events, in order to engage and expand Stratford’s audiences while encompassing the broad range of Stratford’s history.

Dr. Deetz holds an undergraduate degree from The College of William & Mary and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of California at Berkeley. Her specializations include but are not limited to African American history and culture; foodways; public history; historical archaeology; material and visual culture; and plantation museums. She has taught or lectured at numerous higher education institutions including the University of Virginia, Lynchburg College, Roanoke College, and the University of California at Berkeley. She has spoken and/or consulted at historic sites and museums including Stratford Hall, Cliveden, Berkeley Plantation, Montpelier, Gunston Hall, Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, Historic Sandusky, The Legacy Museum of African American History and Culture, Taubman Museum of Art, Salem Museum, and Colonial Williamsburg’s John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library.

A prolific writer, Dr. Deetz has published and edited numerous articles and papers in her fields of specialization and also appeared in mass publications including USA Today, Vanity Fair, Smithsonian Magazine and National Geographic History Magazine. She is the author of the critically acclaimed book Bound to the Fire: How Virginia’s Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine, published in 2017 by the University Press of Kentucky.  Dr. Deetz has designed exhibits and consulted on various film and documentary projects, including the 2016 feature film Birth of a Nation.

“Kelley Deetz is enormously well-qualified as an historian and scholar to lead the educational and programming efforts at Stratford,” said John Bacon. “Her teaching, writing, and consulting experience is comprehensive. Along with these professional credentials, Kelley brings an infectious enthusiasm, passion and creativity to historic sites generally and Stratford in particular.  Researching and presenting the stories of this place, encompassing the Lee Family and the other families and individuals who lived and worked at Stratford, is a compelling opportunity and will result in new and engaging experiences for our visitors. I am excited at the opportunity to work with Kelley as a Stratford colleague.”

“I am energized by the opportunity to join the talented and dedicated team at Stratford,” said Dr. Deetz. “The opportunity to probe and present such a rich and diverse history at Stratford is very exciting, and will complement well my work with students in the classroom. The possibilities for both historical and popular programs at Stratford are endless. I look forward to working with my new colleagues to develop experiences and render interpretations that will engage even more visitors and friends at this stunningly beautiful place, with an important role in both Virginia and U.S. history. There is a wealth of history here, and I look forward to presenting it with integrity and passion.”