This month we debut a new department. The subject of the new department "Digs" is archaeology, which readers tell us they can't get enough of. Our first "Digs" concerns the excavation of a courthouse that Thomas Jefferson designed from 1821 to 1822 ("Foundation Father"), some 12 years after he left the presidency. The courthouse burned to the ground in 1869. Andrew Curry, who is the editor of "Digs," says that unlike Monticello and the University of Virginia—imposing monuments to Jefferson's architectural genius—the classically elegant but otherwise modest courthouse in Buckingham, Virginia, was "a good example of Jefferson's desire to expose the small-town farmers and merchants whom he saw as the bedrock of democracy to good civic architecture."
In addition to editing "Digs," Curry, who joined Smithsonian last February as general editor, will commission feature stories and report and write others. To wit, he co-authored our feature in this issue about endangered island foxes off the California coast ("Fighting for Foxes"). The story documents a dramatic example, he says, of "how one little thing in a seemingly unrelated chain of events can result in the extinction of a species."
Curry, 27, received a bachelor's degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University in 1998 before heading to Florida for a copy-editing stint at the Miami Herald. After getting a master's degree in Russian and East European Studies from Stanford University, he returned to Washington. Planning on a diplomatic career, he was in the act of taking the Foreign Service exam (he passed) when he decided that "being a journalist gave me more freedom to express my own opinions and pursue my own interests."
He comes to us after three and a half years at U.S. News & World Report, where he wrote cover stories about the Civil War, work in America and the history of flight, among other subjects. His 2002 cover story about the Crusades was the year's bestselling regular issue. While at the newsweekly, the longtime history buff got hooked on archaeology when he covered a story about the Holy Land. "It's a tangible way to look at how people lived in the past," he says, "getting at a truth deeper than, or at least different from, what written accounts usually offer."