Money & Business

With Association Help, First President Finally Gets His Library

By / Jul 17, 2013 (via Wikimedia Commons)
This new library will help us to maintain and advance George Washington’s timeless relevance in our fast-changing world.

The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, originally founded to help save and preserve the estate of George Washington, worked for more than 150 years to open a library in honor of America’s first president.

George Washington is finally getting a presidential library, thanks in part to the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, the country’s oldest national historic preservation organization.

The association announced last week that it had exceeded its $100 million goal for its capital campaign for the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, making it the only presidential library funded by private contributions.

“This new library will help us to maintain and advance George Washington’s timeless relevance in our fast-changing world,” Ann Bookout, chair of the association, said in a statement. “We are grateful to the thousands of supporters who answered our appeal and who share our belief that Washington’s example of strong character and effective leadership remains more important than ever.”

Set to open September 27, the 45,000-square-foot library has three objectives, according to the association:

  • Become the international headquarters for new research about Washington through visiting fellowships, new technology, and creative outreach programs
  • Host seminars and training programs with a focus on Washington’s leadership
  • Store and preserve Washington’s letters and books

Originally founded in 1853 to save the historic home and estate of America’s first president, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association has worked for more than 150 years to open the library, which will be located on the Mount Vernon estate and is not part of the network of presidential libraries run by the National Archives.

The association’s president, Curt Viebranz, and Mount Vernon Curator Susan Schoelwer hope the library and its collections will also help educate the public about Washington’s character, USA Today reported.

“The exhibit really is trying to get inside Washington’s head,” Schoelwer said. “There’s a sort of mythology out there that he wasn’t a reader, but when you begin looking at his books they do cover a wide range of topics.”

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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