On September 27, George Washington’s presidential library will open at the first president’s Mount Vernon, Virginia estate, just over two centuries after his death.
On top of housing many important artifacts, the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington “will be home to visiting scholars who will live at Mount Vernon and research specific aspects of the Founding era. A rare-book vault houses dozens of books that Washington personally owned.”
The caretakers of the massive Washington collection will be the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union, a group that accepts no government funding. It will be the only presidential library that is privately owned and operated; $106.4 million was raised in three years to build the library.
One of the leading contributors to the library was the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, which initially donated $38 million to the project when it began in 2010. The organization’s chairman, Fred W. Smith, received the honor of having the library named after him.
Washington, often called the “Father of Our Country,” and frequently the “indispensible man” of the American Revolution, meticulously collected and stored much of his voluminous correspondences and writings, much of which will now be found in his presidential library.
Though Washington wrote that he wanted to construct a library for “the accommodation and security of my military, civil, and private papers,” he died before his plan could take shape.
The 45,000 square foot library will contain a massive amount of memorabilia, and more importantly for scholars, much of Washington’s most important papers to be stored in a secure area called “The Vault.”
Those who worked on the project hope it will jump-start interest in Washington and the nation’s founding.
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