After more than 150 years, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association has opened the Fred W. Smith National Library to allow as all to study George Washington. I find it curious that there wasn’t a Presidential Library dedicated to the first president of this country before, but there is now.
I’d like to share Steph Solis, USA TODAY article with you. I like USA TODAY a great place to go for up-to-date well-written news reports, which is why I made the decision to become an affiliate. See below to read the article:
“It took awhile, but the nation’s first president finally has a presidential library.
“No president in American history deserves the honor of a presidential library more than our first chief executive — nor is there a better story to tell,” says Ann Bookout of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, which owns and operates the Washington estate outside Washington, D.C., in Virginia.
The association worked to build the library, called the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington.
The $106.4 million cost was raised in private funds from 7,000 donors, including $38 million from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. Under its chairman, former Las Vegas Review-Journal executive Fred W. Smith, the foundation has sponsored several projects related to George Washington.
The 45,000-square-foot library is scheduled to open Sept. 27 next to the Washington home on the Mount Vernon estate.
It will have dozens of rare artifacts that belonged to the first president, including his handwritten notes about books like A New System of Husbandry, and thousands of books, manuscripts and electronic materials about Washington.
The George Washington library is not part of the presidential library system, which is a network of 13 libraries run by the National Archives to house papers and other important materials of every president since Herbert Hoover.
“There is a national belief among ordinary citizens that having a library for the benefit of George Washington is an important thing,” Curt Viebranz, president of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, said at a news conference Thursday.
The three-level structure includes a general library with thousands of books, journals, audio-visual materials and other files on Washington and his work. Within the building are three vaults of rare volumes, 105 of which belonged to Washington, a reading room for manuscripts, conference rooms and a broadcast studio. There is a residence for visiting scholars.
Viebranz says the library is the culmination of a more than 150-year effort to restore Washington’s personal library collection and preserve his materials. It is also meant to promote discussion about Washington’s leadership and character.
“While there have been tens of thousands of books published about Washington and lots of research to be done about him, there are still new things to learn,” he says.
Among items in the library will be Washington’s notes from the Compend of Husbandry, his copy of The Beauties of Swift: or, the Favorite Offspring of Wit & Genius by 18th-century satirist Jonathan Swift, and a farm report by his nephew, George A. Washington, from August 1790.
In a letter to his friend James McHenry, Washington wrote on April 3, 1797, that he needed a place to store his documents: “I have not houses to build, except one, which I must erect for the accommodation and security of my military, civil and private papers, which are voluminous and may be interesting.”
Decades later, Washington’s vision seemed like a lost cause. In 1848 the Boston Athenaeum, a research library, purchased most of what remained of Washington’s books. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association was established five years later to preserve the president’s estate and re-create his personal reading collection.
Viebranz says the library is a collaboration of scholars, colleges, corporations and individual donors from all walks of life.
“I have a regular dialogue with ordinary Americans who send me letters, who basically mentioned the importance of the founding era,” he says. “Those folks will dig into their pockets and give us $1, $5, $25.”
Mount Vernon plans an exhibit to open with the presidential library. “Take Note! Washington the Reader” will display books, letters and notes.
Curator Susan Schoelwer says the documents aim to show not just the books but how Washington read and what he thought.
“The exhibit really is trying to get inside Washington’s head,” she says. “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.”
The exhibits, Viebranz says, will not only preserve Washington’s documents and books but will also give people insight into his character. People will have an opportunity to learn ”what was his seminal role at the founding of the republic, which is a lesson that every American should know.“