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Documents & Collections

One of the library’s principal goals will be to provide a secure and environmentally-friendly home to Mount Vernon’s vast and growing collection of books, manuscripts, and other archival materials. Fortunately, Mount Vernon owns 46 books that belonged to George Washington, as well as some 450 letters and other manuscripts written in his hand. Our collection also includes thousands of important books, newspapers, manuscripts, and documents from the 18th and 19th century. For the first time, this treasure trove will be organized, conserved, copied, and stored in common space that reflects the highest level of security and climate control.

This additional care for the collection, however, does not mean that it will become less accessible to the public. As we digitize the highlights while expanding and upgrading the collection, we will also add new electronic media about the founding era, allowing a significant amount of expanding information to be accessible to everyone. But the National Library will also be designed to allow historians and authors to spend time with the original books and manuscripts and will even include substantial capacity for interns as well as for visiting and resident scholars. Another ambition will be to re-create Washington’s entire library collection in a handsome yet super-secure vault.

When the library opens its doors, there will be room for not only the natural growth which takes place at any quality library, but also for accommodating new donations of books and manuscripts that we expect to materialize in the years ahead.

Collections

The Library’s modern collections include:
  • 18,000 books, serials, and multimedia publications on George Washington and his contemporaries, 18th-century American life and culture, fine and decorative  arts, historic preservation and genealogy, and the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.
  • 150 linear ft. of information files.
  • Electronic resources, including full-text digital libraries of more than 250,000 books and serial publications.
 The Library's special collections include rare books, manuscripts, maps, historic photographs, and the Association's archive; highlights of the special collections include:
  • 6,000 historical manuscripts, including approximately 500 original George Washington letters, ledgers, account books, and maps
  • 2,500 rare books, including approximately 80 books owned by George Washington or Washington family members and approximately 400 duplicate editions of books in George Washington’s library
  • 7,500 early records of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association

Our rare books and historical manuscripts are catalogued and searchable in our online catalog.  Our extensive special collections, including the archives of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association; photographs, postcards; and lantern slides; and ephemera are not yet in our online catalog.  Some items are available in our Digital Collections and others are featured in our collections database, E-Museum.