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Library History

The idea to build a facility to foster new scholarly research about George Washington and the Founding Era, while also safeguarding original Washington books and manuscripts, is rooted in Mount Vernon’s evolving mission and goals.

In 1986, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association (MVLA) began broadening its vision beyond the preservation of Mount Vernon to that of educating the world about Washington’s life, achievements, and character.

In 2010, that mission expanded to include the construction of a new research library. The MVLA announced the creation of the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington to further the organization’s mission of advancing appreciation and understanding of George Washington. The announcement resulted from a remarkable gift of $38 million from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, the largest received in the history of the MVLA. The Campaign for the Library – with Gay Hart Gaines, the Vice Regent for Florida, as chair – set an ambitious goal to raise $100 million to construct the library. The Campaign exceeded its goal by raising $106.4 million by June 2013, all provided by private donors. Groundbreaking took place in April 2011, and the Library opened its doors on September 27, 2013.

The National Library, a 45,000 square foot facility, safeguards Washington’s books and manuscripts, approximately 1500 additional 18th-century books, as well as thousands of important 19th-century newspapers, manuscripts, and documents. It also serves as a scholarly retreat, creates educational outreach programs, and provides seminars and training programs with a special focus on Washington’s leadership. The Library emphasizes educational outreach, touching the lives of students, teachers, and scholars across the nation.

Take a tour of the new George Washington Library.

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Take Note!

Take Note! Washington the Reader is a special new exhibition in conjunction with the opening of the library, and features more than 86 Washington books, letters, and objects.

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