Library Virtual Tour
Use our new Library Virtual Tour to explore the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington.
The library is open Monday through Friday 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The last call for items to be paged is 4:30 PM. The library is closed on weekends and all major holidays, except for President’s Day.
The library is located at 3600 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, Virginia 22121. This is diagonally across the street from the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant and Gift Shop. The library is accessible by car and public transportation.
The library is open to all interested individuals, by appointment only. Researchers of all ages, experiences, and backgrounds may utilize the primary and secondary sources. Professors, scholars, authors, college students, local historians, genealogists, and amateur history-lovers frequently use the collections. Students-researchers under the age of 13 are welcome and should be accompanied by an adult.
To make a research appointment, please call 703.780.3600 or send an email to FWSlibrary@mountvernon.org. All research appointments should be requested at least 24 hours in advance and will be confirmed by a library staff member. Additionally, the library encourages all Mount Vernon staff, interns, and volunteers to utilize the library’s collections.
Researchers interested in searching the library’s catalog can find it online. The catalog includes scholarly publications, books, and manuscripts covering the topics of George and Martha Washington, Mount Vernon, and the Colonial, Revolutionary, and Founding Eras.
Increasingly, the library’s materials are available digitally. Washington family papers, The Acts of Congress, Council Minutes of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, and other relevant documents are freely searchable.
The library frequently hosts events for both academic and non-academic audiences alike. Take a look at our events page for the latest information.
The Washington Library kindly accepts relevant donations that fit within our collecting policies. As a non-profit organization, your thoughtfulness to help expand our collection is appreciated. Please call 703.780.3600 or send an email to FWSlibrary@mountvernon.org to discuss further details.
The library’s growing fellowship program offers funding, resources, and a place to stay for qualified scholars researching George Washington, Mount Vernon, the Colonial Era, Revolutionary War, and Early Republic. Short term fellowships for educators are also available.
Very small personal items, such as a wallet or glasses case, are permitted in the Karen Buchwald Wright reading room. You may also bring a personal laptop, tablet, camera, notepad, pencil, and/or smartphone. Electrical outlets and wireless internet are available. Magnifying glasses, paper, book wedges, and pencils are available at the circulation desk. All items brought into the reading room are subject to inspection upon entering or exiting the library.
All outerwear, large bags, purses, backpacks, and briefcases must be placed in a locker. The Library staff will determine what items are acceptable for use in the library research rooms.
For general inquiries, please call 703.780.3600 or send an email to FWSlibrary@mountvernon.org. The library team will make a best attempt effort to respond to general inquiries with answers and/or suggest further resources to consult.
While onsite, our library team welcomes the opportunity to discuss search strategies and guide researchers to appropriate library resources.
The library’s collection contains a wide and rich array of resources covering George Washington, Martha Washington, Mount Vernon, Colonial America, the American Revolution, the Confederation Years, slavery, domestic economies, the Early Republic, life in the eighteenth century, decorative arts, and historic preservation. The materials include books, periodicals, newspapers, pamphlets, databases, microforms, information files, electronic resources, audio-visual materials, maps, and photographs. Materials are used within the library and are not available to be checked out. Additionally, over 30 subscription databases are available on-site.
Researchers have open access to browse the General Collection without restriction. Some materials are kept in the closed stacks and need to be paged by a library staff member. All requests for closed stack materials need to be made before 4:30 PM. Advanced arrangements, in addition to a scheduled appointment, need to be made to request items from the Special Collections and Archives.
The library’s special collections include rare books, manuscripts, documents, and maps related to George Washington, his life, military career, presidency, and activities at Mount Vernon, as well as a substantial collection of Martha Washington papers, the Potomac Navigation Company, the Bushrod Washington Family Papers, the Peter Family Archive, and materials from other family members. While many manuscripts are individually listed in the library’s online catalog, some items are not cataloged. Please contact us, if you would like to discuss the range of our special collection materials. Take a look at an overview of our special collections to learn more
At the Washington Library, we balance an obligation and priority to preserve our rare materials in the best of conditions, while providing easy access to the materials. Please note that surrogate copies will be supplied in cases when the original is not available or is in an unstable condition. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis by the library team.
Our institutional archives date back to the 1850s, the earliest years of the MVLA, when Ann Pamela Cunningham rallied notable women from various states to save and restore Washington’s home. The collection includes information vital to researchers interested in historic preservation, women’s history, and heritage tourism. The collection includes records from the MVLA Board, Mount Vernon administrators, staff reports, financial records, commissioned Mount Vernon materials, and historic photographs of the estate. Finding aids will be made available soon. Please contact us, if you would like to discuss the scope and availability of these materials.
During his lifetime, George Washington amassed a library consisting of over 900 books, plus dozens of pamphlets and other publications, for a total of more than 1,200 titles. While Washington’s books on military matters and politics made up the majority of his collection, books ranging from modern agricultural practices to Plato and Cicero to contemporary political philosophers such as John Locke and Thomas Paine were part of his collection.
Today, the volumes from Washington’s original library remain scattered. The Washington Library has 103 of General and Mrs. Washington’s books, in addition to hundreds of duplicate editions.