Begin by entering a room depicting a laboratory with a film that takes visitors through the unprecedented scientific processes involved in creating three life-size figures of Washington based on forensic anthropology. These wax models, showing Washington as a 19-year-old surveyor in the wilderness, a 45-year-old commander in chief on a horse at Valley Forge, and on the balcony of Federal Hall taking the presidential oath of office at the age of 57, are featured throughout the Education Center and include such lifelike details as real human hair.
Three theaters and ten additional videos address such varied topics as religion, the Washingtons' marriage, espionage, slavery, and presidential precedents. From creative displays - a reproduction of the Washington family box pew from Pohick Church serves as seating for visitors as they watch a film about the role religion played in Washington’s life - and theaters such as one that is a tastefully decorated parlor with a fireplace, portraits, and rows of Windsor chairs, visitors interact with the settings.
Snow falls in the Revolutionary War Theater within Mount Vernon’s Education Center (Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association)
The most popular experience is a fast-paced depiction of the three military engagements at Boston, Trenton, and Yorktown. Representing the progression of the Revolutionary War, this immersive experience uses a combination of changing battle maps and visual effects to create a “strategy and tactics” show which evokes a visceral feeling of real conditions and events. For example, when the audience hears a cannon fire their seats rumble, and "smoke" drifts through the theater. While the troops cross the Delaware River, "snow" falls from above.
Visitors are immediately drawn to this extraordinarily personal and evocative artifact. Contrary to the well-known myth, George Washington’s dentures are not made of wood but rather human and animal teeth set into lead! They are surrounded by a timeline detailing Washington's dental agonies from the loss of his first tooth at the age of 24 to his last set of dentures in 1798. See how the dentures were made in the 18th century through a video produced by The History Channel.
Unlike traditional museums, the Education Center was designed with touchable exhibits. There are questions on walls where visitors pull down quills to get the answers, computer touch screens, even a replica hut from Valley Forge with an ill soldier who coughs when you pass by. Don't forget to stop by the Federal Hall exhibit where visitors can recite the oath of office and literally hear the audience applaud when they lift their hands from the replica Bible. There is a Hands-on History room geared toward Mount Vernon’s youngest visitors (ages three to eight), where children learn the same themes and ideas presented in the galleries by dressing in 18th-century clothing, playing in a Mount Vernon dollhouse, reading books, exploring activity boxes, and learning about Washington’s farm animals through a mural that features audio sounds.
See our recreated inauguration scene within the Education Center at Mount Vernon (Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association)