John Harbour joined the Mount Vernon staff in June of 1984 as resident director and brought with him a master’s degree in History Museum Training and experience working with the Park Service.

John Harbour, photography by Philip Bermingham, c. 1984. MVLA.He was given two mandates upon arriving: “(1) improve the management of Mount Vernon, and (2) develop expanded educational programs.”2 After reviewing the organization, Harbour began making major changes.

Harbour established new departments and positions, to improve the management of the organization. He created the Education, Research, and Development and Communications departments. He also created the assistant director position, which managed Operations and Maintenance, Security, Shop, and Mount Vernon Inn. Harbor directly oversaw the remaining departments, which included Education, Curatorial, Library, Research, and Business and Personnel. Through these changes, Harbour expected to “more effectively manage the daily affairs of the Association.”3


Harbour hired a director of education to oversee the newly created Education Department and the expansion of education programs. The department began developing programs specifically for school groups. New programs were not only for children but adults as well, including a guided tour that focused on Washington’s family life.4


Archaeology dig. MVLA.

The archaeology program became an integral part of Mount Vernon under Harbour’s leadership. In addition to continuing digging at the site of the House for Families, the sites of the Blacksmith Shop and Upper Garden where studied. While excavating the House for Families and North Grove thousands of artifacts were discovered which helped shed light on this part of the estate’s history.5


Harbour continued the organization’s focus on fundraising. The first annual fundraiser was held during his tenure. Two giving programs were introduced, the Friends of Mount Vernon and the Mount Vernon One Hundred. Included as part of these membership group were a variety of exclusive benefits.6

Jeanette Patrick
George Washington's Mount Vernon


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1 Mark A. Sutton, "Mount Vernon Director Lives With History," The Washington Post, June 14, 1984,
2 Minutes 1985, 60.
3 Minutes 1985, 61.
4 Annual Report of the Council of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union 1986 (Mount Vernon, VA: The Mount Vernon Ladies Association, 1987) 8.
5 Annual Report of the Council of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union 1985 (Mount Vernon, VA: The Mount Vernon Ladies Association, 1986) 9.
6 Minutes 1985, 52.

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