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Kathleen deLaski at opening ceremony

George Washington Library Opens at Mount Vernon


MOUNT VERNON, Va. — George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate has opened a $47 million library dedicated to the study of America’s first president, with plans to host a series of scholars who will examine the lives of Washington and the other founding fathers.

Since 1853, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association has been dedicated to preserving and promoting Washington’s legacy. But with the opening on Friday of the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, Mount Vernon is committing itself to sponsoring a formal level of scholarship about Washington, and Mount Vernon officials say they have no intention of insisting on a glossy interpretation.

“There is this vision of Washington as a man on a pedestal,” said Curt Viebranz, Mount Vernon’s president and chief executive. “I actually think if you take him down off the pedestal, it’s an even more compelling story. We’re not going to try to control the message.”

The library’s director, Douglas Bradburn, said there was a trend among historians now who might be more likely to look at the American Revolution through a more cynical lens, resurrecting arguments from a century ago that Washington and the other founding fathers were motivated more by their own economic interests than by any lofty notions of liberty and self-governance.

Mr. Bradburn said the beauty of a library like Mount Vernon’s was that historians and researchers from various schools of interpretation could come together, collaborate and commiserate.

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