Arts & Culture,
Mission: The mission of the mount vernon ladies' association (the association) is to preserve, restore, and manage the estate of george washington to the highest standards and to educate visitors and people throughout the world about the life and legacies of george washington, so that his example of character and leadership will continue to inform and inspire future generations.
Programs: Education - we welcomed 1,132,000 visitors to the estate in 2017, our highest attendance in more than a decade, 349,000 of which were students who visited from all 50 of the united states and around the world. We remained the most popular historic estate in america, and reached even more individuals through our online presence. We captured 20. 3 million page views, which consumed more than 340,000 hours of content on the website, an increase of 16% from 2016. We redesigned our general mansion tours in 2017, adding two new tour experiences. In our peak season, the tour was adjusted to appeal to young people. Interpreters engaged the students with first-person character interactions with trivia questions and allowed pictures inside the mansion, helping expand our reach on social media. In low visitation months, we adopted a longer more personalized tour of the mansion and covers sections of the grounds as well. Both tours received rave reviews and will be continued in 2018. We celebrated our 10th anniversary of george washington distillery, interpreting the story of one of the general's most successful business enterprises. George washington's rye whiskey was named the official spirit of the commonwealth of virginia in march of 2017. Since opening in 2006, the donald w. Reynolds museum & education center has provided mount vernon guests with the opportunity to dive deeper into the stories of washington's life and legacies. The 4-d revolutionary war theater-where cannons fire and snow falls every day of the year-has become the education center's most popular attraction. While beloved, the decade-old production and theater had begun to show their age. As part of a complete overhaul, a brand new film was commissioned that incorporates cutting-edge animation and exciting live-action sequences, all projected at 4k resolution on a massive new screen with enhanced 4-d special effects and audio to create a powerful and memorable experience. A new interactive experience, be washington: it's your turn to lead, neared completion in preparation for a february launch. With input from scholars at the washington library, we developed four scenarios addressing difficult leadership dilemmas from the american revolution and washington's presidency. This first-person immersive program allows guests to put themselves in washington's shoes as they listen to counsel from on-screen advisers like thomas jefferson and alexander hamilton before they vote on a course of action. In recognition that be washington had tremendous potential for use in schools, a web version of the program was developed, complete with supplemental classroom materials. As the fred w. Smith national library for the study of george washington enters its fifth year of operations, scholarship on washington's life and times continues to grow and flourish. In addition to assisting nearly 4,500 researchers and facilitating more than 2. 6 million virtual visits to our online digital encyclopedia, we hosted a flurry of book talks, lectures, and symposia. To extend our burgeoning international reputation, the washington library co-hosted an academic conference in turin, italy, which featured more than 15 leading international scholars. Through the work of research fellows and on-site scholars, our expanding scholarship touches new areas of washington's life and legacy. His well-documented support for religious freedom emerged as an important and timely theme this year. The washington library acquired a remarkable collection of 16 printings of washington's letters to religious congregations dating from 1789-1790-including his historic address to the hebrew congregation at touro synagogue in newport, rhode island-plus four additional documents relating to religious freedom. We also took significant steps to strengthen our resources for classroom teachers. One of our largest efforts this year focused on growing our footprint in texas- a large state where social studies is of major significance, given that schools are evaluated based on testing in the subject. In texas eighth-grade classrooms, the u. S. Constitution is a strong area of focus, and its development was an important leadership milestone in george washington's life. By bolstering our classroom-appropriate resources on this important topic, we seized an opportunity to provide tools and platforms for texas teachers-resources that will also be valuable for educators across the country. We also continued to invest in our long-standing residential program for teachers, which will mark its 20th anniversary in 2019. In 2017, 158 teachers attended the george washington teacher institute's residential program. Offered over the course of eight weeks during the spring and summer, gwti offers a curriculum focused on six thematically unique programs: martha washington and the women of the 18th century; slavery; washington at war; business and entrepreneurship; leadership; and government.
historic preservation and collections - mount vernon continued its mansion restoration projects, with the complete restoration and reinterpretation of the blue room. The blue room served as a bedchamber for visiting family and guests in the 1790's. Starting with many questions and few answers, the preservation team carefully investigated the physical fabric of the space in order to distinguish changes made by george washington from those made by later generations. Curators dove deep into the washington's personal papers and financial accounts to discover rich evidence of both george and martha washington's long lost contributions to the room. The preservation staff also began the restoration of the front parlor. The parlor reflects the character of the space enjoyed by the washington's, a social and entertaining room distinguished by its elaborate architectural features, formal furnishings, and collection of family portraiture. The room features floor to ceiling wood paneling, elaborate door surrounds, and intricate carvings on the chimneypiece, chair rail, and ceiling ornament. At every stop along the way, the team investigated the room for clues about its evolution, documenting both the room's framing and earlier architectural elements discovered behind the current paneling. The space is expected to be completed in fall 2018. When a violent august storm caused a landslide on the east slope, our team acted swiftly to address the damage and to better protect the site in the future. Landslides have been recorded on the east slope since at least 1886. While researching the history of work on the slope, we "rediscovered" two drainage tunnels that were excavated in 1903 to correct and mitigate future landslides. After clearing the area, a 272 foot tunnel was located near the area of the slope failure. The engineering team tested the flow of the water exiting the pipes at a rate of 8,000 gallons of water per day. After snaking and unclogging 200 feet of terra-cotta pipes, the discharge rate jumped to 57,500 gallons per day. Ongoing soil borings will further assist the engineering team's analysis of options for to address the slope's continued stabilization. Even as significant preservation projects advanced in very public spaces inside the mansion, major work also took place behind the scenes. The roof of the mansion's kitchen was discovered to be in urgent and unexpected need of replacement. We also progressed on the installation of a new, state-of-the-art fire-suppression system inside the mansion.