By Caitlin Conley
We came to a halt in front of the black-barred gates that protect the brand new Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon. Ed, who drove Bill Ferraro and I up from our Charlottesville headquarters, rolled down his window and leaned towards the intercom.
“Hi, I’m Ed Lengel, Editor-in-Chief of the Papers of George Washington, and we’re here to attend the Bibliography Project presentation.”
The congenial guard opened the gates and we drove up the winding road to the library.
The Bibliography Project is one of The Papers of George Washington’s many endeavors to expand scholarship on and awareness of George Washington. It seeks to find and annotate every English-language book written on Washington.
Yes, every book. You’ll be able to find entries for novels, histories, juvenile books, biographies, pamphlets…the list goes on. And, as we all know, our George is a pretty popular guy—there are, currently, around 10,000 books in the Bibliography Project database!
Last year, Lynn Price, a doctoral student at George Mason University and manager of the Bibliography Project, led the way to finding and annotating the children’s books about George Washington. This year, as we were about to hear, she would talk about the progress made on annotating adult books primarily about Washington, such as biographies.
Ed, Bill, and I joined the audience in the Rubenstein Leadership Hall for Lynn’s presentation. We loitered near the food, in my case near the sumptuous chocolate cake, talking and laughing. It was a great crowd, replete with interested Mount Vernon staff. Ed and Bill told me later how happy they were to have so many people there to learn more about the project.
Soon Lynn began her presentation.
“So, who is the targeted audience for this project?” she asked. “The answer is: everyone!”
And she did mean everyone: K-12 teachers and students, professors, college students, the general public, Senators, and pretty much anyone else you can think of can benefit from this resource.
Lynn went on to explain that each entry in the database includes both a very short 3-5 sentence summary concerning the book’s content, as well as basic data about the book, including its publishers, type of edition, author, year published, and number of pages.
And, another plus, any element of this information will be searchable.
“If you wanted to find all the books with black and white illustrations published in 1842, written for ages 10 and under, you could!” Lynn joked.
She also outlined the project’s future endeavors, explaining that the third phase, scheduled to be completed in August 2015, would examine books in which Washington is a strong presence, such as a book about American presidents.
At the end of the talk, everyone seemed to be excited about the project’s potential. One person suggested, for instance, that the project also cover images of George Washington. Another asked if the project would also document journal articles and chapters of books. Lynn excitedly told us that all of that, and more, was possible in the future.
As she answered questions, I reflected on the idea that this bibliography was going to, if you’ll pardon the pun, revolutionize the way George Washington is studied and thought of. How could this resource impact your research?