–by Brittany Kenny, USCHS Intern

In order to get an all-encompassing intern experience, the United States Capitol Historical Society sponsors a trip for its interns to an historical site or museum of their choice. For the summer of 2012, we chose to go visit George Washington’s Mount Vernon: Estate, Museum, and Gardens. We had a fantastic time talking to the employees about both the positive aspects and the difficulties of having such a vast historic site that must be maintained.

At Mount Vernon, we met with the Manager of Guest Relations, John Marshall, and the Vice President of Interpretation and Events, Jamie Bosket. They gave us a detailed background of the story of Mount Vernon. It’s remarkable that it is still fully owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, the oldest national historic preservation organization in the United States. We then discussed the drastic changes that the site has gone through over the past ten years. In the last decade, the staff at Mount Vernon has really focused on educational outreach, fully capitalizing on the strengths of their historical site. Since this new strategy has been implemented, Mount Vernon now has something for every kind of visitor. They have new additions to the museum for the Mom that always wished she could have been an historian, and an interactive theater for the most difficult audience: the disinterested 8th grade boy.  It was fascinating to discuss what kinds of small changes can really make a huge difference to the many kinds of visitors that come to Mount Vernon each year.

A picture of George and Martha Washington’s home at Mount Vernon

One of the most interesting things about Mount Vernon, from the perspective of an intern at the United States Capitol Historical Society, at least, was learning about how Mount Vernon’s story connects to our own. During the Articles of Confederation, the federal government had no role in disputes between states. When issues concerning the Potomac River began to arise between Maryland and Virginia in 1785, George Washington (being directly invested in affairs on the Potomac because it ran directly behind his home) invited delegates from both Maryland and Virginia to Mount Vernon for a conference that would later be called The Mount Vernon Conference. The successful mediation led to the creation of the Mount Vernon Compact, which set a precedent concerning how to deal with interstate issues. This conference was a precursor to the Annapolis Convention, which in turn preceded the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, where the US Constitution was eventually drafted.

Well before any type of Congress was even considered, our forefathers had begun to lay the groundwork for what would become an essential aspect of our government. Thanks to George Washington, one of the first events of its kind was held right at Mount Vernon, a historical site visited by over one million tourists every year.

Source consulted:
The Mount Vernon Compact & The Annapolis Convention