Scope for my project

1787 Mount Vernon Store Book website

Abstract:

The 1787 Mount Vernon Store Book website is an exercise in taking an eighteenth-century text that on the surface appears to be a dry list of items and contextualizing the document to relate a larger story of life on a large Virginia plantation. The book details goods that went in and out of the store house – a physical space that occupied an important part in daily life at Mount Vernon. It housed shoemaking supplies, seeds, tools, and other necessary items, including rum that served as part of the necessary supplies to keep a large agricultural enterprise going as well as supplying George Washington’s family, slaves, and the many other people that worked on the plantation. Daily entries were made which will be linked to George Washington’s diaries and letters from the same year as well as other texts which will assist in explicating the entries.

Narrative:

George Washington was what we might today call a micro-manager. Extensive records remain that show how closely he was involved with the daily activities of his plantations even during the year 1787 when he spent most of his time in Philadelphia at the Constitutional Convention. In fact, it is serendipitous that he was away from his home much of that year because his letters as well as his diary make references to the activities at the plantations as he corresponded with his farm managers.

The 1787 Store Book was kept by [one of GW’s farm managers – George Augustine Washington?]. In it regular records were kept of supplies that came into the store and supplies that went out as well as disbursements of rum to various people which was given as a form of payment for services rendered and as additional payment to some of the white servants on the plantation. These relatively dry entries actually provide a lot of detail about the workings of an eighteenth century plantation and the interactions of the dozens of people that took part in daily activities.

The intent of the site is to help contextualize the information included in the store book and illustrate how complex the plantation system was and how richly peopled with a variety of hired white workers and neighbors as well as slaves and the Washington family. The scope of activities that occurred on the plantation is comparable to that of a small town today. Every piece of clothing or ingredient for cooking had to be grown, manufactured, or purchased somewhere; often from Boston or Philadelphia.

Environmental Scan:

George Washington Papers Project hosted is by the University of Virginia. The aim of this ongoing project is to reproduce the vast majority of his papers and provide supporting information. The papers are grouped into series and include: Colonial, Revolutionary, Confederation, Presidential, and Retirement. However, most of Washington’s financial records have never been published and that is how our fellowship came about. Mount Vernon has teamed up with George Mason University to begin the process of transcribing and annotating some of these financial records. It has not yet been decided how Mount Vernon will present these records but they will eventually be part of the George Washington Papers project. There are both printed and digital editions of the papers. To my knowledge, there is no other website that covers the same or even similar information that the 1787 Mount Vernon Store Book will.

History and duration of the project:

I am one of two doctoral students in the American History program at George Mason University who were fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to have a fellowship at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Our task is to transcribe three books that contain financial records of the plantation and in cooperation with the George Washington Papers Project hosted by the University of Virginia, these records will become part of the digital edition of the papers. I have elected to use one of these books as the basis for this project.

Work plan:

March 5 – by this date have made final decision on whether WordPress or Omeka would be the best choice.

March 9 – Have website started

March 16 – CMS modification due – make decision as to what changes to CMS will be necessary

March 23 – Design concept (Sitemap/wireframes due) have all textual content ready for site

March 30 – Photoshop – have all images selected

April 6 – Design rationale due

April 13 – Have all images scanned and ready to be uploaded to site

April 20 – HTML/CSS mockups due

April 27 – Have the bulk of the site together – work on any problems/issues remaining

May – 4 – Project presentation – make final changes after presentation

May 11 – Final project due

Final product and dissemination

The 1787 Store Book site is being created as a stand alone project but there is interest from the Mount Vernon staff in the project and it may serve as an example of a way that the information can be presented to the public to promote interest in some of the lesser known documents associated with George Washington and Mount Vernon. While researchers have utilized these works to some extent the project will help to disseminate the information to the wider public.

1 Comment

  1. smdeane said,

    March 14, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Sounds like an interesting project that will contribute greatly to our historical knowledge of George Washington and Mt. Vernon, not to mention a wonderful experience for you.

    I look forward to seeing your final project, when it all comes together!


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