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Papers of Mary V. Thompson, Research Historian

Identifier: A-MVT

Scope and Contents

The Papers of Mary V. Thompson cover a wide range of topics, mostly concerning her research on George Washington and Mount Vernon, and her work with Mount Vernon’s historic collections. Her files give insight into her extensive work on exhibits, special projects, publications, reference assistance, and collections cataloging. Types of material include correspondence, printed email, memos, reports, research notes, articles, news clippings, presentations or speeches, special events brochures and programs, manuscript drafts, and ephemera. The bulk of the collection dates from the 1980s to the 2000s, but there are also several documents dating from the 1940s to the 1970s.


  • 1980-2012


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research to Mount Vernon staff and research fellows during scheduled appointments.

Biographical / Historical

Mary Thompson was born an “army brat,” and grew up in three states (Missouri, Kentucky, and New York), West Germany, and the occupied city of West Berlin. She has a B.A. in History, with a minor in Folklore, from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, and an M.A. in History from the University of Virginia, where her thesis dealt with the relationship between colonists and Native Americans in Georgia and the Carolinas in the mid-18th century. Before joining the Mount Vernon staff, Ms. Thompson worked as a volunteer at two United States Army museums and as a field researcher on a grant project, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, to identify practitioners of traditional folk crafts in central Alabama.

Since coming to Mount Vernon in 1980, Mary has filled a number of roles: Historic Interpreter (1980); Curatorial Assistant (1980-1986); Curatorial Registrar (1986-1998); Research Specialist (1998-2008); and Research Historian (2008-present). She is currently responsible for research to support programs in all departments at Mount Vernon, with a primary focus on everyday life on the estate, including domestic routines, foodways, religious practices, slavery, and the enslaved community. She has lectured on a variety of subjects, ranging from family life and private enterprise among the slaves at Mount Vernon, to slave resistance, the diet of the Mount Vernon slaves, Christmas at Mount Vernon, religious practices in the Washington family, and funeral and mourning customs in George Washington's family.

Mary has also authored chapters in a number of books, as well as entries in encyclopedias, and a variety of articles. She curated the travelling exhibition, Treasures from Mount Vernon: George Washington Revealed, which opened in 1998 and travelled to five cities over the next 18 months. Her first book was In the Hands of a Good Providence: Religion in the Life of George Washington (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008), for which she received the 2009 Alexandria History Award from the Alexandria [Virginia] Historical Society and the 2013 George Washington Memorial Award from the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. More recently, Applewood Books asked her to write A Short Biography of Martha Washington aimed at the young adult market; it was published in December 2017. She was a major contributor to both The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association: 150 Years of Restoring George Washington’s Home and Dining with the Washingtons: Historic Recipes, Entertaining, and Hospitality from Mount Vernon, published by Mount Vernon in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Her book on George Washington, the institution of slavery, and the enslaved community at Mount Vernon, was published by the University of Virginia Press.


30 Linear Feet (27 cubic foot record boxes, 1 Hollinger document box, and 2 oversize boxes)

Language of Materials



The collection is divided into five series and four sub-series that reflect Ms. Thompson’s original organization and different aspects of her work. Folders are arranged either chronologically or alphabetically, depending on the type of files in the series (see arrangement notes within the content list). Series 1. Chronological Files Series 2. Correspondence Series 2.1. Correspondence – General Series 2.2. Correspondence by person or subject Series 3. Exhibits Series 4. Projects and Publications Series 5. Subject Files Series 5.1. Subject Files – General Series 5.2. Subject Files – Research

Related Materials

Curatorial Department Files Library Department Files

Processing Information

Original order was kept as closely as possible and Ms. Thompson served as a consultant throughout the processing of her collection.

Papers of Mary V. Thompson, Research Historian
Rebecca Baird, Archivist
September 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Archives of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association Repository

PO Box 3600
Mount Vernon VA 22121 USA