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George would have felt at home

May 14, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - An exhibit on George Washington won't be at the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library until 2003, but a full slate of activities is already planned.

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Most notably, author and journalist Jim Lehrer and his wife, Kate, also an author, have promised to take part, according to Martinsburg young adult librarian and exhibit coordinator Jane Levitan.

The Lehrers live in Charles Town, W.Va. - named after George Washington's brother Charles - in a house that once belonged to the Washington family.

The exhibit, called "The Great Experiment: George Washington and the American Republic," will hit 40 U.S. cities from 2000 to 2003. The Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library will be one of the last stops, from May 29 to July 10, 2003.

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Jim Turner, a spokesman for the National Endowment of the Humanities, which is funding the tour, said the exhibit is a spinoff of a successful one at the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif., and the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City a few years ago. Both libraries have "extensive 18th-century collections," he said.

The traveling "Great Experiment" will feature pictures of those rare documents and scholarly texts, Turner said.

The display will explore Washington's early life, his presidency and his relinquishing of power, as well as the American Revolution and the Constitution, according to the NEH.

There will be two identical displays, each traveling to 20 cities. The only other West Virginia stop will be in Buckhannon.

The American Library Association helped by soliciting applications, Turner said.

Host libraries, which will each receive $1,000, are encouraged to hold programs related to George Washington.

Besides the Lehrers, other participants have been tentatively chosen for the Martinsburg stop, according to Levitan.

She said that William Gavin, the father of library board member Sally Jackson, lives in Happy Retreat, Charles Washington's original home in Charles Town, and will open it to visitors.

Keith Hammersla, the curator of the local Adam Stephen House and the Triple Brick Museum, is expected to show archaeological relics and a video.

Stephen, who lived in Martinsburg, was, like George Washington, a Revolutionary War general. They were lifelong friends.

Jane Merritt, a textile conservator for the National Park Service, is expected to present a slide show. George Washington's inaugural silk suit and his campaign tent are at the National Park Service Conservation Laboratory in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

"He's one of our national icons, but he's also sort of local," Levitan said, noting that Washington family descendants still live in the Berkeley County area. They may be asked to participate.

"It's like welcoming him back home," she added.

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