The Library of Congress and The Royal Archives today announced plans for a landmark joint exhibition in 2021 that will explore the overlapping yet distinct worlds of two globally significant figures of the late 18th century: the two Georges - King George III (1738-1820) of England and George Washington (1732-1799).
The joint project will draw on the considerable collections held by the Library of Congress in the United States and The Royal Archives in the United Kingdom. It builds on a memorandum of understanding among the two organizations and King's College London, signed at the British Embassy in Washington last autumn.
The exhibition will be seen first at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and subsequently at a major venue in the U.K. It will explore both commonalities and contrasts between the two men and also the global political, cultural and social contexts for their lives and leadership. Linked and then ultimately separated by empire, the two Georges offer a distinctive perspective on this vital historical period.
The exhibition marks a significant milestone in public engagement with the Georgian Papers Program (GPP), which aims to digitize and publish online, by 2020, a remarkable collection of 350,000 Royal Archive papers from the Georgian period, only 15 percent of which have ever been published before.
The GPP is a partnership among the Royal Collection Trust, lead academic partner King's College London and international participants, including primary U.S. partners the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture, William & Mary, and other key U.S. institutions including the Library of Congress, Mount Vernon and the Sons of the American Revolution.
The Library of Congress holds the papers of 23 U.S. presidents from George Washington to Calvin Coolidge. The George Washington Papers - some 65,000 items - are available online at loc.gov/collections/george-washington-papers/.
The Georgian Papers global online portal, royalcollection.org.uk/georgianpapers/, since January has enabled academics, students and history lovers worldwide to see George III, other Hanoverian monarchs and the 18th century from new perspectives. The GPP has brought together academic researchers, students, archivists and digital scholars to create new ways of exploring the world of these Georgians and new ways of approaching the materials that reveal that world. Crucially, this work will inform the exhibition.
“The entire world was changed, forever, because of the relationship between England and its colonies, as personified by these two leaders,” said Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress. “Because of the GPP and the fully digitized George Washington papers at the Library, we will now be able to present a joint exhibition that shows the two Georges’ similarities, their differences and the subtle details, made meaningful by comparison, that have never before emerged from these collections that are now being researched extensively.”
“This exhibition partnership with the Library of Congress is an incredibly important and exciting step for the Royal Archives and our GPP colleagues,” said Oliver Urquhart Irvine, The Librarian and Assistant Keeper of The Queen's Archives. “It will bring the story of two extraordinary men and their influence on the world today to a much wider public and is part of our long-term ambition to make the Royal Archives as open and accessible as possible through groundbreaking digitization technology, research and events."
“The exhibition will provide the ideal platform not only to display a quite remarkable array of documents and objects from world-class collections in a unique conjunction, but will also enable us to see these in a rich new context thanks to a wealth of new scholarship, cataloging and interpretation,” said Professor Arthur Burns, who teaches Modern British History at King's College London. “It will thus reflect the excitement and insights of the scholars, students and archivists working with the GPP across the world.
“It will reveal how the individual lives of these two notable but also exceptionally privileged men reflected in all kinds of unexpected ways the complex and changing societies in which they lived, and the economic, cultural and political globalization that was as much a feature of their lives as our own, and as much a source of challenge and controversy then as now.”
By 2020, it is expected that the GPP portal royalcollection.org.uk/georgianpapers/ will enable users to enter a remarkable collection of 350,000 papers from the Georgian period, enabling academics, students and history lovers worldwide to see George III, Britain's longest-reigning king, from 1760 to 1820, from new perspectives.
In January 2017, the first tranche of GPP papers was published online, allowing the public and scholars alike a unique window into the life, reign and times of King George III, his impact then and his continuing influence on today's world. This marked a major milestone in a five-year project to enable anyone with an interest in George III and his world to discover the intricacies of his life, reign and the contemporary times. Already scholars and students are making use of this new resource and developing new insights, perspectives and projects as a result of the access now possible.
The papers include intimate letters between George III and Queen Charlotte, household bills, menus, copious letters between the king and his government, his many essays - including on despotism - meticulous, detailed notes about the war in America, and lucid, calm letters to family members during his bouts of illness.
With Her Majesty The Queen's full authority, the project is part of Royal Collection Trust's objective to increase public access to and understanding of primary-source material held in the collection. It follows the success of the digitization of Queen Victoria's journals in 2012, which has encouraged wide public appreciation.
The Royal Archives is a private archive offering public access to historical papers for educational purposes and academic study. Its work in Great Britain on the Georgian Papers Program is in partnership with the Royal Library and King’s College London.
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.