As part of our seventy-fifth anniversary, we at the Omohundro Institute continue to reflect on what makes our institution such a special place. One of those things is our Apprenticeship in Historical Editing. Today’s guest post comes from former apprentice Anna Roberts who is now a Corporate and Foundation Relations Officer at Montpelier.
By Anna Roberts
I was an Omohundro Institute editorial apprentice for the 2015–2016 school year while pursuing my M.A. in history at William & Mary. I came in excited, and, truth be told, perhaps a bit lost. Entering grad school, I had no clear answer to the “So, what are you going to do with that?” question that liberal arts students hear so frequently. Teaching didn’t interest me, but I wasn’t sure what other options were out there. My OI apprenticeship was formative for my career in more ways than one.
During the beginning-of-the-year apprentice training, my fellow apprentices and I learned plenty about grammar, punctuation, and the Chicago Manual of Style, but our supervisors Ginny Chew and Meg Musselwhite also made a point of exposing us to a variety of careers within and outside the academy. One day, we heard from Martha King, senior editor at The Papers of Thomas Jefferson in Princeton, who told us about her job preparing the papers of an American founder for publication. Before that day, I’d had no idea that there was such a field as documentary editing, and I was intrigued. History, editing, research, writing—I was amazed to find so many things I loved in one career path. After graduation, I landed a temporary position at The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series (PTJRS), based at Monticello. I settled in quickly at PTJRS, putting my OI editing skills to work as I checked transcriptions, conducted research, and provided other editorial and research assistance to the PTJRS team.
And that’s when I hit a plot twist.
Within a couple weeks, I realized documentary editing was not for me. My colleagues were great to work with, and the documents themselves were fascinating. But the repetitive nature of the work wasn’t a great fit for my personality and work style. When my temporary position was up, I found myself looking elsewhere for a job that would put my research and writing skills to work while offering more variety in the types of tasks I performed.
And that’s how I ended up at Montpelier, the historic home of James Madison in Orange, Virginia. While I’m no longer doing history full-time, I still use my OI editing skills every day in my work as Corporate and Foundation Relations Officer, responsible for managing Montpelier’s relationships with institutional funders. In addition to writing and editing grant applications and reports, I’ve become our team’s go-to copy editor and proofreader for all sorts of communications, from fundraising appeals to brochures to letters to major donors. The skills I learned at the OI, it turns out, aren’t just useful for editors and historians. They’re invaluable in any job that involves sharing ideas with others—which is just about all of them.
Stay tuned for part 4 of OI History: “Tales from Former Apprentices”.