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About the OI

Welcome Catherine E. Kelly as new ED

April 26, 2022

We are delighted to announce that Catherine E. Kelly will assume the roles of Executive Director of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture (OI) and professor of History in the Harrison Ruffin Tyler Department of History at William & Mary effective July 1, 2022. The appointment follows a national search.

Dr. Kelly has served as Interim Executive Director of the Omohundro Institute since the departure of Karin Wulf in October 2021 and as the OI Editor of Books since 2018. In that role she has overseen the acquisition of seventeen books, including the multiple award-winning Voices of the Enslaved: Love, Labor, and Longing in French Louisiana by Sophie White (published in 2019 with partner University of North Carolina Press) which won the Frederick Douglass Book Prize from the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University in 2020 and the James A. Rawley Prize in Atlantic History from the American Historical Association the same year. A digital supplement to the project is expected to appear this year on the OI Reader.

Board Chair Barbara Oberg (Princeton University) says, “We have every confidence in Cathy’s ability to continue the OI’s tradition of excellence as well as its move into the digital humanities and partnerships with other scholarly organizations such as SlaveVoyages.org and Enslaved.org. She brings careful scholarship, a wide as well as deep knowledge of the field, and substantial management experience with her. We could not be more pleased that she has accepted the job.”

Dr. Ann Marie Stock, Presidential Liaison of Strategic Cultural Partnerships at William & Mary and member of the Omohundro Institute’s Board of Directors states, “We are thrilled to welcome Cathy as both the Executive Director and a member of our faculty. Her deep knowledge and collaborative spirit, coupled with her leadership acumen already demonstrated during her time as Editor of Books and Interim Executive Director, will ensure that the partnership between the Omohundro Institute and many other organizations—including William & Mary and Colonial Williamsburg—will thrive and flourish. I am certain the OI will continue on its extraordinary upward trajectory, garnering even more accolades and greater recognition, under Cathy’s leadership.”

Cliff Fleet, president and CEO of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and member of the Omohundro Institute’s Board of Directors says, “Dr. Kelly’s strong record of leadership at the Omohundro Institute makes her an ideal choice for the position of executive director. We are delighted to have the opportunity to continue to partner with her to advance scholarship and understanding of the formation of our country and its impact today.”

Previous to joining the OI, Dr. Kelly was L.R. Brammer Jr. Presidential Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma as well as editor of the Journal of the Early Republic and of Common-place. A noted scholar of early American history, particularly the lives of women during the Early Republic, she is the author of Republic of Taste: Art, Politics and Everyday Life in Early America and In the New England Fashion: Reshaping Women’s Lives in the Nineteenth Century as well as numerous essays, and co-editor of Reading Women: Literacy, Authorship, and Culture in the Atlantic World, 1500-1800. Her work has been supported by institutions including the American Antiquarian Society, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Library Company of Philadelphia, Winterthur Museum and Library, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Mary Kelley, the Right Bordin Collegiate Professor of History and American Culture at the University of Michigan, says, “A scholar whose contributions are highly original, always persuasive, and splendidly articulated, Cathy Kelly is exceptional. Her scholarship ranges broadly. With Kelly as our guide we move from agricultural fairs to ivory miniatures to gendered manners. Whatever the focus, we see the subject in an entirely new light.”

The OI was founded in 1943 as a collaboration between William & Mary and Colonial Williamsburg. Previous directors include Lester J. Cappon (1955-1969), Thad W. Tate (1972-1989), Ronald Hoffman (1992-2013), and Karin Wulf (2014-2021). 

The search committee was chaired by OI Council Chair Jennifer L. Morgan (New York University), and included OI Board member Paul Sperry (Sperry, Mitchell & Co.) as well as Laurent Dubois (University of Virginia), Adrienne Petty-Roberts (William & Mary), and Michael Witgen (Columbia University).

The OI is an independent research organization sponsored by William & Mary and Colonial Williamsburg. The OI’s mission is to support scholars and scholarship and to share that work widely for the public good, via events and programs, fellowships, and publications. In addition to books, the OI publishes the leading journal in the field of early American scholarship, the William and Mary Quarterly, and offers fellowships at the predoctoral and postdoctoral levels, including the prestigious OI-NEH Postdoctoral Fellowship in conjunction with the National Endowment for the Humanities. The OI also sponsors conferences for scholars at all levels and a rigorous training program for editorial apprentices. You can read its most recent annual report here.

The OI is housed on the William & Mary campus.  The name of benefactors Mr. and Mrs. Malvern H. Omohundro, Jr., was added in 1996 in recognition of their generous support.  For nearly eight decades, a dynamic community of OI authors, editors, governing boards, Associates, readers and conference and seminar participants has kept the OI’s work at the leading edge of historical scholarship.  The OI’s scope encompasses the history and cultures of North America from circa 1450 to 1820 and includes related developments in Africa, the British Isles, the Caribbean, Europe, and Latin America. 

The Board of Directors determines matters of policy and is responsible for the financial and general management and for resource development of the OI. The Board of Directors consists of eight members: six elected by the Board and two ex officio members (the presidential liaison for Strategic Cultural Partnerships at William & Mary and the chair of the OI Council).

  • Clifford B. Fleet III, Colonial Williamsburg
  • Sarah Barringer Gordon, University of Pennsylvania Law School
  • Annette Gordon-Reed, Harvard Law School
  • Jennifer L. Morgan, New York University
  • Mary Beth Norton, Cornell University 
  • Barbara B. Oberg, Princeton University (Chair)
  • Paul S. Sperry, Sperry, Mitchell & Co.
  • Ann Marie Stock, William & Mary