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Uncommon Sense

By Holly White · September 12, 2018

OI History: The Past and Present of the OI’s Apprenticeship in Historical Editing, Part 2

apprentices 5 min read

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. This is the second post in our blog series about the program.

The History of the Apprenticeship Program

By Holly White

A running joke at the OI is that for a bunch of historians we are terrible at knowing the history of ourselves. This has proven true as I’ve tried to uncover the history of our apprenticeship program. But don’t worry! As a historian of early America, I’m used to working with scant documentary evidence. I also have access to former apprentices who have helped me piece together the program’s evolution.

What we do know is that the program was founded in 1959 by Lawrence W. Towner, editor of the William and Mary Quarterly from 1956 to 1962. From the start, the apprentice program operated as a collaboration between the Institute and William & Mary’s history department. As part of their funding package, history graduate students were offered the opportunity to train and work as apprentices. At least as far back as the mid-1980s, apprentices have been expected to work ten hours a week. In these respects, little has changed between the program’s beginnings and today.

Currently, apprentice training lasts about two weeks. In much earlier years, the training program was as long as six weeks and included a trip to the University of North Carolina Press, a stop at a linotype house in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a day trip to Byrd Press (which used to print the WMQ) in Richmond. By the mid-1990s, training became more streamlined, and the road trips were cut. In addition to Institute apprentices, over the years various other journals that called William & Mary home have sent their graduate workers to receive training. In the 1990s, master’s students from the English department trained at the Institute to work on Eighteenth-Century Life, and, in 2010, the history graduate assistant for the journal Labor: Studies in Working Class History participated in training as well.

Last year, we expanded the apprentice program to include Digital Project apprentices. Digital apprentices provide much-needed assistance to the OI’s ever-expanding Digital Projects division supported by the Lapidus Initiative.

Over the fifty-nine years of the OI’s apprentice program, some things have changed, such as the length of training and the recent expansion to include Digital Project apprentices. But a lot has stayed the same—especially the OI’s commitment to thoughtful copy editing and thorough source checking.

One other thing is certain: the experience of being an OI apprentice leaves its mark on you. For the next several posts in the series, we’ll turn the blog over to former apprentices to share their memories of the program and how the experience had an impact on their careers and lives.

Stay tuned for parts 3 through 7: “Tales from Former Apprentices”


[…] appreciated Holly White’s perspectives on the OI apprenticeship program in historical editing.  Her assertion that it “leaves its mark […]
OI History: Tales from Former Apprentices, Part 6 - Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture - Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture  •  October 17, 2018

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