In Honor of Kevin P. Kelly

Kevin Kelly was an Omohundro Institute postdoctoral fellow from 1973–1975.

The following excerpt is from a tribute written by Cary Carson in 2011 in celebration of his retirement from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation after a 34 year career there.


….Kevin, I understand that your long and valuable career at Colonial Williamsburg comes to a close on Friday.  Congratulations!  You were the first historian I hired to help me rebuilt the Research Department 30-plus years ago.  It is therefore appropriate that I be among those who thank you for all your service since then, for your friendship, and for your many contributions to the scholarship our department retailed on the streets of Williamsburg and in so many public programs and popular publications.  I’ve never seen the term “museum historian” defined, but for me your career amounts to a living demonstration of the genus and species.

Our breed is nothing if not collaborative.  In our department, that meant that all of us developed a few special strengths and talents and depended on colleagues to fill in whatever else was lacking.  I know I speak for all when I say that we could not have done our jobs so well had you not generously shared your exceptionally wide reading in the scholarly literature and the historical knowledge that no one else acquired as fully as you did.  It was a source of great satisfaction to us all to know that the history lessons visitors learned at Colonial, however solidly grounded in events that really happened here, were woven into a larger fabric of American history and ultimately connected to ideas that remain alive today.  More than anyone else, you were responsible for supplying—indeed, insisting on—that broader context and those open-ended connections.  We always believed that mere accuracy is not the highest standard Colonial Williamsburg should aspire to.  Significance is.  So many times you showed us how to accomplish that.