What I Learned from Camp Edit: A Glimpse into the Practice of Documentary Editing

In June of this year, two of my Washington Papers colleagues (Kim Curtis and Dana Stefanelli) and I attended the Institute for the Editing of Historical Documents (IEHD), sometimes affectionately referred to as Camp Edit. The five-day workshop, held each year prior to the Association for Documentary Editing (ADE) conference, introduces new editors to a mix of technologies and strategies for creating a scholarly edition. And so, in an effort to provide a glimpse into documentary editing, I would like to share what I learned at Camp Edit.

The Washingtons at Winterthur

As people flock to the historic Delaware estate to view woodland azaleas at the peak of their bloom and the subtler Virginia bluebells tucked away in carpets of white trillium, a recent visit to the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library gave this Washington editor a chance to ponder the collection’s flamboyant treasures and hidden gems in tribute to America’s original First Family.

The Heartbreaker

Letters reveal a great deal about the sender and recipient—their relationship, their opinions on particular matters—as well as overall historical context. Condolence letters do that and more. George Washington’s death resulted in a deluge of condolences to Martha, from family members, friends, organizations, acquaintances, and even strangers. Sending their regrets, these letters vary from brief notes to lengthy passages. As a research editor, it’s eye-opening to see the spectrum of emotions conveyed.

Impressions of Martha Washington: A Visit to New Kent County

Photo taken by Caitlin Conley.

Sometimes I’ll go stand in front of our shelves of Martha Washington documents and give them a calculating look-over. Each decade has its own shelf, from the 1750s to the 1800s. The 1790s and 1800s bulge with the most envelopes, and get a contented nod. The 1750s get a narrow look because we don’t yet have anything earlier than 1757. That’s 27 years of Martha’s life that have escaped, for the most part, from the documentary record.

Re-Engaged: Participating in the National Humanities Alliance’s Advocacy Day

Last week, Research Assistant Kathryn Gehred and I attended the National Humanities Alliance’s Advocacy Day in Washington, DC. The annual two-day event teaches humanities projects across the United States how to advocate among policymakers for equal or increased funding of institutions, such as the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).