On Interning at Island Press: Beyond the Office Doors

The graphic adaptation of Naturalist, renowned scientist E.O. Wilson’s autobiography, has been in the works a long time, long before my internship at Island Press. Stops and starts have kept the project from moving ahead such that Ed himself has turned almost 90 years old! When I arrived at Island Press for the summer, though, it looked like—due to the hard work of everyone on the project—the pace was picking up again.

The lead editor Rebecca Bright asked me within a few weeks of my arrival to help research reference images for the graphic artist to use when drawing people in Ed’s life. I saw I was instantly valued by Island Press, and a project on my periphery became my main focus for a busy week that took me out of the office and into the heart of DC. For two full days I had the amazing opportunity to conduct research for Island Press at the Library of Congress.

When I arrived the first morning I got a library card, a seemingly mundane task for such a grand place. Then, after a few more bureaucratic tasks, I was sitting down in the manuscript room of the James Madison Building, waiting as an archivist hurried off to find the boxes of Ed’s notes and photos of his life. When they arrived, I started in his early days as a young man in the 1950s and watched him grow older as I flipped through folder after folder. Along the way I noted and took pictures with my phone of anything that might help the graphic artist capture Ed’s life—photos of family, friends, and important moments. I took almost 70 photos of photos.

The research was fascinating. Along the way I held a typewritten page for the first time, squinted at photo negatives, and watched as Ed examined ants and received medals. It offered me a personal look into the past even as I did research for a future book.

I was so lucky to arrive at Island Press at a time when such an interesting project was coming to fruition and to be able to help Becca with the research. My time at the Library of Congress taught me how to be a discerning researcher and provided me with an unforgettable experience on the Island Press team.