Margot Backas   Researcher, 2002–Present

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Margot Backas joined the Diary Project as a researcher and then moved to the editorial and planning committees, reflecting her professional interests and experience. In her editorial capacity she proofread Ted Good's transcriptions of The Diary and edited scores of annotations for concision, precision, and consistency.

Backas' research assignments dealt chiefly with William Steinway's attendance at musical and theatrical events, but her most delicious assignment with her co-researcher and husband, James Backas, was determining how, and for how long a barrel of oysters—one of William's favorite foods—could be kept fresh on its voyage from New York to London or Bremen.

Backas grew up in Pennsylvania, attended Westtown, a Quaker boarding school near Philadelphia, Vassar College, the University of Edinburgh, and Harvard University, where she received an MA in American cultural history. She worked for the National Book League in London, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the University of Chicago Press. Backas then became humanities editor of the Johns Hopkins University Press, where she acquired manuscripts in literary, cultural, and architectural history. Chosen to resurrect the famous New York publishing firm of Horace Liveright (first publisher of the early works of e.e. cummings, Hart Crane, Faulkner, Hemingway, and in translation Freud and Proust), she continued to acquire works of poetry, fiction, literary biography and letters. At the National Endowment for the Humanities she was an assistant director in the Division of Research Programs, with responsibility for all grants in support of scholarly editions, which were then principally print editions, but gradually edging into the electronic age. She has written many book reviews for the Times of London, the Washington Post and Washington Star, and the Baltimore Sun, among other publications. Backas resides in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC.