The Library recently acquired a small album of photographs taken in Virginia’s Tidewater region. It contains six cyanotypes depicting work at the freight docks of Newport News and other subjects. Of particular interest is a laid-in cyanotype which appears to be a portrait of Frances Benjamin Johnston, a pioneering female American photographer.
Johnston was a remarkable photographer. She took portraits of American presidents and the high society of the turn of the nineteenth century from her Washington, D.C. studio, but also participated in ambitious documentary projects, such as her architectural photographs of Southern states. For one of her best-known commissions, she traveled to Virginia to document the students of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in 1899-1900. Her photographs of this important education institution for African Americans and Native Americans are preserved in her collection at the Library of Congress.
Based on the probable identification of the woman in the photograph as Johnston and the photographs of the area around Hampton in the album, these photographs have been dated to the first decade of the 1900s. However, no information about the photographer is yet known. Were they a student or colleague of Johnston? Is it possible that the photographs (or some of the photographs) are by Johnston herself?
The album is also accompanied by handwritten directions for making “Pyro Developer” and a “fixing bath for platinum prints,” which may provide further evidence that the creator may have been a student or novice photographer. (The large initial “B” on the “Pyro Developer” formula bears some resemblance to Johnston’s handwriting, but the handwriting of the rest of the formula does not appear to be similar to hers.)
If anyone has clues or guesses to contribute to the mystery of the photographer’s identity, please share them in the comments section below!
Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections.
We are pleased to announce a new digital collection, The Duke Chapel Recordings. This collection of 168 recordings features inspiring sermons from a variety of theologians and preachers, including a number of notable African American and female preachers. The collection includes both audio, and where available, video of the services.
The project was a collaboration of the University Archives, the Libraries’ Digital Collections Department, and the Duke University Chapel. The original recordings are part of a large collection held in the University Archives. We hope the recordings are used for a variety of purposes: the study of homiletics, research into the spiritual response to social changes, musical study, and simple inspiration.
Dr. Luke A. Powery, Dean of Duke Chapel, says of the collection, “Duke University Chapel is distinguished in both its faithful preaching and its sacred music. The Sunday morning ‘Protestant hour’ captured within this archive has been the public face and voice of the Chapel for decades; this digital collection makes Duke Chapel’s liturgical history accessible for both those interested in scholarly research in the area of preaching, music, and worship, and those who desire spiritual inspiration. This collection is an interdisciplinary educational resource for teaching and learning, and demonstrates that eruditio et religio is still alive and well at Duke; may it be so for years to come.”
Learn more about how the video player feature was added to this collection on Bitstreams, the Digital Projects blog.
Some of our recent interesting conservation projects have involved housing. Not only do we repair damaged books and paper items in the conservation lab, but we also make many boxes and enclosures to house them, and occasionally our box-making expertise is called upon for rather unusual items.
For example, from the Abraham Joshua Heschel Papers: a rock. Little is known about this small piece of rock except that it is a souvenir of a trip that Heschel made to Israel. The rock was originally wrapped in a newspaper. Tedd Anderson made a four-flap enclosure for the newspaper and a box to house both the rock and the newspaper enclosure.
Rachel Penniman has been working on a set of Charles Dickens’s publications, the original short segments of his novels that came out in serial form. These serials had been housed in custom boxes that someone must have made for their personal collection. Although the boxes were attractive with leather spines and stamped titles, they were not safe for the serials. The boxes caused creases and abrasions each time one of the pamphlets was removed or reinserted. Rachel made individual enclosures for each serial issue, and the enclosures were housed together in larger boxes, one for each title. Access to the serials is now much easier and safer.
The Digital Production Center (DPC) is in the process of scanning glass lantern slides of scenes of daily life in China made by Sidney Gamble in the early 20th century. Many of the slides are hand-colored, some have existing cracks, and all are very fragile because of the glass support. Erin Hammeke has been working to stabilize their housings. Each slide is housed in a labeled four-flap paper wrapper, and in the case of cracked slides, she adds a piece of mat board as an extra stiffener.
The conservation department creates housings for circulating collections as well. Mary Yordy has an upcoming housing project for the fascinating new book S by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. The book is beautifully made to look old and well used with notes in the margins and numerous loose paper inserts. Mary is planning to make a box for the book that will prevent loose materials from falling out and getting lost, and the book will be kept in the locked stacks. While we chose to leave the inserts untreated and as published, the Preservation Lab at the Public Library of Cincinnati/University of Cincinnati decided on another route with this title.
More images of these and other housing projects can be seen on Flickr.
Post contributed by Grace White, Conservator for Special Collections, as part of our ongoing “In the Conservation Lab” series.
In 2011, the Duke University Archives published Duke Illustrated: A Timeline of Duke University History, 1838-2011. This 80-page, full-color history of the events, traditions, and people that have made Duke one of the world’s leading research universities is the product of almost four decades of research by University Archives staff.
This year, we are happy to announce the publication of a companion volume focusing on the particular contributions of women at Duke, written and compiled by Bridget Booher ’82, A.M. ’92, associate editor of Duke Magazine. The new book, Women at Duke Illustrated, was published to coincide with the 2014 Duke Women’s Weekend, “Find Your Moxie: Duke Women Creating Change,” February 20-22, 2014.
Copies of Duke Illustrated and Women at Duke Illustrated are available for sale by the Gothic Bookshop for $27.50 each. Both books make perfect gifts for Duke men and women of all ages.
The book was published with support from all ten of Duke’s schools, as well as the Duke University Libraries and Duke Athletics.
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The Devil’s Tale Archive
- Knights of Pythias ceremonies of laying corner-stones and dedicating castle halls March 4, 2014
- Flowers kollektion March 4, 2014
- Flower, fruit and thorn pieces; or, the married life, death, and wedding of the advocate of the poor, Firmian Stanislaus Siebenkäs February 20, 2014
- Neueste vollständige Compositions-Schule : ein theoretisch-praktischer Leitfaden mit zahlreichen Noten-Beispielen zum Unterrichte und zur Selbstbelehrung für Candidaten der Tonsatzlehre : welche sich in diesem Bereiche auf eine gründlich-fassliche Weise und mit vieler Zeitersparniss die erforderlichen Kenntnisse erwerben wollen February 7, 2014
- Im Reiche des Sozialismus : drei Akte Vergangenes, Gegenwärtiges, Künftiges February 7, 2014