All posts by Amy McDonald

Frederik Ruysch’s Anatomical Art

Anatomical specimens emerged as an art form near the end of the seventeenth century. Although they may seem morbid today, at the time of creation, they were viewed as striking a balance between the scientific and the artistic. They served to educate people on human anatomy as well as to remind them of the fleeting nature of life.

Illustration from Opera Omnia Anatomico-Medico-Chirurgica, ca. 1737.
Illustration from Opera Omnia Anatomico-Medico-Chirurgica, ca. 1737.

One of the more notable creators of anatomical art is Frederik Ruysch, a Dutch botanist and anatomist who lived from 1638 to 1731—an impressive 93 years in a time when many died young. A capable researcher, Ruysch was the first to describe bronchial blood vessels, the vascular plexus of the heart, and the valves of the lymphatics. However, his real interest lay in anatomical preparations, and he has been described by a recent biographer as “probably the most skilled and knowledgeable preparator in the history of anatomy” (Gould, p. 20). Ruysch served as the chief instructor to midwives and the “legal doctor” to the court of Amsterdam. Through these positions, he had easy (and legal) access to the bodies of stillborns and dead babies.

The preparations were initially created to use in his classes, but they eventually gained an interest from the public. To showcase his vast collection (he created more than 2,000 from 1665 to 1717 alone), he opened his own cabinet of curiosities to the public, which for many marked the first time they were able to see human internal organs. The collection was also noteworthy because of the lengths to which Ruysch went in an effort to make the specimens appear more natural. For example, embalmed children were clothed or held bouquets of preserved flowers. In 1717, Peter the Great, who was an admirer of Ruysch, purchased the entire cabinet of curiosities for 30,000 guilders. The collection was then shipped to St. Petersburg, and along with the cabinet of curiosities formed by Albertus Seba, they became the core of the Kunstkammer—the Academy of Sciences of Russia’s first public museum.

Although a number of Ruysch’s wet preparations still exist today (a fact which he would find unsurprising), none of his dry specimens have been located. He used fetal skeletons and other body parts to create multi-specimen scenes. These scenes served as the centerpieces for each of the literal cabinets within the rooms of his museum. As Gould points out, these tableaux were focused on allegorical themes such as death and the transience of life. The small skeletons are decorated with symbols of death and short life: mayflies rest in hands, skulls weep into handkerchiefs made of mesentery, and snakes made of intestine wine their way through bones. Today, these still-life scenes exist for us only through second-hand descriptions and, fortunately, through a number of engravings.

Fortunately for those interested in seeing these illustrations up close, the History of Medicine Collections has two volumes from the multi-volume Opera omnia anatomico-medico-chirurgica. On October 29, from 2-4 pm, they will be on display as part of Screamfest in the Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room.

Recommended Reading:

Post contributed by Amelia Holmes, Josiah Charles Trent Intern for the History of Medicine Collections.

Screamfest III: The Cutening

Date: Thursday, October 29, 2015
Time: 2:00-4:00 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room
Contact: Amy McDonald,

Y’all, we hear you. The semester is getting more and more intense and sometimes Duke is just so . . . gothic, you know? Sometimes you just need to eat some free candy and look at cute things. And what better time to do that than in celebration of that traditionally cute holiday, Halloween?

Your cuddly Rubenstein librarians would like to invite you to visit us for Screamfest III, an open house featuring creepy ADORABLE things from our collections.

Halloween Postcard
Like this postcard of these sweet black kitty-cats, bringing you Halloween joys in their happy hot air pumpkins.

Illustration from Opera Omnia Anatomico-Medico-Chirurgica, ca. 1737.

Or this illustration of these precious babies from our History of Medicine Collection’s Opera Omnia Anatomico-Medico-Chirurgica by Frederik Ruysch. Yes, fine, they’re skeleton babies, and they’re standing on a pile of human organs, but they’re totally listening to a song by The Wiggles.

Ghost at the Library. From the 1984 Chanticleer.

You can also page through the 1984 Chanticleer to view the photos of this friendly library ghost, who just wants to bring you fuzzy slippers so you can study comfortably.

Demon Miniature from Edwin and Terry Murray Collection of Role-Playing Games.

And sure, scourge and sword-wielding demons are very scary when they’re life-sized. But swing by our open house and you’ll be able to bravely make kissy-faces at this little dude (paperclip for scale) from the Edwin and Terry Murray Collection of Role-Playing Games.

In fact, we promise that there will be so much cuteness (and candy) that, well, you might die. See you there!

Now We Are Six!

Guess what? Today, this blog turns

SIX (in paperclips)
Designed and photographed by Katrina Martin

We figure that blog years are roughly equivalent to dog years, so . . . we’ve been around a while. Around for 826 posts, to be exact.

Armfuls of thanks to our tireless and creative blog editors, our gracefully articulate and fascinating co-workers, and—most of all—our luminous and supportive readers.

And HT to Beth at Preservation Underground (our delightful and beloved partner blog), who always remembers our birthday. We love blogging with you!

Coming Soon! Pop-Up Displays on Student Organization History

With so many meetings, events, exhibits, performances, and games each day, it might seem difficult to set aside time to learn about your Duke student organization’s history. The University Archives, which collects student organization materials, knows how busy you are and we want to help!

Starting on October 20th, we’ll be holding a series of pop-up displays on student organization history, featuring historical materials from our collections. We’re calling this YOLO@UA: Your Organizations Live on @ the University Archives.

Each Tuesday, you’ll find us at a table just outside the Von der Heyden Pavilion from 2-3 PM, ready to show some cool stuff and answer your questions about student organization history.

We’ll be changing the display focus each time, so here’s the schedule:

October 20: Cultural Groups

October 27: Arts Groups

November 3: Student Government & Political Groups (Happy Election Day!)

November 10: Sororities, Fraternities, & Living Groups

November 17: Student Publications

Don’t worry if your organization isn’t covered with this schedule. We’ll plan more pop-up displays with different focuses during the spring semester. And you’re always welcome to get in touch with us to discuss how you can research your organization’s history at the University Archives!

P.S. Do you have student group materials that you’d like to archive at the University Archives? Learn more, and complete a form to let us know about your materials, here!

Cast of "The Womanless Wedding," ca. 1890s
Cast of “The Womanless Wedding,” ca. 1890s

Move Diary: Week 6

Dear readers, take note: it’s now the end of Week Five of the move, and we’re pretty sure we’re all going to have massive and amazing biceps come Winter Break.

This is because our manuscript collections are taking up residence in our new compact shelving. This kind of shelving moves on rails, so the shelves can slide together (in a safe and controlled way) or be cranked apart to access the shelves’ contents.  Here’s a video of Kat Stefko, our Head of Technical Services, demonstrating how they work.

So we’ll be cranking these shelves, filled with boxes of manuscripts, open and closed several times each day, to retrieve materials for patrons, to find materials to answer reference questions, to reshelve things, to pull materials for class visits . . . .

We hereby promise that we will not challenge any visiting researchers to arm wrestle. Unless they want to.

Onto other things! We have—and we really can’t believe this—ONE WEEK until we reopen. Over the course of the week, several things have been checked off the reopening “to do” list, and many more are on their way to being completed.

Our talented exhibits staff worked on the installation of one of our opening exhibits, “Languages of Anatomy: From Vesalius to the Digital Age,” which will be on display in the Chappell Family Gallery and features materials from our History of Medicine Collections.

Photo by Amy McDonald.

Display case showing 3-D printed prosthetic hand made by DukeMakers.
Display case showing 3-D printed prosthetic hand made by DukeMakers. Photo by Amy McDonald.

Books were returned to the refurbished bookcases in the beloved Biddle Rare Book Room.

Books being shelved in the Biddle Rare Book Room.
Photo by Amy McDonald.

And we finished moving our flat files (an enormous amount of work) and started moving historical medical instruments from the History of Medicine Collections, as well as our early manuscripts.

Moving HOM's medical instruments.
Moving HOM’s medical instruments. Photo by Rachel Ingold.


Moving HOM's medical instruments.
Moving HOM’s medical instruments. Photo by Rachel Ingold.

In the photo above, the long box at the right holds HOM’s late 16th or 17th century amputating saw. Here’s what it looks like out of the box, in case you’re curious:

Amputating saw from the History of Medicine Collections.

What else did we do? We practiced our teamwork by forming a bucket brigade to shelve manuscript collections.

University Archives staff bucket brigade!
University Archives staff bucket brigade! Photo by Amy McDonald.

We discovered, to our dismay, that we are not the most interesting people in the Rubenstein.

The Most Interesting Man in the Rubenstein
He is SO INTERESTING. Photo by Tracy Jackson.

And we found new challenges to test our librarian skills. This one is called “can we get all of the foam book rests to the new reading room in one trip?” (We did.)

Moving book rests.
Photo by Amy McDonald.

Look at these empty stacks in our temporary 3rd floor space! August 24th, here we come!

Empty stacks YAY!
Photo by Meghan Lyon.


Duke Alumni Reception at NC Gay & Lesbian Film Festival

Date: Monday, August 17, 2015
Time: 6:00-8:00 PM
Location: The Carolina Theatre of Durham (309 West Morgan St., Durham, NC 27701)
Contact: Tori Crowley, 919-681-1940 or Laura Micham,

Logo for "Queering Duke History" exhibit.Attending the North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival? Please make plans to attend this inaugural reception hosted by the Duke Heritage Society and the Office of Gift Planning!

Gather with friends and learn about a few of the ways that Duke is active with and supportive of its LGBTQ student and alumni community:

  • Bernadette Brown, the new director of Duke’s Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, will be introduced.
  • Kristen Brown Smalley of the Office of Gift Planning will share more about Duke’s activities in the LGBTQ community and our growing affinity network across the country.


Move Diary: Week 2

Week 2 is wrapping up and we are all counting down to our first (but definitely not last) Rubenstein Move Happy Hour this evening!

What have we been up to this week? Well . . . .

First things first, literally. Here’s a video of Kat Stefko, Head of Technical Services, placing the very first archival box in our new stacks.

The shelves have started to fill up pretty quickly over the course of the week. And then it’s Technical Services’s turn to update the location information in our catalog.

Updating. And more updating.
Photo by Tracy Jackson.

We have found a couple of ways to keep ourselves motivated.

NUMBER ONE: So. Much. Candy.

So. Much. Candy.
Photo by Megan O’Connell.

Of course, we wash our hands carefully before we handle books or archival materials.

NUMBER TWO: Pieces of flair for our move aprons.

Move apron flair
Photo by Matthew Farrell.

Made with the Duke Libraries’ very own button maker! (And thanks to our student worker Elizabeth George for making these excellent buttons!)

Our move brain trust, led by indefatigable move coordinator Liz Adams, keeps us all on task.

Move Brain Trust
Photo by Amy McDonald.

Nooooooo, bad shark! Don’t eat the rare books!

Book Truck Shark
Photo by Meghan Lyon.

Seriously, this place is pretty cool and shiny. We can’t wait for everyone to come and visit in August!

Stacks as far as the eye can see....

Stop back next Friday for more photos!

Pie, Punch, and Jello Cake (1977) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

Cover of Duke University RecipesIf there is one truism about librarians it is that as a general rule, librarians are excellent cooks and bakers and they love to share their food. On the flip side, I’ve never seen food go to waste in a library. Your experimental cookie recipe didn’t turn out quite as you expected? Take them to work, someone will eat them.

This month, Amy McDonald and Beth Doyle of the Rubenstein Test Kitchen turn their attention inward to focus on our very own food culture. The recipes this month came from Duke University Recipes: A Collection of Recipes from the Duke University Community, Compiled by the Duke University Library Staff Association (DULSA). This cookbook, dated 1977, was one in a series of annual cookbooks compiled by DULSA.

Our first impression of the recipes in Duke University Recipes is that they are reminiscent of a particular type of independently-produced cookbooks (e.g. those created by churches, social clubs, member groups, etc.). If you are a fan of this genre of cookbooks you will recognize many of these recipes if not verbatim then by familiarity. They seem to be firmly situated in the culinary traditions of the 1970’s. The recipes often mix prepared food stuffs (so much Jell-O) with fresh (or “fresh”) foods to create something not quite from-scratch but better than from a box alone.

While there are many worthy entries in this cookbook, we wanted to pay homage to our colleagues by choosing three recipes submitted by Duke Libraries staff members who are still working at the library.

Orange Jello Cake (Recipe by Robert Byrd; baked by Beth)

Recipe for Orange Jello Cake, part 1Recipe for Orange Jello Cake, part 2

This recipe is one of those that is still popular today. It is usually called a “no bake cheesecake” or some variation of that theme. The recipe consists of a graham cracker crust, a cream cheese and whipped topping layer, and a Jell-O layer with canned fruit and orange sherbet added to the gelatin. When I asked Bob Byrd about this recipe he said, “I have only a vague memory of this recipe, and I disclaim all responsibility for it.”

The first two layers came together fine. The Jell-O layer was weird. It had so much liquid added to the Jell-O that it never really solidified, which was fine until it was served up. When cut and plated, the orange layer just slid off the base. But, as one taster said, “It all mixes in your stomach anyway.” True enough.

Orange Jello Cake Layers
Pretty layers. Kind of like a sunrise at the beach, no?

Taste-wise, it wasn’t half bad. The squishy Jell-O layer played nicely with the cream cheese layer. The graham cracker crust provided a textural contrast to the soft upper layers. In terms of preparation, I think if you omitted the sherbet the Jell-O would set properly and not be so messy to eat.

Jello Cake on a plate!And, as a final note, one of our colleagues (who was born way after the 1970s) commented, “This tastes exactly like what I imagine the 1970s to have been like.” So there you go.

DULSA Punch (Recipe by Cathy Leonardi; poured by Amy and Beth)

Recipe for DULSA PunchWe were surprised at how many recipes in this book called for bourbon. We were pleasantly surprised we found one we wanted to try. According to Cathy Leonardi, “DULSA only served alcohol at one party each year, the Christmas party. The DULSA punch was the punch that was served.  Wink was like 7-Up.  The beauty of the punch was that it was easy to make.  I didn’t invent the recipe.  It was given to me by someone who had previously made it for the Christmas party.  I put the recipe in the cookbook so that it would be easy to find for future parties.” And are we glad she did!

As far as punch recipes go, this is an easy one. The hardest part was finding the Wink soda (or is that pop?). Yes, Wink is still available but it is often found in the mixers section, not with the other sodas.

DULSA PunchIt mixes up to a beautiful reddish color. This is a very sweet punch with a little hint of Southern Comfort. Admittedly, we purchased the lower alcohol Southern Comfort since we planned on serving this at a reception at work. (We made a non-alcoholic version, too, but . . . that was less popular.) The general consensus was that it was the best thing on the table when we taste tested the recipes.

Southern Comfort in the refigerator
Southern Comfort chilling in the staff refrigerator, along with everyone’s lunches.

Strawberry Pie (Recipe by Vickie Long; baked by Amy)

Recipe for Strawberry PieThis is a pretty simple recipe. I started out with tons of strawberries and a store-bought crust (yesssss!). Half of the strawberries got sliced and dumped (or arranged prettily, if you prefer) into the baked crust, and the other half got mashed and cooked with the cornstarch and baking powder into what I like to fondly call the “strawberry goop.”

I have a tremendous fear of burning things, so I may not have let the strawberry goop cook—and thus thicken—quite as long as I should have. I poured it into the pie, let the whole thing set in the refrigerator, and the result was a sort of sweetened strawberry soup, with bits of crust. Not terrible, but maybe not what you want to serve at your next dinner party. Or maybe it is? You do you, you know?

Soupy Strawberry Pie
A little . . . soupy. There’s a piece missing.

As a saving grace, I was going to make real whipped cream, but Beth thought Reddi-wip would be more authentic. And archivists are nothing if not historically authentic.

Thumbs Up!Duke University Recipes is available through the Duke University Archives, as well as online at the Internet Archives. There is also a copy of this 1977 edition in the Perkins Library that you can check out.

Let us know in the comments if you try any of the recipes!

Post contributed by Beth Doyle, Leona B. Carpenter Senior Conservator and Head, Conservation Services Department, and Amy McDonald, Assistant University Archivist.

Mad Men Monday – Season 7, Episode 14: “Person to Person”

Mad Men Mondays logo

The ambiguity! After his emotional awaking with Leonard in the retreat circle, did Don finally find inner peace and decide to leave his New York persona behind? Or did his awakening give him the clarity of vision to return to McCann and write one of the most iconic ad campaigns of all time for Coca-Cola as his sly smile seems to suggest? Are we really left to believe that the only substantive result of Don’s odyssey is that he’s now learned to embrace his cool, calculating cynicism?

Don streaks across the Bonneville salt flats in a Chevy Chevelle SS and indicates the presence of a shimmy to a couple of gear heads once back in the garage. Despite his transient existence he’s still in touch with Sally, who, during a brief phone conversation, reveals Betty’s illness. Don phones Betty and insists on coming home to be with her and take care of the kids. Betty, in the name of maintaining as much normalcy as possible for them, insists on his continued absence. His absence, after all, has been an important part of their normal.

Joan and Richard visit Key West and try cocaine. Referring to her life as “undeveloped real estate,” Richard tries to persuade Joan to leave New York City and take advantage of all he can offer her. Marriage is discussed and dismissed. She later dines with Ken who is seeking the name and number of a producer that worked on the Birds Eye account. She agrees to help.

Pete leaves McCann for the last time. Peggy congratulates him and says she is happy for him. Pete says that Peggy will be a creative director somewhere by 1980. Peggy also meets Joan for lunch after agreeing to write the script for Dow’s film. She hands her a check in payment for two more additional scripts. Citing her workload, Peggy demurs. Joan suggests that they partner and turn the work into a production company: “we won’t have to answer to anyone.” Peggy ponders the proposition.

Don is dropped off at Stephanie’s house in L.A. Both are worn down by life. In the morning Stephanie leaves for a retreat and insists that Don accompany her. After Stephanie is confronted by a fellow retreat attendee about abandoning her child she leaves Don without saying goodbye . . . and without a ride. Don phones Peggy collect. After chiding him for leaving, she softens and suggests that he’d be welcomed back at McCann if he returns. After all, doesn’t he want the chance to work on Coke? Don says he phoned only to say goodbye. Peggy phones Stan to express her concern and during the conversation he confesses his love for her. After talking out her feelings, Peggy realizes that she reciprocates.

Roger visits Joan to let her know that he has decided he wants Kevin in his will. Joan accepts and chuckles when Roger says he is marrying Megan’s mother, Marie. Later Joan cancels a date with Richard in favor of a business meeting. Richard chafes at the time and attention she is devoting to her business that could be given to him. The phone rings and Joan takes the call. Richard wishes her well and leaves.

The morning following Don’s emotional awakening with Leonard, he sits in the lotus position on the cliffs above Big Sur chanting a new age mantra. He closes his eyes, smiles, a bell sounds. Cue the famous 1971 “Hilltop” Coke commercial with its message of love, harmony, and acceptance. Don has accepted who he is.

Last night’s show featured references to Chevy, turtleneck shirts, cookie tins, and the lotus, among other things.  Enjoy our selection of highlighted ads that reflect the brands and themes that Mad Men characters interacted with last night.

A gallery of our selected advertisements may also be found on Flickr.

Post contributed by Josh Larkin Rowley, Reference Archivist for the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History.

Chevrolet Chevelle advertisement

Del Monte Peaches advertisement

Diamond Walnuts advertisement

Esso advertisement

Kool Cigarettes advertisement

Samsonite advertisement

Kjeldsens Cookie Tin advertisement

White Owl Cigars advertisement

Asher Knit Trousers advertisement

10a yoga001

10b yoga002

Human Rights Archive Collection Sheds Light on 1983 Assassination of Peruvian Journalists

I am Carmen Valdivieso Hulbert, a New York-based journalist-filmmaker born in Peru. I am currently co-directing and producing Uchuraccay, an investigative, human rights documentary for my company, Quinoa Films Inc.

The documentary attempts to find answers related to the assassinations of eight journalists and their guide in 1983 in Uchuraccay, a hamlet in the Andes of Peru. The murders occurred amidst warfare between the Maoist group, Shining Path, and Peruvian military forces. As part of my investigation of the case, I found valuable material among the Coletta Youngers Papers at the Human Rights Archive in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Map of Peru showing location of Uchuraccay.
Map of Peru showing location of Uchuraccay.

In the process of this ten-year investigation, I have found a large amount of information which at first did not stand out due to the complexity of the case. In February 2015, I found a copy of the original report on the assassinations filed by the government-appointed investigative commission in March of 1983. The group was led by Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa. According to the commission’s findings, the villagers of Uchuraccay were the sole culprits of the murders. Furthermore, the report fails to cite any military presence in the area when the murders took place.

This report was based on testimony given to the commission by the military chief of Ayacucho, the capital city of Huamanga Province, where Uchuraccay is located. He stated that the last military flight to the area took place on Sunday, January 23, 1983. His testimony conflicts with information I found in an article published on January 27th of the same year in the leading newspaper, El Comercio. The article, based on information received from the same military headquarters, indicates that a group of military and police officials arrived in the area from Lima on January 26th. Around noon, the group visited Uchuraccay, among other areas. This was the very day that the journalists arrived in Uchuraccay and were allegedly murdered around 4 p.m.

The discrepancy only hit me after I found and read the investigative report this past February. Had I not found this particular document in the Coletta Youngers Papers, it would have taken me longer to connect the dots.

A friend I met on my last trip to Lima in January of 2014 had mentioned that Javier Azcue, the journalist who wrote the story in El Comercio, had told him about the importance of that visit, and that no journalist had taken note of it. I was not sure what he was referring to until I re-read the official report at the Rubenstein.

On January 30, 1983, the date of the exhumation of the eight journalists’ bodies, villagers in Uchuraccay told a journalist who spoke Quechua, one of the main Peruvian indigenous languages, that the soldiers had told them to kill any stranger who arrived in the community on foot, and that they should remove their eyes and cut out their tongues while they were still alive. Apparently that did not happen, as indicated by the newspapers clippings I found among the Coletta Youngers Papers. While at the Rubenstein, I found some enlarged newspapers clippings of La Republica that showed close-up photos taken the day the bodies were exhumed. The photographs show the faces of five of the eight murdered journalists. As gruesome as these images are, they show two of the journalists with eyes half-closed and intact, and three with their eyes closed but without signs of having been removed, as some of the villagers had previously stated.

Photocopy of article from La Republica. From the Coletta Youngers Papers.
Photocopy of article from La Republica. From the Coletta Youngers Papers.

Previously I had only heard the recordings of the villagers’ testimonies in their native Quechua, along with a transcript translated into Spanish. I was therefore able to recognize one of the villager’s photo and name in the newspaper clipping.

Post contributed by Carmen Valdivieso Hulbert, Rubenstein Library researcher, journalist, and filmmaker.