All posts by Will Hansen

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New Acquisition: Langston Hughes Revises His Text

In the Rubenstein Library, sometimes we primarily judge books by their covers, be they bejeweled, finely bound, or otherwise interestingly decorated.  And sometimes we certainly do not. Case in point: the book below.

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The Library wouldn’t acquire most copies of the third edition of Langston Hughes’s Shakespeare in Harlem, especially not a copy without its original dust jacket and rather heavily worn.  But this was no ordinary copy.  This appears to be  Hughes’s own copy of the last edition of this book issued during his lifetime.

Inscription on front endpaper of this copy of Shakespeare in Harlem.
Inscription on front endpaper of this copy of Shakespeare in Harlem.

Not only that, Hughes made changes to fifteen of its poems, some of them dramatic shifts in the tone, rhythm, length, or meaning of the text.

Hughes's poem "Down and Out," with repetitive lines crossed out and some representations of dialect changed.
Hughes’s poem “Down and Out,” with repetitive lines crossed out and some representations of dialect changed.

The copy recently turned up in a sorority house at Lincoln University, from which it was sold at auction and entered the rare book trade.  Much about the volume remains to be discovered.  The changes that Hughes made in this volume have not been published or incorporated into any of the later editions of Hughes’s collected works or poems.

 

 

 

 

Walt Whitman, 1869, from the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, box III-6C (Saunders 29); Bruce Springsteen, on the cover of the album Born to Run, 1975.

Tramps Like Us: Springsteen and Whitman

You may have heard the news: a working draft of one of the iconic songs in American music, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” will be displayed in Perkins Library on May 8-11, and then here in the Rubenstein Library from May 12-June 27.  While at the Rubenstein, Springsteen’s draft, owned by Floyd Bradley, will be in the very good company of one of the largest collections of manuscripts by another favorite son of New Jersey, Walt Whitman, in the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana.

Walt Whitman, 1869, from the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, box III-6C (Saunders 29); Bruce Springsteen, on the cover of the album Born to Run, 1975.
Walt Whitman, 1869, from the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, box III-6C (Saunders 29), by M. P. Rice; Bruce Springsteen, on the cover of the album Born to Run, 1975, by Eric Meola.

Both Whitman and Springsteen felt and expressed a deep connection with working-class Americans.  After a transient childhood, Whitman worked as a journeyman printer before becoming the “Good Gray Poet”; Springsteen’s mother famously took out a loan to buy him a guitar when he turned sixteen, and years of honing his musical craft at small venues for low pay preceded the breakthrough of “The Boss.”

The working draft of “Born to Run” includes many passages that were changed or excised from the final lyrics, but the chorus “tramps like us, baby we were born to run” is already in place.

The chorus of "Born to Run" in the working draft. Image courtesy of Sotheby's.
The chorus of “Born to Run” in the working draft. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

“Tramps,” or homeless itinerants looking for steady work and a place to live, became a particular concern in the United States (and for Whitman) during and after the “long depression” of the 1870s.  Whitman wrote about this phenomenon in many different contexts, perhaps most memorably in a fragment entitled “The Tramp and Strike Questions.”  In a sentence that gets to the core of an element of “Born to Run” and other Springsteen songs, Whitman writes there: “Curious as it may seem, it is in what are call’d the poorest, lowest characters you will sometimes, nay generally, find glints of the most sublime virtues, eligibilities, heroisms.” A volume in the Trent Collection, given by Whitman the title “Excerpts &c Strike & Tramp Question,” contains manuscripts and newspaper stories annotated by Whitman in preparation for a lecture on the topic, which was never delivered.

Two prose fragments from "Excerpts &c Strike & Tramp Question," Trent Collection of Whitmaniana Box II-7B.
Two prose fragments from “Excerpts &c Strike & Tramp Question,” Trent Collection of Whitmaniana Box II-7B.

We’re excited to host the “Born to Run” draft, and please contact us if you’d like to take the chance to see this treasure of American culture alongside items in the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana.

Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections.

“The Guardians of History,” a Documentary

Mary Samouelian, the Heschel Processing Archivist here at the Rubenstein Library, has created a short documentary. “The Guardians of History” features seven archivists working in our Technical Services Department and explores why archivists do what we do.  In Mary’s words, the documentary “reveals our intimate relationship with the historical materials we work with, why we are drawn to the mission of preserving history, and how our work makes it possible for researchers, historians, writers, and the general public to discover and experience intimate connections between their lives and historical materials.”

Mary enrolled as a student at the CDS in 2011 and this documentary piece is her final project for the Certificate in Documentary Arts. The photographs associated with the documentary will be exhibited on the Student Wall in Perkins Library this coming Friday.

Congratulations to Mary on this wonderful work!

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Mad Men Monday — Season 7, Episode 3 “Field Trip”

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Last night’s episode of Mad Men features several characters whose elevated hopes for connections with others get dashed.  Don flies out to Los Angeles after Megan’s agent calls him to say that she was desperate and demanding with a director after an audition. She is happy to see him, but then gets upset when she realizes why he came.  He is forced to admit that SC&P put him on leave and she asks him to go for being dishonest. Peggy is upset that her St. Joseph’s commercial wasn’t nominated for a Clio, and later finds out that Lou only submitted work that he could claim as his own. Betty meets Francine for lunch and Francine brags about her new career as a travel agent. She tells Betty that working in an office is her reward for raising kids.  Later Betty tells Bobby that she will chaperone his field trip the next day and he is thrilled to spend time with her. Harry exaggerates SC&P’s media capability to the clients from Koss, and later tells Jim that they need a computer to compete. Don meets with two men from Wells Rich Greene and gets an offer to work for them.  Don takes that offer to Roger, who agrees to let Don come back the following Monday. Betty and Bobby have a good time on the field trip until Bobby gives away Betty’s sandwich to a friend. Don arrives at SC&P on Monday morning, and awkwardly greets the staff until Roger comes in around lunchtime. The partners are upset that Don is back, but realize it will cost them too much to fire him officially.  Instead they agree to take him back only if he can adhere to several restrictive rules and reports to Lou. He agrees.

Last night’s episode featured references to typewriters, Kahlua, plaid jackets, and bras, 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 images may also be found on Flickr.

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The Tweetable Letters of “Mother Whitman”

Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. From the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana.
Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. From the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana.

Wesley Raabe, Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Kent State University, has published an edition of the letters of Walt Whitman’s mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, on the Walt Whitman Archive website.  Entitled “walter dear”: The Letters from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Her Son Walt, the edition includes a critical introduction, images of the original letters, transcriptions, and extensive explanatory annotations on each letter. 144 of the 170 letters in the edition are held in the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana here at the Rubenstein Library.

In addition, Prof. Raabe shares thoughts on editing these fragile letters, and on the treatment they have received from our Conservation Services Department here at Duke,  in a thought-provoking blog post entitled “Restoring Fragile Remains: Two Louisa Van Velsor Whitman Letters.”  If it strikes a chord with you, please consider adopting an item from the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana or another selection in the Libraries’ new Adopt-a-Book program to support the conservation of our materials.

Finally, Prof. Raabe has created a Twitter account to share excerpts from Louisa’s eminently quotable letters.  Follow @MotherWhitman for such gems as:

Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections.

Jean Dominique and Michèle Montas in the Radio Haiti newsroom.

Rubenstein Library Acquires Radio Haiti Archives

Jean Dominique and Michèle Montas in the Radio Haiti newsroom.
Jean Dominique and Michèle Montas celebrating the anniversary of the station in the Radio Haiti newsroom, 1990. From the Radio Haiti Records.

The Human Rights Archive at Duke University’s Rubenstein Library and the estate of broadcaster Jean Dominique have announced a partnership to preserve the broadcast archives of the journalist’s iconic Radio Haiti station.  From the 1960s to 2002, Radio Haiti was that country’s first independent radio station, promoting democratic freedoms, speaking out against human rights abuses, and celebrating Haitian life and culture. The station’s archive includes approximately 2,500 audio recordings of programs, as well as 28 boxes of paper records. Recordings include daily coverage of events, cultural programs, interviews on public affairs, political analysis, and roundtable discussions on different aspects of Haiti’s recent history.

“The Radio Haiti collection is an incredibly important resource for understanding the recent history of Haiti,” said Laurent Dubois, Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke. “Because the station broadcast news and reportage largely in Creole and extensively covered events both in Port-au-Prince and the rural areas of Haiti, the collection gives us unequalled access to an understanding of one of the most important grassroots democratic movements in recent history: the movement that overthrew the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986.”

The Radio Haiti archives were donated to the Rubenstein Library by Michèle Montas, station co-anchor and widow of Jean Dominique. Dominique had an unquenchable passion for Haiti and its people, and his quest for truth and justice may have led to his assassination in 2000.

According to Montas the archives “capture a time and place in which journalists and broadcast journalism played a major role in redefining a country and reaching a people. Beyond Haiti, they bear witness to the turbulent transition from a dictatorship to a functioning democracy. ”

Montas stressed that the archives matter today because they touch on and track issues that remain of paramount importance in Haitian society. “By saving these archives and making them once more accessible to large audiences, Duke and the Rubenstein Library are playing a crucial role in advancing the dialogue about Haiti and its future.”

On April 3, Montas will be at Duke to discuss the history of Radio Haiti and its archive. Archivists from the Rubenstein Library will also share some of the challenges of preserving such a large audio collection and discuss the importance this archive has for the broader Haitian community and the human rights movement.  Those interested in learning more about preserving Radio Haiti can visit Duke Library’s Youtube channel.  The event is free and open to the public and will be held at 12 p.m. in the Forum for Scholars and Publics, Old Chemistry Building Room 011, on Duke’s West Campus. Lunch will be provided.

The Radio Haiti archives join other recent acquisitions by the Rubenstein Library documenting the history of Haiti, including the records of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights, the Mark Danner Papers, and a scribal copy of the Haitian Declaration of Independence dating from 1804.

The Radio Haiti archives will open for research after conservation review and archival processing are complete. For more information, contact Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist.

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The Curious Case of Frances Benjamin Johnston

FrancesBenjaminJohnstonBlogsizedThe 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?

African American women aboard a steamboat, from the Tidewater album, ca. 1900.
African American women aboard a steamboat, from the Tidewater album, ca. 1900.

TidewaterAlbumPyroDeveloperBlogsizeThe 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.

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New Digital Collection: Duke Chapel Recordings

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Undated photograph of a service in Duke Chapel, from the University Archives Photograph Collection.

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.

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In the Lab: Boxing Challenges

heschelrockblogSome 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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.