As part of a campus-wide initiative to commemorate 50 years of integration at Duke, the Graduate School and filmmaker Ivan Weiss contributed “The Education of Ida Owens,” a documentary about the first African-American female to earn a PhD at the university.
Balancing Dr. Owens’s personal story with Duke’s own integration, and the national Civil Rights movement more broadly, the documentary is well worth a view. A copy is available on YouTube and Vimeo. Take half and hour and watch it, if you haven’t. This post will still be here when you get back.
In late 2014, the University Archives received a bundle of materials related to the documentary. In addition to the completed video files, we also received a bevy of additional materials fleshing out the release of the documentary; Dr. Owens’s background; and the filmmaking process itself. It is these latter items that warrant specific mention. For each person interviewed by the filmmakers there exists video footage, audio recordings, and text transcripts. Because multiple camera people worked on the project, having access to these clips allows insight into the editing process, as well content that did not make the final cut of the video.
Our descriptive record of the materials is here for perusal. The materials themselves can be seen in the Rubenstein Library reading room. Because many of the files themselves are quite large, please make any requests in advance, as it will take some time to transfer the materials from our servers to a computer terminal able to view the files.
Like any period, the present decade marks a series of fiftieth anniversaries. And like any anniversary, the anniversary of Duke’s integration and impending anniversary of Dr. Owens’s PhD completion, serve to call attention to landmark events while also allowing us to reflect on the great deal of work ahead. This documentary and the supporting materials recently added to the University Archives are a testament to both.
Post contributed by Matthew Farrell, Digital Records Archivist.
Do you remember what you were doing at the end of November in 1980? Ronald Reagan had just been elected, and the Iran Hostage Crisis entered its second year. Kenny Rogers’s timeless serenade “Lady” topped the charts. Audiences were reeling from finding out who shot J.R. And on November 29, 1980, Mike Krzyzewski entered Cameron Indoor Stadium to coach the Blue Devils during their first match up of the season. It was also his first game at Duke as the new head coach.
Their opponents were the Stetson University Hatters, and the first half was a little shaky for both teams. But in the second half the Blue Devils, who included Gene Banks and Kenny Dennard, pulled away for a definitive 67-49 win, thanks to Tom Emma’s shooting. The new coach deemed the game “a good opener,” but suggested that they would need to fill out the team’s ranks in the years to come.
He wasn’t yet Coach K, and the pronunciation of his name wasn’t common knowledge. The court itself wasn’t named for him, and there was no Krzyzewskiville. But it was the first step toward a legendary program, now with an astonishing 926 wins at Duke. Add those to 73 previous wins at Army, and Krzyzewski now stands at 999 career wins.
The next men’s basketball game, on Sunday against St. John’s in Madison Square Garden, may be Mike Krzyzewski’s 1000th career win. He will no doubt be crouched on the sidelines, just as he is in this very first Duke outing, leading his team to yet another victory.
Post Contributed by Val Gillispie, University Archivist
Here in Rubenstein Library Research Services, we always strive to fulfill our researchers’ wishes to use our inspiring materials in their work. However, rare materials often come in formats that pose a challenge to standard modern imaging equipment. We frequently receive requests from researchers to digitize books and maps that are too big or too tightly bound for our scanning equipment. Researchers also seek digital files of obsolete audio and A/V formats, such as records, VHS tapes, and audio reel tapes, but our ancient VHS players and reel tape decks went the way of the dinosaur, even as we kept pace with the latest technology for imaging paper, discs, and microfilm.
Thankfully, the buck doesn’t stop here in Research Services. We have an amazing digitization resource right here in the Libraries: the Digital Production Center, or DPC, as it is fondly known. DPC staff are highly-trained digitization experts, and their lab is filled with the latest digitizing technology. Mostly they digitize collections (hence our wonderful online Digital Collections!), but when we have a Rubenstein request that can’t be imaged on our equipment, the DPC takes up the challenge and works their magic.
I was invited to train with the DPC wizards recently, studying how they fulfill these challenging requests. Although I learned a lot about how the digitization process works, I still think it’s partly magical.
For visual images such as maps or books, the DPC’s computer monitor must first be calibrated to render the colors with absolute accuracy, or the scanned image might end up with an undesirable color cast. This is done using a color target, X-rite Photo Pro software, and the i1 PhotoPro 2 spectrophotometer, which optically “reads” the colors on the monitor in a magical fashion, just by touching the screen.
The lighting in the lab uses true full-spectrum daylight bulbs. Even the walls in the imaging areas are painted the exact shade of 18% grey used by photographers to achieve accurate white balance; in this case it also helps to prevent color casts from affecting the image.
For most paper originals, the DPC uses a Phase One camera capable of producing 1200 dpi images. Softboxed sidelighting on two sides provides even illumination. To capture large items, the camera must be raised high on a stand. Too high, and the image will be too pixelated; too low, and the edges of the image could get clipped. Like Goldilocks’ porridge, the height has to be just right.
The DPC can also digitize the many obsolete audio recordings on reel tape, records, or cassettes found in our twentieth-century and newer collections. This kind of magic is especially astonishing: sound vibrations are captured as magnetic density on the tape, which the audio analog-digital interface then samples electronically and translates into 1’s and 0’s. The computer then renders this data visually on the monitor, before assembling it back into sound as an mp3 or wav file.
Of course, we can’t forget about the ever-popular medium of video. Rubenstein collections include video on several types of exotic tape cassettes, such as VHS, U-matic, Betacam and Hi-8. The DPC rises to the challenge, with media capture decks that play obsolete tape formats and send their signals through analog-to-digital converters to create a tidy video file.
After stringent quality control checks, logging of the work done, and backing up to the server, the digital file is uploaded and shared via a media sharing service, and Abracadabra! The millions of zeros and ones reassemble themselves on the researcher’s computer into a perfect facsimile of the original object.
A group of three uniformed men stand together in silence and black-and-white, engaged in what one imagines is small talk. They are outside, others like them mill about, the mood one of dulled anticipation. The men are obviously enjoying the extended gaze of the camera but not certain what to do with it. One of them is Hermann Gӧring.
The scene comes from a film so long on the shelves at Duke no one could say where it came from. It was simply titled “Hitler Youth Rally, 1936, Nuremberg.” I was attempting to provide a student with a primary source for a paper he was writing on Nazi propaganda, and hoped this film could help. But I needed better description. Our electronic catalog yielded a brief record listing the same title and nothing else, only that it was cataloged from an accession record. But the paper files we keep on our collections had nothing under “Hitler,” “Nazi,” or “Nuremberg.” I emailed some colleagues to see if they could help my search, and in the meantime began to analyze the film for clues as to its origins.
The film’s most immediate message was that it was a 31-minute, 16mm, black-and-white newsreel printed on Agfa stock and bearing the Agfa logo, silent but with descriptive intertitles. Gӧring’s was the first face I recognized. The two other men with him were mysteries but I thought had to be of similar high position — definitely Nazis, but Hitler Youth, no — and within a few minutes googling I found one of them was Ernst Rӧhm, head of Hitler’s dreaded street gang, the Sturmabteilung (aka Brownshirts). Rӧhm was close to Hitler but, homosexual, an ardent socialist, and holding that the German army should be absorbed under the S.A., was increasingly considered a liability by the Nazi command. In 1934 Heinrich Himmler falsely told Hitler that Rӧhm was plotting an overthrow, and Hitler had Rӧhm executed, during the purge known as the Night of the Long Knives. I was fascinated, taking one step forward and moving one step back. There was a story in this film, but neither was it about Hitler Youth nor did it date to 1936. So what did we really have here?
As the film unfolded it was clear the setting was the Zeppelinfeld at Nuremberg, where the Nazis held their annual rallies. I thought if I had a point of comparison, it might be possible to place the year the film was made. The most obvious choice was to see if Leni Riefenstahl, the image maker of Hitler and the Nazis in the early 30s, had shot a Nuremberg rally prior to her stylistic landmark, Triumph of the Will, which documented the 1934 rally and which, importantly, did NOT include the recently expired Ernst Rӧhm. And indeed, Riefenstahl had made a film of the rally in 1933, the year in which the Nazi propaganda machine was officially established under Joseph Goebbels. However, all copies of the 61-minute Der Sieg Des Glaubens (Victory of Faith) had been destroyed following the purge, in an effort to expunge Rӧhm from Nazi history. All but one. And that copy, conveniently, had been digitized and published to the Internet Archive. I downloaded the Riefenstahl film, set up two video playback windows on my computer, and began a comparison.
What you’ll find as you look through films of the Nuremberg rallies is that a standard narrative tends to be followed: there are preparations on the Zeppelinfeld as crowds pack the town of Nuremberg proper, followed by the arrival of the high command and Hitler and their international guests – in the early 30s this included England as well as Spain, Italy, and Japan. Then the speeches and incessant marching, perhaps an interlude where the Hitler Youth are shown setting up their tents and camping out as if at a boy scout jamboree, and ending with a speech where Hitler delivers his menacing vision of German supremacy.
It was when Hitler stepped off his plane in Riefenstahl’s film that I found my first clue. I remembered a similar spot in our newsreel, and when I lined the scenes up and ran through them several times, I realized it was exactly the same moment, shot from different angles. Marvelously, the films’ respective cameramen could be seen in the others’ shots. Confirmed: this was 1933, the year before Rӧhm was killed and all traces of him destroyed. I ran through the film trying to find similar points and discovered that in several places our photographer and Riefenstahl’s photographer probably stood shoulder-to-shoulder.
I began to wonder about the rarity of our film, and as I started to reach out to other archives I also prepared the filmfor presentation, creating a finding aid and uploading the movie to YouTube, at first as an unlisted resource so I could share it with other archivists who could help with its identification. Lauren Reno, our rare materials cataloger, began refashioning the catalog record, while Sarah Carrier, our Research Services Coordinator and a fluent German speaker, accepted the challenge of translating the titles. During this process Sarah echoed Hannah Arendt when we talked about what these rallies were actually like, commenting that the film really brings home the banality of evil – “There must’ve been a lot of sitting around and waiting at this thing.”
As Sarah worked on the titles, I got an email from our University Archivist, Val Gillispie. Val had found documentation for the film, picking up the trail in our old card catalog, which was recently digitized, and following it to a gift agreement. Donated in 1967 by Duke Divinity graduate John Himes, the film came to us in two reels, and the original description stated, “This is perhaps a movie film with sound tracks. It is a film of a Hitler youth rally in 1936 in Nuremberg.” We have no idea whether Himes or the accessioning archivist described it so, or where Himes got the film, but there was enough information on the agreement to discover a little more about Himes. During World War II he was a chaplain in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the inspiration for the television film Band of Brothers, so how he came to be in possession of the film spurs the imagination. At some point after his donation, the two reels, neither one a soundtrack, became one, spliced together in the wrong order but otherwise unharmed. Several years ago the film was digitized for preservation but no analysis was done.
While these pieces of the puzzle came together, I was contacted by Leslie Swift at the United States Holocaust Museum, who I had queried about the film. The Museum did not have a copy of it, although they had shorter snippets of other newsreels from the 1933 rally (our film is by far the longest and most detailed after Riefenstahl’s). Leslie is interested in the narratives of these propaganda films, and noted that one scene in our film, where Hitler is touching the Nazi flags with the flag that is being carried next to him, is something she hadn’t seen before in other similar films. I talked with Sarah about this, who in doing her research found out it was a ceremony performed using the Blutfahne, or the “blood flag” that had been used in the failed 1923 Nazi uprising, to “sanctify” other flags. The blood flag, always carried by Jakob Grimminger, was apparently lost after the war, and, grail-like, has its own cult of followers. (It is true that in doing research into materials such as this film, fascination and horror, with the past and present, mix together in equal parts.)
Leslie gave me a contact at the Bundesarchiv, to whom I wrote the next day. According to Karin Kuehn, a film archivist at the Bundesarchiv, the film “seems to be a so called Schmalfilm-Monatsschau. These were compilations of several newsreels for home cinema made by Agfa.” Karin noted that the Bundesarchiv holds some of this type of footage, but only a few might be a match with our film. I’m hoping within the next few months to be able to view some of that footage.
Re-discovering historical resources such as the Nuremberg Rally film is what makes my job such a joy. This film and another film we have – in the Doris Duke Collection, portraying the trial of the 20 July conspirators in 1944 – presents two poles of the Nazi propaganda effort. The process we went through to identify the film, to dig a little deeper, will hopefully inform future research, and create a more complete picture of the past.
Post contributed by Craig Breaden, Audiovisual Archivist
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.
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.
Nathaniel White, Jr was among the first five black students to attend Duke University in 1963. He was not, however, the first person in his family to attend college. His father, Nathaniel White, Sr., had attended Hampton Institute prior to founding his own printing business in Durham. In a newly-digitized interview, White, Sr. discusses his life, his memories, and his experience as a black man living in Virginia and North Carolina during the 20th century.
White’s interview is part of the Behind the Veil digital project, which has just added over 300 new interviews with North Carolinians, including many from Durham. The interviews capture details of what life was like in the Jim Crow South for African Americans. In White’s interview, he shares the story of his childhood, the black business community in Durham, and the influence of scouting on his life. Of particular interest to local researchers, he describes individuals and businesses in the Durham black community in the mid-20th century, providing deep insight into Durham’s history.
He also briefly discusses his son’s pioneering role at Duke. He mentions that White, Jr., had considered Hampton Institute himself, but then had the opportunity to attend Duke. His father candidly remarks in the interview, “There’s one thing about a situation like that, it’s more like the real world than some other places that you might go and everything seems like it’s alright but it’s not training you for what you’re going to meet when you get outside. It’s a real struggle out there. The sooner you learn that, the better off you might be. . . . In other words, every day he had what it’s like to be an African American citizen in this country. So he didn’t have to learn that after he graduated. He learned it every day at Duke.”
In the mid 1980s, Duke history student Joseph Sinsheimer interviewed veterans of the fight for voting rights in early-1960s Mississippi. The generational distance between the interviews and the subject worked in Sinsheimer’s favor: his narrators had gained the perspective of years but many still had their youth, with memory intact, and were ready to talk at length of their experiences. The collection guide to these remarkable interviews is a roll call of Civil Rights Movement leadership in the deep South: C.C. Bryant, Robert Moses, Lawrence Guyot, Willie Peacock, Hollis Watkins and others detail Mississippi’s struggle through stories of their involvement.
As we digitize the audiocassettes that Sinsheimer used to record the interviews, one story immediately stands out. Activist Sam Block’s retelling of how he came to be involved in the movement is a coming-of-age story informed by the death of Emmett Till and galvanized by a confrontation with a white customer at his uncle’s service station. His subsequent recruitment into the Movement via the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and his training at Highlander Folk School, were prologue to the courage Block demonstrated when he asked Robert Moses to drop him in Greenwood, Mississippi, with “no car, no money, no food…just me.”
A couple of weeks ago the finding aid for the Doris Duke Audiovisual Collection was posted on the Rubenstein Library website. The audiovisual collection, which is now opened for research, has a fascinating variety of materials, including film reels, vinyl records, and audio cassettes reflecting Doris’ interests in travel, music, the performing arts, and historical events. It’s chock-full of surprises for those willing to delve into the detailed and intricate collection. Homemade recordings of Doris practicing the piano and singing, four original nitrate film reels of the Nazi Supreme Court Trial of the Anti-Hitler Plot from 1944-45 (which we’re presuming Doris obtained while working for the Office of Strategic Services [OSS] during World War II), and a somewhat sketchy telephone interview with Howard Hughes from the 1970s are just a few of the treasures awaiting discovery in this collection.
The Doris Duke Audiovisual Collection also marks a significant milestone for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives. It is the final collection in the historical archives to be processed, described, and opened for research, thus ending my three year processing journey.
Working so intimately with the materials has been quite a remarkable experience, and not surprisingly I’ve grown quite attached to both Doris Duke and the materials over the past three years! The nineteen collections comprising the historical archives are filled with artifacts and clues that leave evidence of a woman who did big things, yet they also give insight to unexpected and hidden facets of Doris’ life. Collectively they paint a picture of Doris that challenges the general perception of her as an eccentric and tragic figure.
While I am sincerely grateful for having had the opportunity to process and promote the materials in the historical archives, I am equally thankful for having had the chance to meet researchers and patrons interested in both Doris Duke and the historical archives. Their enthusiasm for learning more about her spurred several of the events, exhibits, and digital initiatives developed during the course of the processing project.
And so a journey for me ends, but the journey for the materials in the historical archives continues!
Post contributed by Mary Samouelian, the former Doris Duke Collection Archivist. Mary will continue in the Technical Services Dept. as the Processing Archivist for the Abraham Joshua Heschel Papers.
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University