Location: Center for Documentary Studies, 1317 W. Pettigrew St, Durham, NC
In October 2015, the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library will welcome Nate Larson as the second Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel Visiting Artist. Named in honor of Dr. Diamonstein-Spielvogel, a prolific author, interviewer, curator, and champion of the arts, this new artist-in-residence program provides an extended opportunity for an artist to study and engage with archival, manuscript and other special collections in support of developing a new body of creative work.
Nate Larson is a contemporary artist working with photographic media, artist books and digital video. His projects have been widely shown across the US and internationally as well as featured in numerous publications and media outlets, including Wired Raw File, The Picture Show from NPR, Slate, CNN, Hyperallergic, Gizmodo, Buzzfeed News, Vice Magazine, the New York Times Lens Blog, Flavorwire, the BBC News Viewfinder, Frieze Magazine, the British Journal of Photography, The Washington Post, and Art Papers. His artwork is included in the collections of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Orlando Museum of Art, Portland Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Center for Photography at Woodstock, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography Chicago. Additionally, Larson holds a full‐time academic appointment in the photography department at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and chaired the 2014 national conference of the Society for Photographic Education.
Larson will be in residence at the Rubenstein Library October 26-November 22, 2015. During this time, Larson will meet with scholars, students and staff from across the academic disciplines at Duke and conduct his own research. Larson will give an Artist’s Talk about his work to date at the Center for Documentary Studies on November 5, 2015 from 6:00-8:00pm.
The event is free and open to the public and made possible through the generous support of Dr. Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel. Larson’s visit is jointly organized and sponsored by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, the Center for Documentary Studies, and the Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts Program at Duke University.
The Radio Haiti archive project is underway! We’ve spent the first couple weeks creating a behemoth database…
…assigning each and every tape a unique ID number, and putting the tapes in nice new comfortable bar-coded boxes. This means that an archive which arrived looking like this…
… now, happily, looks like this.
We are incredibly fortunate that the former Radio Haiti staff and friends and family in Port-au-Prince (you know who you are!) sent the tapes with a detailed inventory — it makes our job so much easier.
We are also inspecting the tapes for mold (and we have found mold aplenty).
We are also keeping track of which tapes are going to require a little extra TLC.
We’re creating rather sweeping controlled vocabulary — describing subjects, names, and places that appear in the archive. Once we’ve put in all this metadata, we can send the more than 3500 tapes off to be cleaned and digitized.
These tasks (organizing, typing in data, cross-referencing, labeling, bar-coding, describing, mold-noting), while arguably unglamorous, are necessary groundwork for eventually making the recordings publicly accessible, ensuring that these tapes can speak again, and that Radyo Ayiti pap peri (Radio Haiti will never perish).
We’ve only listened to a small sampling of the recordings so far, but the tapes themselves, as physical objects, tell a story. Even the mold is part of the story. That white mold on the tapes and the dusty dark mildew on the tape boxes tell of the Radio Haiti journalists’ multiple exiles during which the tapes remained in the tropics and the future of the station was uncertain.
To glance over the titles of the recordings — the labels on their spines, lined up in order, row upon row — is to chart the outline of late 20th century Haitian political history — a chronology of presidencies, coups, interventions, massacres, disappearances, and impunity. The eighty-nine tapes chronicling the Raboteau trial of 2000, in which former junta leaders were tried for the 1994 torture and massacre of civilians, take up an entire shelf.
And then there is the long, long sequence of recordings after the April 3, 2000 assassination of Jean Dominique, when the center of the station’s orbit violently and irrevocably shifted.
It is uncanny to look at the tapes with hindsight and see the patterns emerge. Here is the political landscape of Haiti, from the 1970s to the 2000s, from dictatorship to the democratic era: The same impunity, the same lies, the same corruption, the same suffering, the same mentalities, the same machinations. Chameleons change their color, oppressors repaint their faces, state-sanctioned killings become extrajudicial killings, and the poor generally come off the worst.
The journalists who did these reports and conducted these interviews experienced these events in real time. They could not yet know the whole story because, in each of these moments, they were in the middle of it. For them, the enthusiasm of 1986 (after Duvalier fell, and Radio Haiti’s staff returned from their first exile) and of 1994 (when Aristide was reinstated, and Radio Haiti’s staff returned from their second exile) was unfettered. Likewise, for them, the struggle against impunity and injustice was urgent.
There is a recording labeled “Justice Dossier Jando Blocage 4.9.01” — “Justice Jean Dominique case blocked investigation.” Those short words contain a saga: by September 2001, a year and a half after Jean Dominique and Jean-Claude Louissaint were murdered, Radio Haiti was already reporting on how the investigation had stalled. In 2001, perhaps, justice appeared attainable, just out of reach. Now, fourteen years later, the case remains unsolved.
Back in 2011, I attended a talk by Haitian human rights activist Jean-Claude Bajeux in Port-au-Prince, where he said, “gen anpil fantòm kap sikile nan peyi a ki pa gen stati.” (“there are many ghosts wandering through this country that have no statue”). He was speaking of those who were disappeared under the Duvalier regime. But he could have been speaking, too, of innumerable others who have died and been erased – those who were killed by the earthquake, under the military regime, through direct political violence and through the structural violence of everyday oppression.
This archive is not a statue or a monument, but it is one place where the dead speak. Sometimes the controlled vocabulary feels like an inventory of ghosts.
Sometimes I think I am working on an archive that was never meant to be archived, something that was supposed to remain an active, living struggle. I think of how far these clean cardboard storage boxes and quiet temperature-controlled spaces are from the sting of tear gas, the stickiness of blood, the smell of burning tires, the crack of gunfire, the heat and noise, the laughter and fury of Haiti.
But salvaging and preserving are part of the struggle; remembering is, itself, a political act.
Post contributed by Laura Wagner, Radio Haiti Project Archivist.
The Rubenstein Library has learned that photographer Harold Feinstein passed away on June 20th at the age of 84. Feinstein was one of the original inhabitants of the “Jazz Loft” at 821 Sixth Avenue in New York City. His singular photographic work, and his association with other occupants of 821 Sixth Avenue, including W. Eugene Smith, composer Hall Overton, and artist David X. Young, led in 2004 to his being interviewed by Sam Stephenson for the Jazz Loft Project. The Project was archived by the Rubenstein Library in 2012-2013, and includes streaming files of many of Stephenson’s interviews. We include the interview with Harold Feinstein here in its entirety. See also the obituary in the New York Times.
Post contributed by Craig Breaden, Audiovisual Archivist.
The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University has received a grant of $200,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support Voices of Change: Preserving and Presenting Radio Haiti. This two-year project, set to begin in July 2015, will preserve and make widely available the written- and spoken-word archives of Radio Haiti Inter, the country’s oracle of democracy from the late 1960s until its closure in 2003. The announcement of the award coincides with the fifteen year anniversary of the assassination of the station’s owner and Haiti’s most prominent journalist, Jean Dominique, and amidst continuing news coverage about the ongoing trial of his accused murderers.
The Human Rights Archive at the Rubenstein Library received the archives of Radio Haiti in late 2013 as a gift from Michèle Montas, the station’s co-anchor and widow of Dominique. “To me, Duke University was the most welcoming environment for these unique archives, with knowledgeable teams of scholars and archivists able to preserve the past and help to use that recent past as a tool to re- imagine the future,” commented Montas about her decision to place the archives at Duke.
As evidenced in the more than 3,000 recordings and 70 linear feet of paper records comprising the collection, Radio Haiti distinguished itself from other media outlets in Haiti by covering not only events in Port-au-Prince but news from the rural areas of Haiti, including a grassroots democratic movement that eventually overthrew the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986. It was the first independent radio station in Haiti, and the first to broadcast in the language of the people, Haitian Creole, instead of the French spoken only by Haiti’s elite.
The collection is one of the most important and comprehensive resources available for studying and understanding the recent history of Haiti. Primary materials related to Haiti are relatively rare, and the archives of Radio Haiti are particularly distinct both for the depth and breadth of their coverage. According to Laurent Dubois, project advisor and Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke, “The Radio Haiti Archives represent a tremendous resource for scholars, educators, and the general public interested in culture and politics in Haiti from the late 1970s to the present. Under the leadership of Jean Dominique and Michèle Montas, the station served as a critical voice for reportage, debate, editorials, and news for several decades.” Access to these important primary materials will allow scholars to write the history of the country in nuanced and participatory ways.
Grant funding will support a full-time project archivist fluent in both Haitian Creole and French to oversee the arrangement, description, digitization and preservation of these materials. To support multilingual and international research, audio recordings will be described in French, Haitian Creole, and English, and will be made freely available online via Duke’s Digital Collections, the Digital Public Library of America, and the Digital Library of the Caribbean.
In order to promote easy access to these materials in Haiti, the Library will partner with the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke and FOKAL (La Fondation Connaissance et Liberté/Fondasyon Konesans Ak Libète), a community organization in Haiti, to place digital copies of the recordings in libraries throughout Haiti. The team will also explore creating podcasts from the recordings to allow for easier access in regions with intermittent internet connectivity.
The Radio Haiti collection is a singular resource supporting a nuanced and comprehensive understanding of the last 50 years’ of Haiti’s history. By preserving and making accessible these archives, Duke University Libraries seeks to advance the dialogue not only about Haiti’s past but also about its future.
Those interested in learning more about the archives of Radio Haiti are encouraged to visit the pilot site developed collaboratively between the Forum for Scholars and Publics and the Library at http://radiohaitilives.com/. This site includes access in Creole and English to all the recordings reformatted as part of the planning phase of the grant.
Post contributed by Kat Stefko, Head of Technical Services.
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.
Congratulations to Mary on this wonderful work!
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University