Category Archives: Just for Fun

Rare sheet music finds in the Hartman Center

The Hartman Center is currently processing the Gary B. and Sandra G. Baden Collection of Print Advertisements, a collection of about 50 linear feet of print ads that cover primarily the first three quarters of the twentieth century. It is notable and was initially attractive to the Hartman Center for its early ads for automobiles, perfume and watches, but it also includes a wide range of corporate ads as well as some travel and tourism literature.

The Badens were avid collectors, and the collection also includes some non-advertising-related materials: issues of international magazines; direct mail materials; packaging; old maps; and some sheet music. There are about eight compositions from the early 1900s-1930s, including Stephen Foster, Irving Berlin as well as some tunes from the Ragtime/Minstrel/Vaudeville era. Of these, two items especially stand out.

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The first, a Thomas Allen/William Macauley ragtime tune entitled “M-M-Mazie” from 1904, is fairly well known, but this one has a seemingly rare cover. Most digitized versions, including one held by Duke, features a red cover with a photograph of pianist Joseph A. Callahan. The version found in the Baden collection features a blue cover with a photograph of the African American Vaudeville duo Brandow and Wiley. Brandow and Wiley were quite prominent in their day, one of the few black song-and-dance acts to star in the mainly white Keith-Orpheum circuit of theaters. Russell Brandow was an acrobatic dancer and a specialist in what was known as comedic “grotesque dance.” Stella Wiley was a singer and dancer who was previously married to the notable composer, producer and musician Bob Cole, credited with creating the first all-black musical production, “A Trip to Coontown” (1898), and a creative who worked to break down the minstrel-era racial stereotypes in theater. The history of African American vaudeville, minstrel shows and other performing arts in the early 20th century is still an emerging research field, so it is exciting to find a picture of this pair of performers.

As a side note, March was Disability Awareness Month, and “M-M-Mazie” regularly appears in scholarly work on the exploitation of speech impediments and other disabilities in popular cultural productions like songs and story narratives. The chorus goes “M’m M’m M’m Mazie My d’d d’d daisy You I adore; and everyday that passes by I love you m-m more and more.”

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The second piece of sheet music poses a bit more of a mystery. It’s an 1899 piece entitled “Coontown Promenade” or alternatively, “Coontown or Loyola Minstrels Promenade,” a cake-walk and two-step composition. The composer, Johann Schmid, was quite prolific composer of popular music, with nearly 300 known compositions ranging from minstrel tunes to rags and schottisches, but very little is known of him as a person. “Coontown Promenade” does not seem to appear in any library holdings, digital sheet music collections or in the WorldCat database. It also does not appear in online databases of known compositions by Schmid, although it does appear in the register of U.S. copyright applications. The Loyola University Music Club did perform minstrels in the early 1900s but it is unclear whether this was among them.  A very exciting find in a very unexpected place.

Post contributed by Rick Collier, Technical Services Archivist, John W. Hartman Center

Meet the Staff: Laura Wagner, Radio Haiti Project Archivist

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 Laura Wagner is the Project Archivist for the Radio Haiti Archives. She joined the Rubenstein in 2015. She has a PhD in anthropology from UNC. Her dissertation is about the 2010 earthquake and its long aftermath: how did people’s everyday lives and social worlds change (or not change) in the wake of the disaster and displacement? How do people get by in an aid economy? How did Haitian people and non-Haitian interveners make sense of the humanitarian response and its failures?  She also wrote a YA novel, Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go , which deals with some of the same issues. Her interests include Haiti, literary fiction and nonfiction, humanitarianism, human rights, and social justice. She has been a frequent contributor to the Devil’s Tale since joining the RL. 

How do you describe what you do to people you meet at a party?  To fellow librarians and library staff?

At parties I say “I work on the archives of Haiti’s first independent radio station.”  Then that confuses them and they think I’m doing research in the archives, and I have to clarify that I’m processing the materials.  Then they generally want to know why these materials live at Duke.  And if I’m at a party in Haiti, people then want to talk to about their own memories of Radio Haiti and of Jean Dominique, and they ask me if the station will ever reopen. To librarians and library staff, I say I’m a project archivist who never trained as an archivist.

What led you to working in libraries?

This project.  I had never worked in a library before.  I began working on this project as an external contractor for the Forum for Scholars and Publics, which was collaborating with the Library to create a public-facing pilot website with a small sample of the Radio Haiti recordings.  When the opportunity to apply for the Project Archivist job came along, I applied.  I had already decided that if it was possible, I wanted to work on this project full time.  Temperamentally and experientially, I am probably a bit of an outlier among the library set.

Tell us about your relationship to Radio Haiti. How has it evolved since taking on this position?

Jean Dominique, Michèle Montas, and other members of the Radio Haiti team had numbered among my heroes since I first started learning about Haiti and learning Haitian Creole, back in 2004.  I never could have imagined that one day I would have the opportunity to work on preserving the work of Radio Haiti.  The first time I met Michèle, in April 2014, I was embarrassingly giddy. It is a huge honor to work on this project.

I’m learning a lot about late twentieth century Haiti, in a very granular way.  I already knew the major events and trends, the main themes, but always analytically and in hindsight.  It’s a very different experience to learn about events through real-time, day-to-day reporting, done by people who did not yet know the outcome of the story.  It’s fascinating, but also often sad and frustrating because you see the same things happening over and over and over again, until today.  The same injustices, the same impunity, though sometimes it “repaints its face”, to use a phrase that Jean Dominique uses.

 How does your work at the Rubenstein influence your approach to research and writing?

I was a researcher and writer before I started working on this project, so I have to keep myself in check; I cannot follow my instincts and desires by letting myself act as a researcher and writer when my job, for the moment, is to be processing the archive.  That said,  I hope to someday write something substantial about this archive.  I can also say that my experience as a researcher and writer influences my approach to processing this archive.  I want it all to be clear and transparent; I want to provide context and thematic guidance for future researchers and listeners.  Working on the Radio Haiti archive has been a huge learning experience for me, and I want to impart as much of that knowledge as possible to others down the line, by incorporating that knowledge into the structure and description of the archive.

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What does an average day at RL look like for you? 

Because this is a single project with a clear goal and endpoint, and with defined stages, my typical workday varies depending on what we’re working on.  These days I am mostly working through Radio Haiti’s paper archive.  So I get to work, answer some email, and start organizing the papers, removing the faded invisible Thermofax pages, sorting them by subject and year.  I have two excellent undergraduate assistants this semester, both Haitian, who are starting to listen to and describe some of the recordings.  I am very eager to finish processing the papers so I can focus on the audio full-time.  I also spend part of the day thinking about broader questions of access — how we’re going to make this collection as available and accessible as possible to people in Haiti, given the social and infrastructural realities there.  I am very eager to begin working on the recordings full-time, of course.

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Laura working alongside her student assistant Tanya Thomas.

What do you like best about your job? What excites you most?

What excites me the most is that I am helping keep this important work alive, making it accessible to people in Haiti and beyond. And I just really like the experience of listening to the recordings.  Sometimes it’s hard for me to listen as an archivist, rather than as a researcher and writer.  So it’s fun when I get to write a blog entry about the project, and synthesize and put together different parts of the archive, translate some excerpts, and provide context to people who may not already know the story of Radio Haiti.  As I said, it’s a great honor to work on this collection, to be entrusted with this collection.  As Michèle says, part of Jean’s soul is here.

What might people find surprising about your job?

I think it depends on the person. For people who aren’t used to processing archival collections (id est most people), I think they’d be surprised at how much physical restoration, intellectual labor and time this job takes.  A lot of people want the Radio Haiti collection to be available as soon as possible.  (I’m one of them!) And many people don’t understand why we can’t do it instantly.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

I have two answers to that, which are sort of incommensurate with one another.  In a day-to-day sense, it can be tedious, and I sometimes feel isolated in this work.  Radio Haiti itself was a team effort — it was a social, collaborative, interactive entity, an act of ongoing solidarity, both in terms of the journalists and their audience… and the audience was nearly all of Haiti.  So engaging with that work in my cubicle in a converted tobacco warehouse in Durham, North Carolina, can feel lonely.  At the same time, I feel connected to the people who appear in the tapes, across time and space, even across life and death.  Which brings me to the second challenging aspect of this job, which is actually the same as my favorite thing about the job: the weight of history, the weight of memory.  This collection is a huge part of Haitian national heritage. And so much of it is sad, frustrating and infuriating — there is so much injustice, suffering, and absurdity in this archive.  Sometimes it’s emotionally difficult to listen to these things — though Jean Dominique’s incisive intellect and humor make it easier.  It sounds strange, but I laugh all the time.

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Laura surveys her boxes

Do you have a favorite piece or collection at The Rubenstein? Why?

Well, the Radio Haiti collection is obviously my favorite collection, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned.  I’m not intimately familiar with the other collections, but the National Coalition for Haitian Rights archive has some fascinating material in it that often complements the Radio Haiti collection.  And I like all the History of Medicine collections, especially Benjamin Rush papers, which are poignant, and the creepy suede baby + placenta.

Where can you be found when you’re not working?

Cooking dinner with friends, baking cakes, drinking a beer, vaguely working on novel #2, vaguely revising my dissertation, singing in the car, asking my cats why they are thundering hither and yon at 2 am.  I like making silly little greeting cards for friends; I’ve been thinking about taking an actual art class or something.  I’d like to know how to access all the other seasons of the Great British Baking Show.  And I’ve started running as of late, at which I am truly mediocre.  It’s liberating to do something you know you have no hope of being good at.

What book is on your nightstand/in your carryall right now?

There’s a stack!  I’ve been slowly savoring the Complete Stories of Clarice Lispector for a few weeks, but it’s a bit heavy to carry around.

Interview conducted and edited by Katrina Martin.

An Investigation into Rubenstein LOLcats

I was delighted to find that one of our newest collections, the Terence Mitchell Collection of Tobacco Advertising, includes a run of Real Photographs, a series for the De Reszke cigarettes produced by J. Millhoff & Co. in England. These tiny cards feature animals posed in funny ways, doing adorable things, with cute captions. They are basically the tobacco card version of today’s Internet cat memes.

kitties1 kitties212719587_10104455346032688_1393435410260392224_oThese tobacco cards gave me an excuse to look into the history of cat photography, particularly pictures of funny cats with captions. It turns out that posing cats in outfits is not a new trend, despite the persistent popularity of Internet memes like LOLcats and I Can Haz Cheezburger. Matthew Hussey’s 2012 article on A History of LOLcats explains that early photographers quickly discovered the marketability of cats, and began selling cat postcards and cartes de visite as early as 1870. Harry Pointer, the first known photographer of cats posed in silly ways, marketed his photos as The Brighton Cats – so named for his Brighton, England, photography studio. A later photographer who was even more commercially successful was American Harry Whittier Frees (1879-1953), whose postcards and children’s books featured animals, especially cats, doing funny things. Frees was so talented in posing and photographing his animals that some questioned their authenticity. In his preface to The Little Folks of Animal Land (1915), he explained his techniques, saying, “The difficulties encountered in posing kittens and puppies for pictures of this kind have been overcome only by the exercise of great patience and invariable kindness.” After their photoshoot, Frees writes, “my little models … enjoy nothing better than a frolic about the studio.” The Library of Congress now holds a collection of Frees’ photographs. You can view them here.

I think that the tobacco card industry jumped on the funny animal pose trend, which explains why the run featured here is the fourth of five runs of Real Photographs produced by J. Millhoff & Co. between 1931 and 1935. The fourth run that I found in the Mitchell Collection dates to 1932. (It could be that the other runs are also present! We are continuing to process these tobacco cards – there are several thousand of them.) It makes sense that tobacco companies would have realized the marketability of cute animals. They were also smart enough to recognize the popularity of baseball players and pretty actresses. (Check out the newly digitized W. Duke and Sons collection of tobacco cards.)

Looking at all of Harry Whittier Frees’ photographs online led to me wonder what sort of cute cat pictures we hold in Rubenstein. You’ll be pleased to know we have several in our vast Postcard Collection. Here are some of my favorites, all from the early 20th century.

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Caption reads: Why So Cross Dear? Photograph by E.D. Putnam & Son, Anich, N.H.
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Photomechanical print. No known photographer.
Salt print postcard. No known photographer.
Salt print postcard. No known photographer.
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Caption: Little Miss White. Copyright by C.E. Bullard. Published by M.T. Sheahan, Boston, Mass.

This last one is by Charles E. Bullard, another early twentieth century photographer who wisely copyrighted his cat pictures, and then worked with publishers to distribute them widely. This 1915 profile of Bullard in The American Magazine is truly hilarious and details his methods for capturing the perfect LOLcat. Here’s an excerpt:

“It is no easy job to photograph a cat. He is very unreasonable as to staying where he is put, and the only system is to use infinite patience. I have worked half a day trying to photograph a cat in a particular pose, and then had to give up in despair.”

I am on the lookout for other photographs of historical LOLcats, especially those held in Rubenstein collections. If you find some, let me know!

Post contributed by Meghan Lyon, Section Head Manuscript Processing.

Pick the President, 1912 Edition

Happy Presidents’ Day! As weird as our current election season has turned out to be, it has a way to go before it compares to the drama and excitement of the 1912 presidential election. That’s the election where William Howard Taft (Republican incumbent), Woodrow Wilson (Democratic challenger), Theodore Roosevelt (former Republican president who lost the Republican nomination and decided to run as the nominee of the Progressive Party, also known as the Bull Moose Party), and Eugene V. Debs (the perpetual nominee of the Socialist Party) battled it out in a four-way race for the White House. Imagine if there had been televised debates back then.

I recently found this postcard in the Slade Family Papers that capitalized (sorry, Debs) on the enthusiasm surrounding the race. Written to friends in North Carolina just before the election, the anonymous author asks “How are politics in that part of the country? Have you any good reads yet?”

IMG_20160212_145240039Flip the card over and it is so cool! It’s a “magic moving picture card” that lets you slide the tab between all four candidates to “pick the winner.” I’ve only seen this sort of thing in children’s books, like Gallop.  (This isn’t quite Scanimation, but it is similar to that technology.)

You can see a video of us playing with the postcard below. Who will it be?

The sender adds the words “Hurray for Wilson!” on the side of the window. Turns out, they were right — Wilson did win the contest and served as president from 1913 until 1921.

Psst, the deadline for registering to vote in our upcoming primaries in North Carolina is Friday, February 19. Register here.

Meat Box, or, The Price of Butter Holds No Terror for Users of Swift’s Oleomargarine

This very special edition of the Rubenstein test kitchen is intended to build bridges between Duke and UNC, between a Digital Collections Program Manager and a Serials Access Librarian. Though both librarians, they live completely different professional lives. Until now…

Given the digital nature of Molly’s work, we decided to choose a recipe from those that had been digitized as part of the Emergence of Advertising in America digital collection. After looking at a handful of recipes we realized that Molly didn’t want to cook with beef tongue, Kurt didn’t want to bake, and neither of us wanted to deal with jello. So we settled on this “pretty and palatable” gem of a recipe from the The Kitchen Encyclopedia, by Swift & Company: “Spanish Minced Beef in a Meat Box.”

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We were excited about taking on the challenge of constructing a meat box to contain yet more meat that the title conjured in our minds, although we had no idea at all how it might work. It wasn’t until later, when we were about to start cooking, that we paused to ask the following: What exactly is Spanish about a recipe in which the only spices are salt and pepper? Why does the title refer to minced beef in a meat box when there is no minced beef listed as an ingredient in the filling? This last question particularly filled us with anxiety – did we miss something? Should we have assumed that since the recipe title refers to minced beef in a meat box, that we should put minced beef in the meat box, even if it’s not called for? (About the matter of a “meat box.” As our guests pointed out, can something with only four sides properly be labeled a box?)

Cooking can be so stressful!

Before we proceed, however, a question posed by the text: “Have you tried Swift’s Oleomargarine?” If you have not, permit the book to let you know, “It is worth trying” (p. 26).  In case that’s not enticement enough, consider that “The price of butter holds no terror for users of Swift’s Oleomargarine” (p. 27).

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Theses quotes are Molly’s favorites of the short, persuasive selling points on the benefits of oleomargarine that appear on every page of the book (and which had to be pointed out to Kurt, who overlooked entirely the margarine-filled pearls of wisdom in his single-minded focus on the meat box). Has it been mentioned that Swift & Company were leading the fight against the tyranny of high-priced butter circa 1911 with their “oleomargarine” and that this cookbook touts that revolution? Indeed, anyone interested in oleomargarine (or House-Cleaning Hints and Helps (p. 9), or The Practical Value and Use of Fireless Cookers (p. 17) … To the Wage-earning Woman (p. 21)) should consider this book a must-read. But we digress.

The recipe calls for the filling to be cooked in an “oatmeal kettle,” and we did not then nor do we now have any idea what that means. Without consulting any resources (bad librarians!), we decided it must be a double boiler, which we don’t own. This leads us to the night’s first derivation from the recipe, as we decided to saute the filling in a saute pan. This filling consists of sweet peppers (red bell peppers, in our case), tomatoes (canned, in our case, rather than whole tomatoes “cut in halves and the seeds squeezed out”) and onions cooked in (you guessed it) oleomargarine, which we substituted with regular margarine (do you know how hard it is to even find margarine at the grocery store these days?).

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Regarding the preparation of the filling, refer to these excerpts from our kitchen conversation: “peppers into strips – insanity!” “1 onion to 4 peppers – madness!” This from Kurt, a former student in the esteemed Johnson County Community College Hospitality & Culinary program.

With the filling sauteeing-rather-than-sweating away, we turned our attention to the “meat box.”  The only instruction given by the recipe is to “form into a box whose sides are about an inch thick.” This (relative lack of) instruction generated some pretty fundamental (and philosophical) questions: should the box have a bottom and a top? If it doesn’t have a bottom and a top, is it still a box (see above: guests)? How tall should it be? WHAT IS IT FOR ANYWAY?!?”

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Sidebar: When did cookbooks stop presuming any basic knowledge of cooking – as seems to be the case in the books we looked in for recipes – and become the step-by-step manuals they are today?   

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In the end we created a kind of meat enclosure, with no meat top and no meat bottom. We basted the box with melted margarine, as per the recipe, before and during cooking. Once it was cooked in a “quick oven” (we used our regular old, modern-day electric oven, which is pretty quick), we put the filling into the enclosure and served it to some fellow librarians who were employed as testers.

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Sidebar: Unlike the ongoing mystery of an oatmeal kettle, Kurt believes a quick oven to be one that’s pretty hot, i.e., 425 degrees. This “knowledge” comes from a search in the midst of constructing this post, and might have been more helpful in determining proper oven temperature in the moment (we went a slower 350 degrees), but then, that might have been cheating.

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The verdict? Everyone agreed it tasted like bland hamburger. Not bad, but not really flavorful in any way, either. Certainly not flavorful in any way, shape or form associated with “Spanish” cooking. If we ever do this again, we decided we would add sausage, not use margarine, and add some actual seasonings, maybe some paprika, a little garlic, and some rosemary. We wonder what might have been had we not missed the advice on the page opposite that “For … mince meat … the neck is best.” We might also try using potatoes for the bottom of a true box. We are still really unsure whether this dish should have a top, and why this involves forming a box in the first place. Some questions will just have to remain a mystery.

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Post contributed by Kurt Blythe, Serials Access Librarian, UNC, and Molly Bragg, Duke Digital Collections Program Manager

For the woman who would reduce: Prune soufflé

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Browsing our digitized collections for Test Kitchen fodder on the recent snow day, I stumbled upon an item from the Emergence of Advertising in America project, How Phyllis Grew Thin, created by the Lydia E. Pinkham Medicine Company and published circa the 1920s. On the advertisement’s cover, Phyllis shields her rosy complexion with a parasol as she gazes off the page, inviting the reader to discover the secret to achieving the willowy frame holding up her stylish sweater and pleated skirt.  We open the booklet and find stories of how women can shed undesired pounds through a reduced diet and relieve menstrual cramps, cycle irregularities, and menopausal symptoms through the use of Lydia E. Pinkham’s products.

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The epistolary advertisement is addressed to Nancy, a pudgy cartoon foil to Phyllis’s elegant watercolor. Phyllis promises to share with Dear Nancy the keys to losing weight through a proper diet. We learn that Phyllis has not always been so effortlessly thin. Inspired by Douglas Fairbanks’ and President Taft’s weight loss, Phyllis determines to do the same. As soon as she announced her intention to lose weight, “the derision and ridicule of my family strengthened me in my determination.” (page 2) In addition to the nourishing fire that comes from wanting to prove someone wrong, her reduced-calorie diet consisted of “plain meat without butter or gravies,” corn, prunes, and the occasional crustless pie. (page 2)   This kind of confessional tone continues to be a mainstay in contemporary weight loss advertising. The letter from Phyllis to Nancy serves as a precursor to current weight loss advertising’s penchant for before-and-after photos, Instagram hashtag culture (check out #transformationtuesday and #fitspo), and celebrity-endorsed diets.  (After a few Google searches for weight loss advertisements, my Facebook feed populated with sponsored content promising me a smaller pant size in mere days.)

Though her crash diet kept the weight off for a few years, Phyllis eventually gained the weight back and got serious about counting calories as a way to reduce again. She shares with Nancy that “it is not necessary for you to know just what a calorie is so long as you remember not to eat foods containing too many of them.” (page 3) The suggested calorie intake is considerably lower than most contemporary diet plans recommended by nutritionists, advising that Nancy (and “the army of women who are interested in reducing”) consume 1000-1200 calories a day. Phyllis then advises Nancy to take Lydia E. Pinkham’s Liver Pills and Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, claiming that they help alleviate constipation and excessive nervousness, respectively. Lydia E. Pinkham established the Lydia E. Pinkham Medicine Company in 1873. Its signature product, Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, was a tincture of  “black cohosh, life root, unicorn root, pleurisy root, fenugreek seed, and a substantial amount of alcohol” formulated to ease menstrual cramps and menopausal symptoms (1). Pinkham’s products still line shelves today, each box featuring Lydia Pinkham’s face, promising relief.

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Dry toast, baked beans, and fish balls, oh my!

At the top of each page, the booklet provides a daily meal plan with calorie counts for each item. The offerings are spare. One suggested breakfast consists of “4 saltines, 1 tbsp. cream cheese, 2 prunes, tea and lemon (without sugar).” (page 18) An idea for one dinner is little more than bun-less hot dogs and a small bowl of ice cream.

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Does getting to eat ice cream and macaroons make you forget you ate frankfurts and cold slaw for dinner?

Faced with these choices, I considered upping the Test Kitchen ante by following one of the suggested meal plans for a few days. Upon reflection, I thought better and opted to spare my friends and colleagues the monster that I am when not eating enough at regular intervals. Even reading meal plans for day after day of fruit (or saltines!) for breakfast followed by a mayonnaise-laden lunch had me throwing my Phyllis-esque determination out the window. The booklet contained few actual recipes. Oddly, most of them were for desserts: frosting, Brown Betty, orange sherbet, and pudding. The dessert that caught my eye, though, was prune soufflé. Why? Frankly, it sounded so unappetizing that I felt compelled to give it a shot. Maybe I’d been missing its hidden appeal. And, having never tried to make a soufflé, it seemed a fun technical challenge.

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The recipe given by the advertisement is deceptively simple. It’s less a recipe and more a list of ingredients. Perhaps this suggests that Pinkham’s target customer already had a thorough knowledge of soufflé-making and would simply need the inspiration to try a new take on the dessert. Since I have no such skills, I turned to the internet as a supplement, sourcing tips from a 1998 issue of Gourmet.

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The most appetizing shot of the night — and it’s of prunes!

When beginning a cooking project, I recommend ensuring you have all the right tools at your disposal before cracking your eggs. Alas, I did not follow my own advice! I began my soufflé only to find that my  house apparently lacks a hand mixer. Already committed to the recipe, I decided to channel my foremothers and hand-whip the eggs into stiff peaks. If cooks beat eggs into submission for years by hand, then surely I could as well! All those hours spent practicing surya namaskara should be good for something, right?

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My foam never quite peaked–a souffle’s death knell.

Unfortunately, I underestimated the time and effort needed to beat the eggs into fluffy mountains. I achieved the early stage, a frothy foam, but never progressed to the stiff peaks a soufflé needs to bloom. Still, it was late and I had cracked five eggs to try to make this work, so I soldiered on. Per Gourmet’s  instructions, I had soaked the chopped prunes in hot earl grey tea and lemon zest, hoping to brighten the flavors. After pureeing and cooling them, I slowly folded the foam into the mixture. Uneven in color, bubbly, and flat, I knew things had taken a turn for the worse. Still, I slid the muffin tin into the oven anyway, hoping that even if the souffle didn’t rise, I’d end up with a sweet baked egg fluff?

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In they went anyway!

Sixteen minutes later, I pulled them out of the oven to find a sad, deflated pan of brown blobs. I tasted one, and suddenly understood how easy it would be to “reduce” while following this diet. I tossed the remnants and dosed myself with a small handful of chocolate chips, the rest of which will hopefully go into a more successful baking project.

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I have made a terrible mistake.

Post contributed by Katrina Martin, Technical Services Assistant. 

 

Sometimes it takes a village, especially the first time.

I catalog manuscript and other archival materials, the majority of which are unpublished and not described. They also cover a wide variety in type of material. Among the more exotic finds I have cataloged: a salesmen’s kit with patterns for men’s suits, musical instruments used by a jazz percussionist, feminist t-shirts, John Brown commemorative medals, and envelopes of 19-century bath and other powders.

Last Spring we acquired the Lisa Unger Baskin collection, which features five centuries of women’s history. Among the items is a work of needlepoint, a flower study, completed by Charlotte Brontë around 1840. I had never cataloged a work of needlepoint.

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When faced with an unfamiliar format, a cataloger begins by looking for similar materials cataloged by colleagues nationally, searching in WorldCat. I found only a few pieces of embroidery, usually samplers, and those did not include extensive description of the item. I was determined to provide more detail than a basic record.

Fortunately, our donor had included with the Brontë needlepoint a photocopy from a book on Brontë artwork. The page focused on a flower study Charlotte had completed in watercolors while she was still in school. It offered a description of the piece which provided the level of detail I was seeking, so I based my own approach on it. However, to move forward with this approach I needed to confirm what flowers were depicted in Charlotte’s needlepoint study.

There was no argument that the top flower is a white lily. I felt the bottom left flower was a peony, while others said it was a rose. I had no clue what the bottom right flower might be. Who to consult? I approached a colleague who hails from England, and she offered to forward my photograph of the needlepoint to her father, who is a master gardener. After consulting his references, he agreed that the bottom left flower is a peony, and determined that the unknown flower on the bottom right is probably a carnation.

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I also had to consult with Beth Doyle, head of our Conservation Services Department, regarding whether Charlotte’s needlepoint should be removed from its frame. While answering this question (no) Beth let me know the thread Charlotte used was probably wool. Beth’s mother is a master needleworker who may be able to determine what type of stitch Charlotte used.

Using all of this information, I wrote a description that provided the level of detail I was seeking, to give someone a basic mental image of the piece they would then find in our collection. However, even after I finished my initial work, one more consultation was required. My colleague, Lauren Reno, checked my catalogue record in RDA, the new cataloging standard I am applying to manuscript materials. She made several helpful enhancements.

I am very grateful for the “village” of people I can call upon in support of my work.

You can find the catalog record for the needlework here.

Post contributed by Alice Poffinberger, Archivist/Original Cataloger in the Technical Services Dept.

Screamfest III: The Cutening

Date: Thursday, October 29, 2015
Time: 2:00-4:00 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room
Contact: Amy McDonald, amy.mcdonald@duke.edu

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!

Meet the Staff: Megan Ó Connell

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Megan Ó Connell is the Rubenstein’s Reproduction Services Manager.  Megan has been a part of the Duke library system since 2006, when she served as a University Archives intern. She joined the library full-time in 2009.

Tell us about your academic background and interests.

I have always been interested in the cultural record left by humans. I studied Anthropology, with a focus on American archaeology, and I worked in Southeastern and Gulf Coast archaeology for many years. After studying what can be learned from the unintentional record left by artifacts, I wanted to interact with the intentional/communicative record, as it was left in the past and continuing into the “futurepast,” that is, the present. Rare books and archives satisfied that wish.

What are the main projects you work on at the Rubenstein?

I manage the patron reproduction requests, including those made by both onsite and remote researchers, ensuring that the most appropriate technology is used based on the specific items and desired output; liaise with onsite and offsite services; and deliver requests as efficiently as possible while maintaining high quality and providing RL’s acclaimed customer service. Exponentially increasing numbers of library users want digital versions of our materials, and these researchers often cannot do the reproductions themselves, so I help ensure that they get what they need for their research, whether they live in Durham or Durban.

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What does an average day look like for you?
On most days I log new reproduction requests; route materials to be used in requests; examine materials for reproduce-ability; discuss options and approaches with technical specialists, RL staff, and my student assistant; and communicate with staff and patrons about technical considerations and goals. I may do some reading on specific media types, technologies, or techniques; troubleshoot imaging equipment maintenance issues; train staff on processes; or communicate with vendors. I assist researchers about 12 hours a week on the Reading Room desk, and also work on general reference questions, many of which  lead to reproduction requests.

What do you like best about your job?

I love seeing (and hearing) the panoply of treasures we hold at the Rubenstein — pamphlets, photographs, beautiful bound volumes, maps, vintage sound and film recordings, broadsides, artists’ books, zines, ads, papyri… and I enjoy learning about how researchers are using this richness to ask intriguing questions and shed light on cultural phenomena. People might be surprised to know that our library is so busy that we produce around 20,000 digital reproductions per year for patron requests! I enjoy helping our diverse researchers, from students to professors to authors to genealogists, and working with people all over the globe, learning about their lives – and often connecting with them on a personal level. It is gratifying to be able to be a part of so many efforts to illuminate aspects of human existence.

Do you have a favorite piece or collection at The Rubenstein? Why?

I love the H. Lee Waters films because while Waters intended to create a record, unlike most documentaries, the intended audience was the subjects themselves. The films’ subjects were caught in their everyday activities, yet they were very aware of the camera’s presence, and many behaved as if they were amusing their friends, rather than consciously creating a historical record. It’s just fun to watch the subjects ham it up, although the quick cuts can be a bit dizzying after a while.

Where can you be found when you’re not working? 

I enjoy nature walks, photography, reading, hiking, canoeing, gardening, fishing, and playing music.

What book is on your nightstand/in your carryall right now?

The John McPhee Reader.

Interview composed and photographs taken by Katrina Martin.