Category Archives: New Finding Aids

Tiny letters for Gertie from her fellas; a lock of Gertie's hair returned after a break-up; crumpled up love-note; Gertie's doodles of a former suitor's name

New Collection: Meet the Wilsons

It is a rare treat for me to have a chance to process some 19th century family letters. The family papers of Col. David S. Wilson, from Dubuque, Iowa, arrived in March 2014, thanks to a generous donation from the Kirby, Pfohl, and Quigley Family. The collection was discovered in an attic. It reached the Rubenstein Library as it was discovered, with rusty pins and covered in black dust. Considering its age and environment, the letters themselves were in terrific condition — just filthy. A lot of my time was spent cleaning the paper with special sponges that attract grime.

The original state of the Col. David S. Wilson Family Papers; an up-close view of a rusty pin (used before the invention of the safety pin).
The original state of the Col. David S. Wilson Family Papers, before they were cleaned and sorted; an up-close view of a rusty pin (used before the invention of the paper clip).

I was pleasantly surprised by the contents of the letters. Col. David S. Wilson is moderately famous in Iowa history for his service in the state legislature in the 1850s and early 1860s, and for raising the 6th Iowa Cavalry in 1862. His regiment fought the Sioux in the Dakota Territory. Wilson later worked as a lawyer in both San Francisco and Washington, D.C., and eventually was appointed district judge back in Dubuque.

The collection does not focus on Wilson’s military career, but instead consists largely of letters between David and his family, particularly his wife, Henrietta, and their four children. The letters cover personal topics such as in-laws, health, and finances, and reveal the hardships the family faced as David was frequently separated from his loved ones. They seemed to genuinely miss each other, and it was nice to see such warmth conveyed in their letters.

Also notable in the collection were the courtship letters received by the couple’s daughter Gertrude (also known as “Gertie”) in the mid-1870s. Gertie had at least six different suitors in 1872 and 1873, and their letters to her dominate the correspondence from that period. Emotions turned raw as she rejected a few declarations of love. Gertie finally married George Brock, from Chicago, in March 1874.

Tiny letters for Gertie from her fellas; a lock of Gertie's hair returned after a break-up; crumpled up love-note; Gertie's doodles of a former suitor's name
Tiny courtship letters for Gertie from her fellas; a lock of Gertie’s hair returned after a break-up; a crumpled up love-note; Gertie’s doodles of a former suitor’s name.

The collection includes more than just correspondence; there are also some legal documents, land grants, and a diary from David S. Wilson’s 1860 term in the General Assembly. One of the land grants includes a signature from President Franklin Pierce. The children’s activities, particularly their schooling, are documented through report cards and flyers. I also came across this handmade score book, which was largely empty, but I was excited to see what sport it was for: baseball. Along with all his other activities, it turns out that David Wilson was also a pitcher.

David Wilson's score book from his baseball games.
David Wilson’s score book from his baseball games.

The Col. David S. Wilson Family Papers are now fully processed and available for researchers. You can explore it for yourself using the collection guide.

Post contributed by Meghan Lyon, Technical Services Archivist.

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Heschel Highlights, Part 7

“Alas! My teacher Rabbi Professor Abraham Joshua Heschel is no more…He left this troubled world immensely enriched by his brief presence and sojourn thereon. Demanding of none but himself, Rabbi Heschel’s life was a model for others to follow.”

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The Weekly Original Gospel, 1973

The Abraham Joshua Heschel papers abound with examples of Heschel’s commitment to interfaith work as well as commemorations written after Heschel’s death, and the commemoration quoted above highlights both of these aspects.  Jacob Teshima, the author of the commemoration above, was a student of Heschel’s at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). He was also the son of Ikuro Teshima, founder of the Japanese Makuya (tabernacle) movement, or the Original Gospel Movement. The Makuya movement is made up of Japanese Christians who are dedicated to a return to the faith of Hebraic Christianity. This commemoration appeared in a publication of the movement, The Weekly Original Gospel. As part of his commitment to Israel and its people, Ikuro Teshima encouraged Makuya members to learn Hebrew and visit Israel. Ikuro Teshima met with many Jewish leaders in his lifetime including Martin Buber and Zvi Yehuda Kook and spread their teachings to Makuya members.

After helping his father lead the Makuya movement for a few years, Jacob Teshima traveled to New York to work towards his Doctorate of Hebrew Letters (DHL) at JTS. He studied Hasidism under Heschel at JTS and his thesis was entitled “Zen Buddhism and Hasidism: A Comparative Study.” Jacob Teshima’s commemoration reveals his deep respect for Heschel as a teacher and as a religious leader: “Ah, my Rabbi, my dear friend, Abraham Heschel, God’s spokesman in the 20th century of this Earth.”

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Heschel addresses the Makuya Pilgrims

 When Jacob Teshima was learning from Heschel at JTS, Ikuro Teshima and Heschel began corresponding. According to the letters we have in the Abraham Joshua Heschel papers, Ikuro Teshima hoped to bring Heschel to Japan. On April 23, 1971, Teshima wrote that his son Jacob was “thoroughly enjoying” Heschel’s class and invited Heschel to give lectures in Tokyo and Osaka. He offered to book the round trip air-ticket and was eagerly awaiting his arrival. “Shalom from Japan!” another letter from July 22, 1971 began excitedly. The letter continued, “Our prayer is that, after your visit to Japan, you will remember Japan as your third home, perhaps dearer than America.” Besides extending these invitations to Heschel, Ikuro Teshima also translated God in Search of Man into Japanese and published his translation.

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Heschel in his study

In his commemoration, Jacob Teshima included a vignette about a meeting with Heschel on December 22, 1972. Jacob quoted Heschel’s words that afternoon: “Jacob, when I regain my strength, but who knows when that will be; maybe February if I’m lucky; anyhow in May, I hope to visit Japan. I hope you’ll accompany me, Jacob. I’d like to meet your father and see the Makuya people who are so aflame with God’s love.” Unfortunately, Heschel passed away the next day and never fulfilled his wish to visit Japan. But thanks to the Makuya movement’s translation of his books and their dedication to his teachings, Heschel’s presence is alive and well in Japan.

Post contributed by Adrienne Krone, Heschel Processing Assistant

 

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Bruno Foa’s Trip to Jerusalem

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Portrait of Foa from the Bruno Foa Papers.

Bruno Foa (1905-1999) was an Italian-born, Jewish economist, lawyer, consultant, and professor. Educated in Italy as an economist and lawyer, Foa became Italy’s youngest full professor of economics at age 28. In 1937, he married Lisa Haimann, a refugee from Munich, and they moved to London in 1938. While in London, Foa worked for the British Broadcasting Company, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, and guest lectured at the London School of Economics. In 1940, Foa moved his family to the United States. He began work at Princeton University on a Rockefeller Foundation Grant and later moved to Washington D.C., where he worked for the Rockefeller Foundation, the Office of Inter-American Affairs, the Bureau of Latin American Affairs and the Federal Reserve Board.

We have recently re-processed the Bruno Foa Papers in order to enhance their description and access for researchers as part of the Economists Papers Project here at the Rubenstein Library. The papers include interesting details about his many trips abroad to Italy, Somalia, Spain, and the newly-established country of Israel. It is an added bonus when a collection we acquired for its relevance to the history of economics ends up including materials on other topics too–like mid-twentieth-century travel writings.

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Souvenir postcard collected by Foa during his trip to Jerusalem.

During his life, Foa was invited several times to guest lecture at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His first trip was in 1946, just two years before Israel was declared a state. From his writings, Jerusalem seemed to be a city split between the struggles of the time and the echoes of the past. Foa writes, “Jerusalem is indeed an armed camp, and looks like a besieged place. Barbed wire–miles of it– is spread around all public buildings and throughout the city. Tanks and armored cars scout the streets day and night: one of them its Bren guns ready to fire, is permanently stationed at the center of Jaffa Road.” His letter then describes the resiliency of a people who have come to accept as normal daily bomb and landmine explosions, and the strain and tension developing between the Jewish and Arab populations.

But Foa also talks about the natural beauty of the city. From atop Mount Scopus, the view of the city seems to transcend the struggles going on below. “It is a stern view, since Jerusalem is built on stones (beautiful yellow stones) and is surrounded by rocky hills–yet it is a glorious view, when bathed by the warm Palestinian sunshine or the glory of the moon. There, on Mount Scopus, Titus and his legions stood, and from there laid siege to the city. There is the Valley of Final Judgement–as stern as death itself. On the other side, one can see the Jordan, the Dead Sea, the desert of Judaea and the mountains of Noab. Beauty, history and tragedy fill the air. It is a most unforgettable sight.” Bruno Foa’s writings allow us to take a step into the past and see Jerusalem as it stood nearly 70 years ago.

Post contributed by Vicki Eastman, a graduate student at Duke’s Center for the History of Political Economy.

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Heschel Highlights, Part 5

The Wow! Factor

Welcome to the fifth post in a series documenting the processing of the Abraham Joshua Heschel Papers.

It’s no secret I have an affinity for oversize materials (see here).  And while the Abraham Joshua Heschel Collection only contains a modest number of oversize materials, those that are in the collection are proving to be quite extraordinary. Here are just a few of my favorites:

MaimonidesDust jacket from first edition of Maimonides eine Biographie, 1935.

Completed in only 7 months, the book was Heschel’s first major work. He was 28 years old.

InstitutePoster, Opening of the Term at the Institute for Jewish Learning, London, 1940.

In 1939 Heschel received official confirmation from Julian Morgenstern, president of Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, OH, of a position of a research fellow in Bible and Jewish Philosophy. Heschel left Warsaw for London, England to obtain an American visa for emigration to the United States. While in London, he founded the Institute for Jewish Learning to “introduce all ages and classes of Jew to the history and tradition of their forbears.”

Antwort“Antwort an Einstein” in Aufbau, 1940

Heschel’s article “Answer to Einstein” in the newspaper Aufbau (Reconstruction) which was a rebuttal to Albert Einstein’s paper “Science and Religion.” As a recent immigrant, this was an audacious and surprising move for Heschel.

Post contributed by Mary Samouelian, Heschel Processing Archivist in Rubenstein Technical Services.

Andrew Young in Mississippi, 1963

“No car, no money, no food…just me.”

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.

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Andrew Young during Mississippi’s Freedom Summer, 1963. From the Joseph Sinsheimer Papers.

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.”

Listen here: Sam Block interviewed by Joseph Sinsheimer

BlockTape_Sinsheimer

Post contributed by Craig Breaden, Audiovisual Archivist in the Technical Services Dept.

John S. McGee baptizing believers in Nigeria

A Family with a Mission: The McGee Family Papers

We just wrapped up processing an exciting new addition to the McGee Family Papers. John S. and Doris McGee were Baptist missionaries to Nigeria in 1945, where they served until their retirement in 1977. Their two sons, John David and Sidney, joined them in Africa for their formative years before finishing their education in America. During the McGee family’s time in Nigeria, they served at the Baptist College of Iwo and the Baptist Mission in Igede-Ekiti and Ikogosi, and they helped found the sixth Baptist high school in Nigeria–the Ekiti Baptist High School in Igede. They were made “Chief Gbaiyegun of Igede” by the Onigede and Chiefs of Igede-Ekiti, the paramount chief by the Ewi of Ado, and “Chief Akorewolu of Ikogosi” by Loja and Chiefs of Ikogosi-Ekiti.

McGees and chiefs, Gbaiyegun event, 1957
McGees and Nigerian chiefs, Gbaiyegun event, 1957

Some of the items in the new accession include correspondence (as well as reel-to-reel “audio letters”) between the family members while they were separated  during their various Nigerian tours; Doris’ many prayer diaries; and seven beautiful 16×20 color prints documenting life in various Nigerian missionary camps.

John S. McGee baptizing believers in Nigeria
John S. McGee baptizing believers in Nigeria

The collection offers fascinating insight into the lives and histories of a family on a Baptist Mission to Nigeria in the mid-twentieth century.

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A Journey’s End

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.

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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.

Wense Grabarek addressing the congregation at St. Joseph's AME Church, May 1963.

Wense Grabarek in the First Person

The 50th anniversary of a key moment in the desegregation of Durham, North Carolina came and went largely without fanfare last month.  It was in May 1963 that, amid growing racial discord in the city, Mayor Wense Grabarek prevailed upon business and community leaders, black and white alike, to cooperate in desegregating the city. The mayor was in an unusual position: having held office for less than a day when a series of sit-ins around Durham resulted in 130 arrests, Grabarek’s first task upon being sworn in was to stop a riot at the jail. Achieving this by letting supporters deliver sandwiches and cigarettes to the jailed protesters, he then turned his attention to the NAACP and CORE, who promised mass demonstrations in the wake of the arrests. Jean Anderson, in Durham County: A History of Durham County, North Carolina, tells the story this way:

He went in person, a slight, dapper man, always with a red carnation in his lapel, to a meeting of protesters, one thousand strong, held at Saint Joseph’s A.M.E. Church.  Habitually soft-spoken and immensely polite, he asked permission to enter and address them.  Then, pointing out that by their demonstrations they had informed the community of their deeply felt grievances, he spoke about the danger of racial tension and division and promised to take positive steps to respond to their complaints.  Finally, he asked for their support and understanding.  Impressed by his coming, his tone, his words, they accepted his sincerity and promised to halt demonstrations and give the mayor time to act on his promises.

Mayor Grabarek formed the Durham Interim Committee to reconcile the community’s opposing groups, in so doing acknowledging the damage of segregation and the real possibility that Jim Crow could prevent Durham from realizing its potential, particularly given the economic promise of the newly formed Research Triangle Park. The efforts of Grabarek and of the leaders appointed to the Committee allowed Durham a degree of progress that eluded many other southern cities.

Wense Grabarek addressing the congregation at St. Joseph's AME Church, May 1963.
Wense Grabarek addressing the congregation at St. Joseph’s AME Church, May 1963.

A modest man and a successful accountant who continues to work full time six days a week, Wense Grabarek is now 93 years old and eager to add his perspective to the history of Durham, the adopted hometown that called him mayor from 1963 to 1971. To this end he has donated to the Rubenstein Library a number of recorded interviews he has given since the early 2000s, as part of a larger collection of papers that he is gathering for donation later this summer. You can check out the finding aid for the interviews here.

Wense Grabarek in conversation with Tim Tyson, Sept. 2011
Wense Grabarek in conversation with Tim Tyson, Sept. 2011

The recordings include an interview with Steven Channing for his documentary Durham: A Self Portrait, an 8-hour conversation with author and scholar Tim Tyson detailing his work as mayor, and, presented here, with the permission of WTVD, an interview with Angela Hampton on the events of May 1963:

An oral history has been scheduled with Mr. Grabarek in July, and this time the interviewer will be the Rubenstein Library. We hope to learn more about the mayor’s life before and after the 1960s, including his experiences as a soldier in World War II and the philanthropic work he and his wife have done over the years in education.

Post contributed by Craig Breaden, Audiovisual Materials Archivist in the Technical Services Dept.

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Flags are flying for the 2000th online finding aid!

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Any day now, the ticker at the top of the Rubenstein’s finding aids page will turn over and mark a milestone 2000th online finding aid. Doesn’t sound like much, especially when you consider that the Rubenstein Library holds more than 6,000 manuscript collections. But those 2,000 finding aids – narrative maps that guide a researcher through the contents of a manuscript collection’s boxes and folders – also represent thousands of hours of interpretive labor supplied by library staff. The first of these online collection guides debuted around 1996. They are encoded with an XML-derivative called EAD, and are now discoverable to a worldwide audience through any online keyword search. But finding aids – or inventories – or collection guides – go back a lot further than their online counterparts.

The winner of the 2,000th finding aid spot belongs to the Purviance Family Papers. Acquired as either a purchase or a gift by the Duke University Manuscripts Department in 1943 from an S. S. Barnes in Baltimore, the collection offers over 2300 manuscripts and 10 photographs, 4 maps, and 21 volumes (including an anonymous Civil War diary) belonging to a prominent Revolutionary-era Baltimore family with a compelling history. Shortly after it was received, a Manuscript Department archivist researched the collection and typed up a set of catalog cards: the Purviance Papers “finding aid.”

Defined most broadly, archivists consider a finding aid to be any document that assists in charting a path through the contents and topics of an archival collection – a big help when you’re dealing with a very large collection! In the 1940s at Duke, this was the role of the card catalog. Of course, you could only consult the cards if you traveled to the library, or if you could ask a reference archivist to help. Some collections were represented by three or four cards; some had close to a hundred. In 2012 – to the shock of older librarians who never thought they’d see the day – the entire card catalog was digitized and is currently being used as a resource for the reference archivists. Here is a sample of the 92 Purviance cards:  purviance cardsCollections were typically a lot smaller back then.  As collections grew larger, a new generation of archivists started using more productive strategies for describing thousands of folders of manuscript items, and as part of this effort, they turned to creating more-portable paper inventories (but still on typewriters). Here’s an example of one, with a post-it note that marks a turning point in library history:   PicMonkey Collage

Enter the computer and Microsoft Word. When I started working in the library in 1992, the staff was thinking big about the power of computing. Gopher and Mosaic and were on the horizon. More prosaically, electronic-format finding aids could be corrected and added to, and printed out anytime (no more liquid white-out) or viewed online – goodbye, paper (well, sort of). The description for the Purviance Family Papers were still described on cards in the card catalog and in a paper box list until a few months ago. As part of a project to make all of our longer legacy descriptions available online, a library intern, Bob Malme, encoded the Purviance Family Papers collection guide – the Rubenstein Library’s 2,000th finding aid. And it is especially fitting that this inventory was the work of one of our interns: an integral part of our library practically since our founding, they have provided a huge amount of support for our collections and their finding aids – in every format.

As a member of the Technical Services Department, whose job it is to crank out all these finding aids, I was – and still am, I guess – an EAD Warrior. That moniker comes from a Duke Special Collections Library group whose early work on standards for Duke online finding aids would shape our goal for total online access for all of our finding aids – cards and paper. How many finding aids will that eventually be? Oh, another 4,000 at least. We’re working on it already!

Post contributed by Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, Senior Processing Archivist.

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The Accidental Archivist

Issues involved with the handling and preservation of ephemera—campaign buttons, stickers, scrapbooks, photo albums, brochures and pamphlets and such—have been an ongoing concern among curators and archivists, as many of our procedures and best practices concern materials commonly recognized as “important artifacts” such as art, works of prominent photographers, rare manuscripts and books. Many modern manuscript collections pose an additional challenge when they include files of clippings, the two-sided nature of which inadvertently creates an “accidental archive” of items of potential research interest. Many of the Hartman Center’s advertising collections suffer from this wealth of excess. Magazine and newspaper pages containing ads for one product frequently have an equally (if not more) useful ad on the reverse, or a provocative news article. In the example here, taken from the Doris Bryn Papers, the reverse side of a department store ad contains an article “Are Women Persons? Educators Disagree” that appeared in the Oct. 15, 1950 edition of the Sunday Herald.

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The backside of a 1950 advertisement for a department store wonders, “Are Women Persons?”

As indicative of the kinds of debates taking place during the postwar re-integration of women into domestic life and the slow march toward women’s rights and gender equality, the article poses potential research utility; at the least, great fodder for an undergraduate paper. The big challenge is: how to remember where to find these little gems the second time around?

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