Dear readers, take note: it’s now the end of Week Five of the move, and we’re pretty sure we’re all going to have massive and amazing biceps come Winter Break.
This is because our manuscript collections are taking up residence in our new compact shelving. This kind of shelving moves on rails, so the shelves can slide together (in a safe and controlled way) or be cranked apart to access the shelves’ contents. Here’s a video of Kat Stefko, our Head of Technical Services, demonstrating how they work.
So we’ll be cranking these shelves, filled with boxes of manuscripts, open and closed several times each day, to retrieve materials for patrons, to find materials to answer reference questions, to reshelve things, to pull materials for class visits . . . .
We hereby promise that we will not challenge any visiting researchers to arm wrestle. Unless they want to.
Onto other things! We have—and we really can’t believe this—ONE WEEK until we reopen. Over the course of the week, several things have been checked off the reopening “to do” list, and many more are on their way to being completed.
Our talented exhibits staff worked on the installation of one of our opening exhibits, “Languages of Anatomy: From Vesalius to the Digital Age,” which will be on display in the Chappell Family Gallery and features materials from our History of Medicine Collections.
Books were returned to the refurbished bookcases in the beloved Biddle Rare Book Room.
And we finished moving our flat files (an enormous amount of work) and started moving historical medical instruments from the History of Medicine Collections, as well as our early manuscripts.
In the photo above, the long box at the right holds HOM’s late 16th or 17th century amputating saw. Here’s what it looks like out of the box, in case you’re curious:
What else did we do? We practiced our teamwork by forming a bucket brigade to shelve manuscript collections.
We discovered, to our dismay, that we are not the most interesting people in the Rubenstein.
And we found new challenges to test our librarian skills. This one is called “can we get all of the foam book rests to the new reading room in one trip?” (We did.)
Look at these empty stacks in our temporary 3rd floor space! August 24th, here we come!
Week 5 feels like it’s been a big one. The stacks are filling up with manuscript boxes and books and feel less cavernous and more cozy. By the numbers it’s been a big week too. On Tuesday we hit an important milestone: 10,000 manuscript boxes landed in their new homes in the stacks. It’s been a good week for our books too. We’ve moved, Library of Congress-ified, and shelved nearly all 4,000 of our folios and all 20,000 duodecimos; octavos and quartos are next on our list. Some new formats started moving this week as well: 100 drawers worth of oversize flat files moved and about half or our papyrus collection made the journey too.
We also want to invite everyone to our open house on September 10th! You’ll have a chance to tour the new spaces and exhibits, meet and mingle with library staff, and learnhow the Rubenstein Library can support your research. Check out the details here.
My current book project, Southern Sapphisms: Sexuality and Sociality in Literary Productions 1969-1997, considers how queer and feminist theories illuminate and complicate the intersections between canonical and obscure, queer and normative, and regional and national narratives in southern literary representations produced during a crucial but understudied period in the historical politicization of sexuality. The advent of New Southern Studies has focused almost exclusively on midcentury texts from the Southern Renascence, largely neglecting post-1970 queer literatures. At the same time, most scholarship in women’s and feminist studies continue to ignore the South, or worse, demonize the South as backward, parochial, and deeply homophobic. Southern Sapphisms argues that we cannot understand expressions of lesbianism and feminism in post-Stonewall era American literature without also understanding the explicitly southern dynamics of those writings—foregrounding the centrality of sexuality to the study of southern literature as well as the region’s defining role in the historiography of lesbian literature in the United States.
Vital archival work completed at the Sallie Bingham Center this past May strengthened my arguments about the formations of lesbian identity and community in the North Carolina lesbian-feminist journal Feminary (1969-1982). Feminary has been lauded by one scholar as “the source and backbone of contemporary Southern lesbian feminist theory,” due in part to the forum it provided for southern lesbians to voice their inimitable outlooks on race, regionality, and social justice[i]. At a local level, Feminary forged and grounded a community of Durham/Triangle feminists, lesbians, and women writing and printing as a collective. At a national level, I show how the women of this journal were actually inspired by the increasingly turbulent battles over civil rights in the South. This revelation upends prevailing notions that the Stonewall riots in New York were the watershed that changed lesbian and gay politics and culture in the nation. My work on Feminary recasts dominant national narratives about queer lives, histories, and activism in the region by illustrating how lesbian feminist politics gained their inspiration and momentum not only from Stonewall, but also from the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and massive resistance against civil rights and gay and lesbian rights in the South. Access to rare archival documents—only available at Duke University’s Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library—prove that Second Wave feminism and modern lesbian politics have extensive southern roots. To ignore the distinctly regional dynamics of those roots is to misunderstand the complexity of those movements across the nation and beyond.
Today marks the end of week 4 of the move, which included us passing the move’s halfway point!
The Rubenstein staff and the team of movers we’ve contracted have been sorting print materials into LC order as they move to their new, permanent homes. From the tiniest 12vos to behemoth folios, thousands of books are now on the new shelves.
One of the highlights of the move is getting to see such a large swath of our collections at once. From books that carry history in their margins to those with covers that are just plain pretty, it’s stunning to see the range and depth of our print collection passed in front of us day in and day out.
Here are some highlights from team #movenstein this week:
Manuscripts from all of our collecting areas are making their way onto the shelves, too. The Aleph Dream Team has been busy sorting boxes and flipping call numbers as the boxes move.
The stacks aren’t the only place that saw some updates this week. The Gothic Reading Room is now outfitted with its tables and chairs. We can’t wait for August 24th when this place is full of researchers enjoying the new space.
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 popular Netflix series Orange is the New Black, based on the memoir of the same name by Piper Kerman, has brought renewed attention to the conditions inside U.S. women’s prisons. While prison reform has not been contemporarily understood as a priority of the LGBTQ and feminist communities, the special collections at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, illustrate the degree to which prison reform and anti-prison activism have, since the 19th century, operated as a cornerstone of both LGBTQ and feminist movements.
In the 19th century, charity efforts led by white middle-class feminists led to the creation of prison reform organizations such as the Women’s Prison Association (WPA) and the Gilbert Library and Prisoners’ Aid Society. These organizations advocated for separate women’s reformatories, the decriminalization of prostitution, rehabilitation programs for former inmates, and the creation and expansion of prison libraries.
These early reform efforts are reflected in the ledger and scrapbook of Linda Gilbert, the founder and president of the Gilbert Library and Prisoners’ Aid Society. The ledger details Gilbert’s fundraising efforts on behalf of the organization and the expenses it incurred from roughly 1868 to 1894, as it helped to establish libraries in institutions such as the New York House of Detention, Ludlow St. Jail, and Sing Sing Female Prison. A pamphlet included in the Linda Gilbert scrapbook speaks to the particular significance of prison libraries and literature to reformers of this period, who saw increasing literacy among prisoners and increasing access to reading material as central to their moral improvement.
The incarceration collections held in the Rubenstein Library, however, reflect the importance of circulating periodicals to prison reform efforts more generally, and the changing role of reading and writing in prison reform movements over time. In the 1960’s and 70’s, prison libraries and education programs helped to instigate an expanding prisoners’ rights movement both within and beyond prison walls. These efforts are reflected in several women’s prison newsletters and pamphlets that were published by lesbian feminist organizations in the late 20th century, including “No More Cages” and “Through the Looking Glass,” which are held in the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Periodicals Collection and the Women’s and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Movements (LGBTQ) Periodicals Collection, respectively.
These newsletters were the collaborative projects of lesbian feminist and anti-prison activists in the late twentieth century in the context of neo-liberal economic policies, intensifying restrictions on access to welfare, and a corresponding rise in incarceration rates. The newsletters that grew out of these coalitions often aimed their critiques at increasing restrictions on access to welfare that, while initiated by the Nixon administration, were part of a larger conservative backlash against the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 that continued through the 1990’s, making women of color, in particular, vulnerable to mass incarceration.
“Break ‘de Chains of U.S. Legalized Slavery,” a joint publication between the Triangle Area Lesbian Feminists’ Prison Book Project and inmates at the North Carolina Correctional institute for women, documents a prison rebellion at the North Carolina Correctional Institute for Women in 1975 that began as a work stoppage in the prison laundry. The pamphlet not only critiques healthcare and labor conditions in the prison, but contests media accounts of the rebellion itself. Additionally, the Rubenstein Library also holds a publication from Action for Forgotten Women, a feminist organization that was also active in the Triangle in the 1970’s.
Gay and lesbian publications such as Feminary, Lesbian Tide, RFD, and Gay Community News, which frequently reported on conditions inside prisons and incidents of police brutality, gave advice to gay and lesbian readers about how to protect themselves from law enforcement, and published letters from prisoners that also circulated widely both inside and outside of prisons during this period. These publications helped to galvanize support for prisoners, and encouraged readers to understand the policing and criminalization of gender and sexual non-normativity as intersecting with the policing and criminalization of people of color, immigrants, and the poor.
More recently, zines distributed by prison books programs, anti-prison zine distros, and collectively owned bookstores and activist centers have done similar work, attempting to fill a gap left by increasingly restrictive policies and funding for prison libraries and education.
Many of the most widely circulating zines are included in the Incarceration Zine Collection, part of the Human Rights Archive, which was acquired from the Chicago Anarchist Black Cross Zine Distro. The collection spans the years from 1995 to 2007, and includes 103 zines distributed inside and outside of jails and prisons, with writing by notable inmates and anti-prison activists, including Mumia Abu-Jamal, Sundiata Acoli, Ashanti Alston Omowali, David Gilbert and his son, Chesa Boudin, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, Dennis Kyne, Anthony Rayson, Bobby Sands, Sean Swain, and Harold H. Thompson. Zines related specifically to the concerns of women and LGBTQ people, including The Invisibility of Women Prisoners’ Resistance, Reaching through the Bars, Tenacious: Art and Writings from Women in Prison, and Queers Bash Back can be found in the Bingham Center Women’s Zine Collection.
These resources offer researchers insight into the dialogue amongst prison reformers and anti-prison activists both inside and outside of prison, and into the particular role of reading and writing in the expansion of prison reform and prisoners’ rights movements.
Submitted by – Jennifer Ansley, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow, Thompson Writing Program, email@example.com
In June 1997, President Bill Clinton announced the creation of “One America in the 21st Century: The President’s Initiative on Race,” a 15-month initiative that was established to encourage community dialogue on race relations in the United States. Through the development of guidelines to promote national dialogue, the Board hoped to bridge racial divides and calm tensions, increase understanding about racial issues, and develop concrete solutions to racial challenges.
John Hope Franklin was appointed Chairman of the seven member advisory board whose members included: William F. Winter (former Democratic Governor of Mississippi), Linda Chavez-Thompson (Executive Vice-President, AFL-CIO), Robert Thomas (President and CEO of Nissan Motor Corporation, USA), Angela E. Oh (attorney), Susan D. Johnson Cook (Senior Pastor, Bronx Christian Fellowship), and Thomas H. Kean (former Republican Governor of New Jersey).
The President’s Advisory Board on Race faced intense public scrutiny and was widely criticized by civil rights activists, who felt that the Board did not have a tangible end goal, and could not adequately represent the interests of the entire population on race matters. Critics also felt that dialogue was not sufficient for addressing serious race related problems in the United States.
In spite of the negative press the initiative endured, Franklin felt the work of the board was a much needed step in having a national conversation on race.