“The Bathers”: Exhibit Opening and Reception

Date: Thursday, 12 November 2009
Time: 5:30 PM
Location: Rare Book Room
Contact Information: Karen Glynn, 919-660-5968 or karen.glynn(at)duke.edu

Budapest, Hungary, 2006
Budapest, Hungary, 2006

Photographer Jennette Williams, winner of the 2008 Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography, will speak about her recent work, which centers on women in the ancient communal bathhouses of Budapest and Istanbul. A selection of these photographs have been gathered for “The Bathers: Photographs by Jennette Williams,” currently on view in the Special Collections Gallery through 13 December, 2009. Her book, The Bathers, will be published this month by Duke University Press in association with the Center for Documentary Studies.

These stunning platinum prints of women bathers—which draw on gestures and poses found in iconic paintings of nude women, such as those of Cézanne and Ingres—take us inside spaces intimate and public, austere and sensuous. Over a period of eight years, Williams photographed, without sentimentality or objectification, women daring enough to stand naked before her camera. Young and old, these women inhabit and display their bodies with comfort and ease.

Williams is a photography instructor at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She has a master’s degree from Yale University and has been awarded a Guggenheim fellowship and grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Copies of The Bathers will be available for purchase and signing at the event. The quad in front of Duke Chapel has been reserved for parking. Additional parking is available in the parking deck behind the Bryan Center (view campus map).

Franklin Research Center Acquires John Wesley Blassingame Papers

The John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture is pleased to announce its recent acquisition of the papers of John Wesley Blassingame, the nationally-renowned scholar of American history and author of such influential works as The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South and Frederick Douglass: The Clarion Voice.

Blassingame’s path-breaking scholarship has had a profound impact on the American understanding of slavery and the African American experience. The collection includes correspondence, personal manuscripts and research files from Blassingame’s long academic career, and is particularly rich in materials drawn from his work on the Frederick Douglass Papers.

For more information on using this collection, contact the Franklin Research Center staff at franklin-collection(at)duke.edu.

Rights! Camera! Action!: No Umbrella and Please Vote for Me

Date: Tuesday, 3 November, 2009
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: Rare Book Room
Contact Information: Patrick Stawski, 919-660-5823 or patrick.stawski(at)duke.edu, or Kirston Johnson, 919-681-7963 or kirston.johnson(at)duke.edu

Celebrate Election Day at the second installment of Rights! Camera! Action! This monthly film series, which is sponsored by the Archive for Human Rights, the Archive of Documentary Arts, the Duke Human Rights Center, and the Franklin Humanities Institute, features documentaries on human rights themes that were award winners at the annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. The films are archived at the RBMSCL, where they form part of a rich and expanding collection of human rights materials.

No Umbrella (26 minutes) shows Fannie Lewis in action on November 2, 2004 as she struggles to manage a polling station in a predominantly African American precinct in Cleveland, Ohio. Facing record numbers at the polls, Ms. Lewis spends her day on a cell phone begging for the machines and the technical support Ward 7 needs to handle the throngs of frustrated voters. This documentary won the Jury Award for Best Short at the 2006 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Please Vote for Me (58 minutes) is a portrait of a society and a town in through a school, its children and its families. In Wuhan, China, a 3rd grade class at Evergreen Primary School has their first encounter with democracy by holding an election to select a Class Monitor. Eight-year-olds compete against each other for the coveted position, abetted and egged on by teachers and doting parents.

Kerry L. Haynie of Duke’s Department of Political Science and Ralph Litzinger of Duke’s Department of Cultural Anthropology will lead discussion following the films.

Congratulations to the 2009 Middlesworth Award Winners

The RBMSCL welcomed the start of Parents’ Weekend with a Friday afternoon reception honoring the winners of the 2009 Chester P. Middlesworth Awards. Given annually, the awards recognize the authors of the best undergraduate and graduate student papers based on research in the collections of the RBMSCL. Funding for the awards is provided by Chester P. Middlesworth (A.B., 1949) of Statesville, NC.

2009 Middlesworth Award winners Samuel Lee Iglesias and Martin Park Hunter
Undergraduate student winner Catherine L. Daniel delved into the papers of well-known Durhamites, including those of James and Benjamin Duke (collection guides here and here), for her study, “Black Hospitals as an Avenue for Social Change: A Narrative of the Life of a Segregated Institution in the New South: Lincoln Hospital, Durham, North Carolina.”

Undergraduate student winner Samuel Lee Iglesias studied the papers of Vanderbilt economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (collection guide here) for his paper, “The Miscommunications and Misunderstandings of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen.”

Graduate student winner Martin Park Hunter drew from a number of primary sources, including the United Methodist Church Records (collection guide here), for his paper, “The Names Have Not Changed: The Story of Caswell County Methodism.”

Just a reminder to all you Duke students busily scribbling away on term papers: you could be the next Middlesworth Award winner! Details about submitting your paper can be found here.

An Artist Responds to Hurricane Katrina

The artistic response to societal tragedy is always a difficult balance: how can art contribute to understanding and interpreting, without aestheticizing suffering? In the past decade, films, novels, and other creative approaches to events such as the Holocaust, 9/11, and the conflict in Darfur have provoked controversy and debate about art’s place in the discussion of international politics and personal suffering.

Shortly after the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s 2005 landing on the Gulf Coast, the RBMSCL acquired a unique artist’s book, Katrina by Beth Thielen, made in 2007. An opening supported by waves of paper reveals tiny human figures trapped in a whirlpool, begging for help. The text asks, “How do we make a just society when there is an underlying contempt for helplessness?”


In correspondence with this post’s author, the artist explained: “I made the work because the moment was such a clear and rare reveal of the darker undercurrents of our country…. During Katrina we all watched the images of people with outstretched arms pleading towards the sky. Is there any image more archetypal of helplessness? It is a crying baby’s pose. Reproachful disdain to helplessness… is as primitive as a school yard bully calling someone a crybaby after taking their candy.” She continues, “To feel with is to feel for. A civilized response.”

Thielen’s work joins another artist’s book in the RBMSCL’s collections, Habitat by Jessica Peterson, which explores Katrina’s destruction of Biloxi, Mississippi. Both works add to our collections of Southern Americana and artists’ books by women. Nearly 300 more works of fiction, films, essays, and scholarly works on Hurricane Katrina can also be found in the Duke Libraries’ online catalog (see these catalog records here).

Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections

Witnessing Iran: 1979 and 2009

Date: Wednesday, 4 November, 2009
Time: 4:30 PM
Location: Perkins Library 217
Contact Information: Ilene Nelson, 919-660-5816 or ilene.nelson(at)duke.edu

On the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the Iran Hostage Crisis, the RBMSCL will host a discussion of the changing role of the eyewitness account in the creation of historical narrative—with Iran as the context.

Mark Bowden, author of Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam, will talk about the interviews he conducted with hostages and hostage-takers in the 1979 crisis, as well as the information he obtained from military officials about 1980’s failed rescue attempt.

Negar Mottahedeh, associate professor in Duke’s Program in Literature, will speak about social networks and new media in the reporting of current events in Iran. Professor Mottahedeh posts frequently on Twitter about developments in Iran (follow her here).

The discussion will be moderated by Bruce Kuniholm, dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy and a member of both the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Policy Planning Staff during the Carter administration.

Library staff have prepared a LibGuide in conjunction with this event. Of particular interest, the RBMSCL holds the interviews Mark Bowden conducted (collection guide here), as well as the interviews that author and Duke alum Tim Wells conducted with 36 of the the 1979 hostages (collection guide here).

Now Accepting Travel Grant Applications

The RBMSCL is now accepting applications for our 2010-2011 travel grants. The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, and the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History will award up to $1,000 per recipient to fund travel and other expenses related to visiting the RBMSCL to use their collections. The grants are open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and independent scholars living outside a 50-mile radius from Durham, NC.

More details—and the grant application—may be found here. Applications must be postmarked no later than January 29, 2010. Recipients will be announced in March 2010.

What Does It Mean to Be an Educated Woman?

Date: Friday-Saturday, 30-31 October, 2009
Time and Location: please see schedule
Contact Information: cwhc(at)duke.edu

What does it mean to be an educated woman? Find out at the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture’s 4th Biennial Symposium, held in honor of the 40-year career of Bingham Center co-founder and Duke University professor Jean Fox O’Barr.

Three conversational sessions focused on scholarship, pedagogy, and activism will explore this central question. Speakers will include Dr. O’Barr’s colleagues and former students, as well as librarians whose work relates to women’s education.

Friday evening’s keynote address (4:00 PM; White Lecture Hall, Duke University East Campus) will be given by Dr. Lisa Yun Lee, the Director of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago and the creator of the Jean Fox O’Barr Professorship at Duke University. Dr. Lee will explore the parallels between her studies as a feminist scholar at Duke and her work as the museum’s director.

As with the Bingham Center’s previous symposia, the theme emanates from a collection strength. The center’s holdings—described in this research guide—include printed materials and manuscripts including the papers of professional educators, schoolgirl diaries, and records of women’s schools and women’s educational organizations.

Information on registration, travel, and the symposium schedule can all be found online.

Post contributed by Rachel Ingold, Bingham Center Intern and Conservation Technician

Jazz Conversations with John Brown and Vincent Gardner

Date: Thursday, 22 October, 2009
Time: 12:00 PM
Location: Rare Book Room
Contact Information: Jeremy Smith, 919-660-5839 or jas5(at)notes.duke.edu

Join us as the Jazz Archive hosts this fall’s second installment of John Brown’s “Jazz Conversations.” Brown, Associate Professor of the Practice of Music and Director of the Duke Jazz Program, will discuss jazz history and contemporary developments in jazz with Vincent Gardner of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Guests are invited to bring their own lunches—but dessert and drinks are on us!

Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University