This summer, the University Archives offered a new program for undergraduate students called Duke History Revisited. The idea was to give students a chance to dig into the University’s history and tell the stories of people and events that were not widely known.
On September 19th, the program’s eight students will come together to recap their research projects. During this event, each student will briefly introduce his or her topic, highlight their research discoveries, and offer their own insight into Duke’s history. The presentations will be followed by refreshments and an opportunity to talk with the students in more detail.
The DHR students spent 6 weeks working with faculty members Jolie Olcott and Joshua Sosin; graduate student Will Goldsmith; and archivists Amy McDonald and Valerie Gillispie. The group met twice a week to discuss progress and share research. This special program was made possible by a grant from Humanities Writ Large and the Office of the Dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences.
We also welcomed a number of special guests to the program to talk about the act of doing research or reflecting on the past. Our guests included William Turner (T ’71, M.Div ’74, PhD ’84), Charles Becton (Law ‘69), Brenda Becton (WC ‘70, Law ‘74), Bob Ashley (T ’70), Steve Schewel (T ’73, PhD ’82), and Robert Korstad (Duke faculty). We were also joined by experts from the library, including Tracy Jackson and Matthew Farrell (University Archives), John Gartrell (John Hope Franklin Center for African and African American History), Laura Micham and Kelly Wooten (Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture), Hannah Rozear (Librarian for Instruction), and Michael Daul (Digital Collections).
The students pursued a wide range of topics, using archival materials from the University Archives, materials from other repositories, oral histories and interviews, and other sources. Each created a final project that they felt best expressed the content. The titles and links to the projects are below:
Oral histories are often fantastic, and fascinating, resources: first-hand accounts of lives and events, communities and histories, told with immediacy and giving a direct connection to the narrator, and thus to the story. They are rich and compelling, and are powerful tools in documenting those who are under-represented by the types of documentation traditionally found in archives. For these reasons, we were very excited to work on two recent oral history collections related to the local LGBTQI community: the Duke Alumni LGBTQ Oral Histories and the Rainbow Triangle Oral History Collection (RTOHC).
Both collections offer first-hand accounts of the LGBTQI experience at Duke and in the Triangle area. The Duke Alumni oral histories include individual Duke community members relating experiences from the 1970s through early 2000s, while the RTOHC materials come from individuals throughout the Triangle region and relate stories from the 1960s to the 2000s. As one can imagine, the stories in both document a large variety of experiences. Since some oral history subjects overlap in terms of years and environs covered, it is possible to compare multiple accounts of isolated, annual events like Blue Jeans Day; national crises like the AIDS epidemic; and ongoing struggles such as anti-LGBTQI persecution and community-building.
Similar to archival collections made up of paper and photographic-based materials, oral history collections pose significant challenges stemming from volume and format, as well as rights and content sensitivities. Close to 80 interviews are represented across these two collections. Interviews in the Alumni LGBTQ collections were conducted in 2015 and 2016 straight to digital recorders in formats supported by modern computing environments. Interviews conducted by the Rainbow Triangle Oral History project were conducted over a span of years in the 1990s and early 2000s on a variety of physical media and will require digital reformatting for use and preservation. Additionally, oral histories may have been recorded without the narrators giving explicit permission as to who can access the recordings, or under what circumstances, or what researchers can do with the information in the recording. Many projects and interviewers prepare forms for just this purpose, but not every form makes it into the archive with the recording. Finally, describing the contents, and the narrators, in ways that are sensitive to the narrator’s wishes, and concisely but accurately convey the topics covered in the recordings, can be complicated. Oral histories are often intensely personal and revelatory, and a wide range of subjects, persons, places, and events can be covered in a short period of time. We were lucky in that the alumni included either transcripts or interview summaries to aid in their description, and many of the RTOHC interviews included transcripts and/or biographical information.
Although these collections presented some complexities during processing, we were proud to work on preserving and providing access to these materials. Both collections are now available for use in the reading room.
Post contributed by Matthew Farrell, Digital Records Archivist, and Tracy Jackson, Technical Services Archivist for the Duke University Archives.
In the University Archives, we have seen a few time capsules in our day. More often than not, they end up being a bit of a letdown. Newspaper has crumbled, cloth has mildewed, and time has taken its toll on these relics of the past. This year, however, we were fortunate enough to be the recipients of a time capsule that, while modest from the outside, has preserved its remarkable contents in mint condition.
The time capsule was laid in the cornerstone of the Washington Duke Hotel in 1924. The hotel was the first to be built in Durham, and was the product of a fundraising campaign by many leaders of industry and other interested parties, including Duke University administrators. The hotel was a glamorous destination for many years, but by the 1970s the gleam had faded. In 1975, the hotel was imploded. The site today is a plaza, best known for its bull statue.
Someone thoughtful apparently removed the time capsule, and many years later delivered it to the new Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club, adjacent to Duke’s West Campus. The staff of the Washington Duke Inn kindly took care of this time capsule until this year, when it was gifted to the University Archives, and we have an opportunity for the first time to highlight this fascinating collection in a new exhibit, on display outside the Biddle Rare Book Room.
The time capsule itself appears to be made from recycled printing plates, and was soldered by hand. Inside were examples of the products produced in Durham in 1924: cigarettes, tobacco bags, cotton cloth, hosiery, and socks. Also included were a photo of John Buchanan, the Chairman of the Executive Committee tasked with raising funds for the venture, and a photo Washington Duke, the hotel’s namesake. A key, possibly added to the time capsule many years later, is a reminder that this was a hotel from another era—no key cards here! A prospectus for the dazzling new hotel promises, “that Durham will have a real civic, social, and commercial center, for around the new Hotel will radiate every big function that transpires in our city.”
The exhibit will be on display outside the Biddle Rare Book Room until mid-June and is available during the general library’s open hours.
Post contributed by Val Gillispie, Duke University Archivist.
Sometimes you set out to write a pleasant blog post about a turn-of-the-last-century Trinity College student’s short stories and end up correcting a moment of Duke University history you didn’t even realize needed correcting.
Lifelong Durham resident Lizzie F. Burch was a member of Trinity College’s Class of 1900. The Rubenstein Library has a collection of papers from Burch’s school days, so I took a look through them, hoping to learn more about life at Trinity College a few years after its relocation to Durham. Burch died in 1945, and it’s lovely to know that she took such good care of the essays she wrote and the notes she took in her Trinity College classes for over forty years.
Browsing through the papers and short stories written for her English classes, I came across an essay from her 1898 sophomore English class titled “The Anne Roney Plot.” This plot was a small garden at the end of Trinity College’s entrance drive, just in front of the Washington Duke Building (the college’s main building, which burned down in 1911; it sat roughly where East Duke Building is now).
The plot contained a tiered fountain, given to Trinity College by Anne Roney, aunt to Mary, Benjamin, and James Buchanan Duke. If you’ve visited the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in the past few years, you may have seen the fountain at the center of the Gardens’ Mary Duke Biddle Rose Garden; it was moved from East Campus in 2011.
Here’s Lizzie Burch’s essay on the plot and its fountain.
Funny thing is, the University Archives is on record as stating that the fountain was donated and placed in front of the Washington Duke Building in 1901.
There’s a good reason we made our initial claim. Back then, Trinity College included information about major gifts given to the college in the annual academic bulletins. The bulletin released in Spring 1901 includes the first mention of Anne Roney’s gift to the campus:
But this doesn’t quite jibe with our friend Lizzie’s essay, so we turned to the Office of University Development’s records, which contain accounts—in several very detailed and very heavy ledgers—of long-ago gifts to the college.
The ledgers directed us to the May 1897 issue of the Trinity Archive (yep, the ancestor of the current Archive), where we found the following paragraph in an article titled “Growth of the College during the Year”:
So, 1897 it is. We very humbly stand corrected. Sometimes our sources are unclear, incomplete, or just plain wrong, and we are always glad to be able to revise and clarify, even if it means admitting our own mistakes!
For the past few months, I have been processing the records of the Associated Students of Duke University, Duke’s student government organization from 1967 to 1993. One of the most interesting aspects of working on this collection has been the opportunity to learn about student life in the 1970s and 1980s. In the past year, the Duke community has grappled with questions of diversity and inclusion on campus, issues that were also explored by past Duke students.
In March 1967, the Men’s Student Government Association and Woman’s Student Government Association were replaced by the Associated Students of Duke University, which represented the entire student body. ASDU was led by an elected President, an appointed Executive Committee, and a Legislature composed of representatives from campus living groups. ASDU had a number of responsibilities, including managing student organizations and creating initiatives designed to improve student life at Duke. They also sent representatives to important university committees such as the Academic Council and the Residence Life Council. ASDU also formed a number of internal committees and task forces to study aspects of student life at Duke including housing, dining, and academic issues.
In the fall of 1981, ASDU created the Task Force on Black-White Relations to study the racial climate among undergraduate students at Duke. ASDU was concerned that while desegregation had removed many of the visible signs of racism, inequality still existed on campus. The Task Force on Black-White Relations was led by Trinity student Shep Moyle, who would be elected President of ASDU in 1982 (and is now President of the Duke Alumni Association’s Board of Directors). The Task Force consisted of seven students, including Mark Jones, the president of the Black Students Association.
The committee held a series of public forums in the fall of 1981, which gave students the opportunity to voice their opinions. After the forums, Moyle wrote, “there was an ignorance, an apathy, even a hatred between the races on campus. This is a situation we must rectify. Whites misunderstand the black community’s actions and the blacks misunderstand the white’s [sic] reactions in return. A vicious circle that merely separates the groups even further.” The forums solidified the committee’s impression that actions must be taken to improve race relations on campus.
The Task Force developed a set of recommendations they believed would improve the campus climate. The official committee report of the Task Force on Black-White relations was published in February 1982. The findings of the task force mirrored many diversity concerns that continue to be raised today including enrollment numbers, a lack of faculty of color, and unequal treatment by campus authorities.
In the report, the Task Force wrote that the number of African-American students at Duke was unacceptably low. Their analysis found that over the previous few years, the overall percentage of African-American students at Duke had decreased. The report called for the Duke Admissions department to increase outreach, advertising, and financial aid opportunities for minority applicants. They recommended a 50% increase in the number of minority students for the class of 1986 and a 15% increase for the classes of 1987 and 1988.
The report also indicated that the university needed to increase hiring of minority faculty and staff, stating that eight African-American faculty members out of 350 total faculty was “appalling”. The Task Force suggested that the university launch a nationwide search for talented African-American faculty members and provide incentives that would attract them to Duke.
Additionally, the task force also accused Campus Police of stopping African-American students without just cause because of their race and called for race to be included in the core curriculum and for readings on race relations to be mandatory in freshman classes.
University officials had a mixed response to the report, refuting the claims of biased behavior by the admissions and public safety departments. They also claimed that while the report raised a number of important points, many of the proposed solutions would be unrealistic or too difficult to implement. However, the administration promised to utilize the findings of the report in future decisions. Chancellor Kenneth Pye added, “The report shows a recognition of what is a real problem on campus. I think it is an important addition and a valuable step forward.”
It was interesting to compare the findings of the Task Force on Black-White Relations to current discussions on diversity to see what changes have occurred and which issues continue to be raised. Once reprocessing is finished on this collection, researchers will be able to review the Task Force’s documentation themselves—perhaps as a way to bring these past perspectives to bear on our current discussions. (In the interim, a copy of the final report may be found in box 5 of the Office of Minority Affairs Records.)
Post contributed by Elizabeth Hannigan, Isobel Craven Drill Intern for the Duke University Archives and student at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science.
Culture Clash is a series of exhibits, created by the Center for Multicultural Affairs (CMA), traditionally hosted in the Alcove outside of the CMA Lounge. Culture Clash aims to provide multicultural and social justice education to build and/or strengthen bridges between different communities at Duke and beyond. The exhibit provides members of the Duke community and guests of the CMA the opportunity to explore the intricacies of the human experience with the focus on building sustainable, authentic, and healthy relationships and communities.
This year’s culture clash, which is on display through February 1st, 2016 at Perkins Library’s Campus Club Wall, is entitled “From Sit-Ins to Hashtags”. The exhibit explores the patterns of student social justice work and activism both at Duke and beyond throughout history. The photos depict different trends and styles of activism in the different decades.
Curating Culture Clash has been a wonderful learning experience. I have a new appreciation for museums and exhibits; until now I never really realized how much thought and effort goes into a project of this nature. From beginning to end, this project has been about learning. The research aspect of the project was fairly intuitive because here at Duke we are always doing research. Finding movements to document and represent wasn’t overly challenging. Even finding an equal representation of photos from each decade was a fairly smooth process due to the help of the University Archives.
The challenge in this project came with deciding on how to visually present all of the photos. Juggling some 70 odd photos and 19 photo frames and 126 square feet of wall space was an experience. For me especially, I struggle with visualizing; I need something concrete to look at. The later part of the curation process involved a lot of cutting paper models and trying to learn how to visualize the small picture within the big picture. However, teamwork makes the dream work here at the Center. As a team, we made all the pieces come together in the end. We are very happy with the final outcome of the project.
We hope that from this exhibit students can understand how student social justice work has transpired in the past, and perhaps find inspiration to be an advocate for a cause that moves them.
We would like to give a special thanks to Margaret Brown, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation Exhibits Coordinator, and Amy McDonald, Assistant University Archivist, for all of their help throughout the curation process.
In September of 1982, a librarian at Duke set up a simple loose-leaf binder suggestion book in the lobby of Perkins Library. Each page in the book had a spaces for three suggestions/questions and three answers. In October of that year, the first group of pages with written suggestions and questions were removed, taken home by that librarian and answered in long-hand, then typed up by an administrative assistant directly onto the original pages and placed back in the book for anyone to read. This was the beginning of the Perkins Library Suggestion/Answer Book, a popular tradition that would live on, in more than one form, for more than twenty years.
At first, the binders were available in the Reference area after the pages filled up; then photocopied versions were bound into volumes and included in the Perkins and Lily Library stacks. In 1993, a “best of” selection was printed in a limited run in-house. But now, the original pages—with accumulated detritus of organic material, white-out, pen and pencil scribbling, and water damage—have at last come to the University Archives for preservation and long-term storage. Some pages are missing and the binders were exposed to water at some point; the lovely people in Conservation have already dealt with some inert mold and the pages are now being rehoused in acid-free folders.
The pages are fascinating. The suggestions and questions are signs of the times, demonstrate student engagement with the library and the University as a whole, and show students being students: curious, angst-y, angry, grateful, silly, and thoughtful. In return, the Answer Person is both serious and facetious, deflecting offensive questions with jokes, omitting names, giving in-depth answers from outside sources, taking constructive suggestions and compliments to heart, and generally being a librarian (often instructing suggest-ers and questioners where they can find their answers instead of simply providing easy answers for them).
Some concerns are clearly timeless: why is the library so cold, why aren’t the printers working, more bathrooms, more food, more lights, please restock the toilet paper:
Some other entries are very much of their time, like the suggestion about types of cigarettes for the vending machines (smoking in the library! This archivist is horrified):
While others are somehow a combination of both, as with this plaintive cry (the very first Library Answer Person question) for space to write and do work on one’s own machine (substitute typewriter with laptop), or this detailed discussion of a current television show (substitute Twin Peaks with Game of Thrones or Man in the High Castle – I mean, whaaaaaat?!):
Many discuss the library and how it could be improved or where it is doing nicely, showing a community engagement with the library that is as strong as it is critical. Also, people really loved the red-haired Reference Librarian and Stuart the Government Documents Librarian:
Then there are the ones I giggled over, the ones that are just people being people, weird and silly:
The sports fans:
People developed a relationship with the Suggestion/Answer Book, and frequently referred back to earlier questions and answers, coming back to see if their own questions had been answered, and responding to the answers and other peoples’ comments. Frequently, there are multiple commenters on a given entry. This kind of discussion led to some deep discussions on controversial or difficult topics, such as the nature of modern art and race in the Duke community (the page with the question #1346A is responding to is unfortunately missing):
And finally, there are the poignant departures:
These pages are a tangible window into the Duke student body’s engagement with the Library, with the University, and with each other. Like a proto-Internet comments page, there is a smorgasbord of humanity here: anger, plentiful curse words, sexism, racism, homophobia, compliments, intelligence, optimism, gratitude, tolerance, joy, and well-wishes. Plus a bag of grits.
To give away a decades-old open secret, the Perkins Library Suggestion/Answer Book Person was John Lubans, Public Services Librarian and Assistant University Librarian, here at Duke from 1982-2001 and the donor of these pages to the University Archives.
With so many meetings, events, exhibits, performances, and games each day, it might seem difficult to set aside time to learn about your Duke student organization’s history. The University Archives, which collects student organization materials, knows how busy you are and we want to help!
Starting on October 20th, we’ll be holding a series of pop-up displays on student organization history, featuring historical materials from our collections. We’re calling this YOLO@UA: Your Organizations Live on @ the University Archives.
Each Tuesday, you’ll find us at a table just outside the Von der Heyden Pavilion from 2-3 PM, ready to show some cool stuff and answer your questions about student organization history.
We’ll be changing the display focus each time, so here’s the schedule:
October 20: Cultural Groups
October 27: Arts Groups
November 3: Student Government & Political Groups (Happy Election Day!)
November 10: Sororities, Fraternities, & Living Groups
November 17: Student Publications
Don’t worry if your organization isn’t covered with this schedule. We’ll plan more pop-up displays with different focuses during the spring semester. And you’re always welcome to get in touch with us to discuss how you can research your organization’s history at the University Archives!
P.S. Do you have student group materials that you’d like to archive at the University Archives? Learn more, and complete a form to let us know about your materials, here!
I can claim without controversy that the web is among the more popular avenues for communicating, publishing, and otherwise interacting with information. Although professionals involved in the creation of websites often have titles (engineer, web designer, information architect) that borrow the language of corollaries in the physical world, information on the web and how one experiences it is inherently ephemeral. Relics of the early web still extant online often owe their continued life to chance, such as the website for the 1996 film Space Jam or the long-thought-lost-until-a-copy-was-discovered-on-a-floppy-disk first website.
In order to preserve Duke’s web presence, in 2010 the University Archives partnered with Archive-It, a service of the Internet Archive, to take snapshots of various websites. In the five years since we have captured close to 500 Duke-related websites. Comparing a site’s evolution over time can be striking. This portal allows one to compare Duke homepages at different times. For example:
The following screencaps are for the Duke Chapel’s website.
While the above examples are changes that are, at least in part, cosmetic changes to information, capturing web content allows us to preserve and provide access to the social and intellectual conversations on campus. We have had success capturing Develle Dish in both DukeGroups and their more recent Sites.Duke iteration.
Because the Duke Fact Checker was not officially associated with the university, his blog went down after his passing in early 2014. Though its no longer available at its original URL, we were able to get annual captures of his commentary between 2012 and 2014.
All of this is great but was previously difficult to access without knowing how to use the system. As of February 2015, there are two easy ways to browse and search through the Duke Web Archives. First, the University Archives created a collection guide to the Duke-related websites. The 500 or so URLs are arranged loosely by organizational type and can be browsed here.
Because of the way the web is crawled, some sites may have been crawled that don’t appear in the collection guide. To help address this problem as well as provide another avenue into the collection, there is a search function provided by Archive-It and their Wayback Machine here. Using the Wayback search, one can search for any URL. If the site appears in our collection, even if only partially, the search will return it.
We are currently at work to address Social Media, so look for future posts around that subject.
Post contributed by Matthew Farrell, Digital Records Archivist.
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University