Every year we rely on a group of dedicated undergraduate student workers who do a little bit of everything to keep the Rubenstein Library running smoothly, but you might not know it since they’re usually working behind the scenes. Since it’s the end of the school year, we wanted to highlight our graduating seniors who will be leaving us. We’re grateful for all of their hard work and are consistently impressed by all that they accomplish in addition to working with us. Meet Rebecca Williams:
My days at Rubenstein Library begin in a routine fashion. I walk to the back office area, put my backpack in a locker, and begin a tour of the stacks. I scan the shelves to check for basic tasks that need to be completed: items to be re-shelved, books to be packaged for shipping, or items to be pulled for patrons. However the last year that I have spent working as a Student Assistant for the Research Services Department has been anything but routine. Sometimes books are not where I thought they would be. Sometimes an item does not arrive from the off campus site. I relish the time I get to spend solving these simple problems.
After completing my daily tasks, I turn my attention to a variety of long and short-term projects. Some of these projects or tasks have included making container lists for various collections, vacuuming books, or helping to process a new collection. I also help to unload the deliveries that come from the LSC, notify patrons of their arrival, and shelve them on-site. Many of my shifts are also spent at the front desk where I enjoy helping the patrons that come into Rubenstein Library. I really have gotten to do a little bit of everything here.
This fall I’ll be heading to Chapel Hill to pursue a Masters in Library Science at UNC’s School of Information and Library Science. I’m also very excited to have the opportunity to work there in the Special Collections Research and Instructional Services Department as well. Working at Rubenstein has helped to confirm I want to stay working in the library world for a long time to come. I will miss all of the wonderful staff here at Rubenstein Library, but I will not be that far away, so hopefully I will be back in the future!
Every year we rely on a group of dedicated undergraduate student workers who do a little bit of everything to keep the Rubenstein Library running smoothly, but you might not know it since they’re usually working behind the scenes. Since it’s the end of the school year, we wanted to highlight our graduating seniors who will be leaving us. We’re grateful for all of their hard work and are consistently impressed by all that they accomplish in addition to working with us. Meet Taylor Imperiale:
I’ve been working at the Rubenstein Library since the beginning of my junior year at Duke. I’m now a senior on my way out, so it feels like I’ve been here for quite a while. Over the past two years, the library has certainly undergone a whole lot of changes and the work I do has changed quite a bit as well.
I always enjoy working evening shifts helping patrons at the front desk. On my daytime shifts, you would usually find me in the stacks reshelving items, particularly in the old stacks, organizing some collection, or doing some sort of arts and crafts type activity. For the past year or so I have been working on a project to rehouse our sheet music collection to send it all offsite. I had hoped to finish it by the time I graduate, but alas, I am only about a third of the way through. I wish my successor the best of luck in this seemingly endless, but quite relaxing, task.
Now for a bit about me. In May I’ll be graduating (fingers crossed) with degrees in political science and history and a minor in Spanish. I’ll be spending the next two years teaching Spanish in Philadelphia through Teach for America. After my two-year stint as a teacher, I’ll be moving on to attend the University of Chicago Law School. As it turns out, the generosity of Mr. Rubenstein seems to follow me everywhere because I have been offered a law school scholarship that bears his name. I can’t help but think that having the Rubenstein name on my resume helped me get the scholarship offer.
I’ve enjoyed every minute of my time working here. The staff has always been really friendly and supportive and made me feel like a part of the family. I’d like to thank Josh and Liz especially for being great supervisors, as well as the rest of the staff that made my time here so pleasant. In a couple of months when I’m sure to be missing Duke, I’ll certainly be missing the great folks at the Rubenstein Library.
In August of this past year, I was hired as the student assistant for the Duke University Archives. The position is a thrill because it enables me to get paid for a hobby of mine: learning about Duke’s rich and diverse history.
Several of my projects have required me to use the Chanticleer, the university’s yearbook (view digitized volumes!), as a research tool. Scanning through old Chanticleers, it is interesting to observe the transformations in styles of clothes and hair from 1912 to the present day. Additionally, it is interesting to look at students with American history in mind. While researching, I found evidence of students’ mindsets during various points in American history: the world wars; the Jim Crow Era; the integration of Duke; the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.; Vietnam; Watergate; and 9/11.
The Chanticleer makes it very clear that Dukies of yesteryear—like Dukies of today—enjoy their time at Duke. Duke students have always been dedicated to making Duke a home through involvement in various organizations, academics, and general college fun.
One club that caught my attention as representing the jest of college students was the Hades Club, which existed during the 1920s. The club described itself as, “An organization of ministers’ sons and daughters who have never been caught,” and club members referred to themselves as “imps and impesses.”
The sight of familiar buildings has been most impactful during my research. Amidst all the natural construction that takes place in academia, Duke has remained remarkably unchanged since about 1928. Students throughout the Chanticleer are posed and candidly photographed around West Union, Baldwin and Page, the Plaza, Wallace Wade and Cameron, and the various dorms. These scenes around Duke serve as a link between the eras.
After a semester discovering more Duke history, I now often walk the university’s unchanged pathways and look at its unchanged buildings wondering, “What fellow Dukie was walking these very steps fifty or one hundred years ago? What was on his or her mind that day? What was he or she headed to? Was it the same thing I am going to do now?”
It feels incredible to be part of the Duke legacy.
Post contributed by C. Bradford Ellison, student assistant for the Duke University Archives.
This spring I assisted my supervisor in processing the Duke Student Government (DSG) Records. One day he called me over to look at a report he had found called “A Color-Coded Guide to Campus Living Groups.” Prepared in the summer of 1992 by Adrianne G. Threatt, this report truly was colorful. It was divided in two parts with maps of the campus living groups on Main West Campus, Edens Quadrangle, East Campus, and North Campus. Part II was straightforward, with four maps showing the approximate number of residents per living group. But Part I showed the same four maps with hand-written commentary about the “distinguishing characteristics” of each living group. Looking at these comments reminded me of my own experience with Duke dorms and their “distinguishing characteristics.”
One day shortly after my freshman year began, I walked into my dorm, Giles, to find all my friends crowded around a single laptop. My roommate was pointing to the screen animatedly, so I stopped to see what all the girls were looking at: it was a list of all the dorms on East Campus, with blurbs about the reputations of each. Giles, it said, was “home to pretty girls who like to have a good time.” Being freshmen, we of course knew everything on the internet is true: we all must have been placed in Giles because the all-knowing, all-seeing Duke housing lottery deemed us pretty girls who liked to have a good time.
Seeing the color-coded maps, then, I was eager to find out the “distinguishing characteristics” for Giles in 1992. According to the guide, Giles was “the dorm for women who were serious about living in an all-female dorm, but their man-hating image has declined in the past couple of years. Now they have a more main-stream group of girls.” To say the least, a far cry from what my friends and I had read 18 years later, in the fall of 2010.
What else had changed about East Campus? The first thing I noticed was that East was not an all-freshman campus. There were fraternity sections, for one thing, and “swing dorms,” which were used as either upper-class or freshman dorms.. In Wilson, there were three fraternity sections—ΣX (Sigma Chi), ΦKΣ (Phi Kappa Sigma), and ΔKE (Delta Kappa Epsilon)—which the author of the maps noted as “apparently a disastrous arrangement.” The “artsy dorm” in 1992 was Epworth, whereas Pegram had that title by my freshman year. Half of Bassett in 1992 was AEΠ’s (Alpha Epsilon Pi) section and the people who chose to live on the other half of Bassett were described as having “group unity” and as being “really religious.” I have only known Bassett as the dorm where all the basketball players lived.
Despite all these changes, many things have stayed the same. In 1992, KA’s (Kappa Alpha) section was in half of Brown; the author described KA as “the Southern fraternity,” who likes “big parties and cooking out.” This reputation holds true today. AEΠ was known as “the Jewish fraternity” and as a “great group of guys” who had “cool theme parties, like Casino night, but their kegs are pretty lame.” AEΠ is still the Jewish fraternity and still considered to be a great group of guys who have fun parties. As to their current kegs quality—no comment.
Being at Duke is exciting because the history that is everywhere makes us feel like part of a much bigger legacy. Yet, we are still able to make that legacy our own. This is why we see both reputations that persist through the years and reputations that constantly change. I would be interested to hear how other students and alums feel about Duke’s “distinguishing characteristics” over the years.
Do you see your Duke in the color-coded guide to the Duke of 1992?
The Rwandan audiotapes of the International Monitor Institute (IMI) records are comprised almost entirely of the transcripts of radio broadcasts translated from Kinyarwanda into French and English. These are the broadcasts which aired in 1994 during the Rwandan genocide, which took place from April through early July of that year and in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred. The genocide was triggered by the assassination of Hutu President Habyarimana on April 6, 1994. An IMI piece on radio as a tool of genocide (available in the organizational records) summarizes these events: “His plane was shot down on his return from Arusha, Tanzania, where he met with RPF leaders and signed an agreement further limiting his regime’s hold on power (known as the August 1993 Arusha Accords).”
During colonization from the late 19th to the mid-20th century, the German and Belgian colonial elite manufactured a native elite in the Tutsis, a process of colonization that Franz Fanon describes in The Wretched of the Earth. Hutus thus experienced discrimination in education and various sectors of the economy. In 1959, Hutus took control of Rwanda following the independence movement, forcing many Tutsis to seek refuge in neighboring countries. In 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) comprised of exiled Tutsis, invaded Rwanda, initiating a civil war. Habyarimana’s assassination resulted in an escalation of Hutu anxiety that the Tutsis would seize power of the government and that discrimination against Hutus would be reestablished.
Radio became a powerful weapon used to incite and direct the Rwandan genocide. The majority of radio broadcasts in the Rwandan audiotapes collection are from the privately-owned Radio Télévision Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM). What I found especially interesting about the content of these broadcasts (the transcripts of which can be found in the IMI organizational records and the audiotapes of which can be found in the Rwandan Videotapes and Audiotapes inventory) was the way in which its efforts to direct the extermination of the Tutsi population was paralleled by its efforts to claim authority over the telling of history. The radio broadcasts reveal a struggle over who gets to tell history and, therefore, a struggle over a monopoly on truth. In other words, the RTLM broadcasts exhibit a phenomenon which seems to be more universally true, which is the political necessity of storytelling.
There are a few particularly conspicuous aspects of the history-telling of the RTLM broadcasts, one being the discourse of revelation or enlightenment – the idea that if we only peel back the layers, we can finally see the truth. And this encounter with the truth is the basis for political action, or, in this case, the basis on which genocide becomes justified. “Slavery,” for example, is a term that is repeated throughout these broadcasts. Several journalists recall the state of Hutu slavery during colonization in order to characterize the discrimination Hutus experienced. Drawing on such a vocabulary, the radio broadcasts attempt to illuminate the Rwandan genocide as a slave rebellion. Freedom from slavery, according to this narrative, lies in the ability to discover the true history and nature of that discrimination, in opposition to the stories of the colonizers and the native elite. For the same reason, I’m less interested in the truth or accuracy of this, or any, construction of history than in the need and tendency to construct history more generally.
In one broadcast which aired on April 12, 1994 (6 days after Habyarimana’s assassination),[ii] Georges Ruggiu gives his audience a history lesson. He evokes Tutsi discrimination against Hutus in the colonial educational system and the ways in which the Germans and Belgians perpetuated this discrimination. Ruggiu situates the RPF’s efforts to seize power in Rwanda and oppress Hutus within that context. “Now we are going to continue with history,” he begins one segment. He goes on to describe how Hutus, beginning with the first school for Tutsis in 1917, were denied education and how, as a result of this denial of access, the Hutu became slaves to the Tutsi “who, according to the colonial legend, were born to rule.” I suspect that Ruggiu does not understand Hutu slavery as merely metaphorical. The discourse of slavery in these broadcasts seems to represent Hutu slavery as naked reality; that is, these broadcasts understand historical Hutu slavery to be literal. Indeed, in the segment that follows, Ruggiu draws on historical documents that testify to the fact that historically “Tutsis killed Hutu kings and enslaved Hutu people.”
In a second broadcast from April 17, 1994 (11 days after the assassination), journalist Agenesta Mukarutama leads a roundtable discussion about how the RPF seeks to return Rwanda to its pre-revolutionary time in which the Tutsi commanded and the Hutu obeyed. “But,” the broadcast tells us, “Rwandans have learned their history and are ‘saying no’ to a repetition of history.” Genocide is perceived as the only way to break out of an historical cycle of discrimination and oppression. Murego argues that “what it [the RPF] did not understand is a lesson from history. In fact, the political skeleton before ‘59 is clear: Some people command and others obeyed, and the RPF inserted its objectives in that scope . . . Since the conditions have changed, there is now no way to impose oneself as it was before . . . what happened is that it is a genuine restoration of the former reality where some people commanded, you understand who, and others have learnt to say ‘no.’ That is where the president of the PL [le Parti libéral] has made an important statement: ‘those who are saying no today, they are saying no considering their history, the history of their country . . .’” (emphasis is mine).
By suggesting that “there is now no way,” that is, that it would be either impracticable or unbearable for Rwanda to return to a pre-revolutionary state governed by colonial structures, Murego essentially makes a philosophical statement about history – not just what the content of that history is, but more specifically, the temporality in which revolutionary history operates. The Rwandan genocide here is not just a “saying no” to Tutsi rule; it is a “saying no” to a particular conception of the temporality of history that stands in opposition to the revolutionary conception of history. Murego’s argument, here, seems to be that the RPF does not understand how historical time actually works. Ngirumpatse, a participant of the roundtable, follows this up:
“First thing, at the risk of disappointing many Rwandans, especially the educated people, I have always considered the Arusha Agreements as an exception in the people’s history. No any people make a revolution just once. France has made a Revolution, it had two or three restorations, it took 100 years for the Republic to impose itself. When I say Republic, I mean the power of people. . . . So I consider the Arusha Agreements as an exception in the people’s history.” Ngirumpatse makes this claim repeatedly: “I consider the Arusha agreements as an exception in history.”
Ngirumpatse refers to the Arusha Accords as exceptional insofar as they are exceptionally generous; this generosity, it seems, arises from the mistaken belief among Rwandans that their revolution was finished once and for all. But again, what is more interesting to me is the temporality of the historical discourse within the broadcasts themselves – the repetition of the insistence that history cannot and will not repeat itself.
Post contributed by Clare Callahan, graduate student assistant in Rubenstein Technical Services and the Human Rights Archive.
We recently completed processing the Americans for Immigrant Justice (AIJ) Records. Formerly the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC), AIJ is a not-for profit legal organization that advocates on behalf of immigrants and refugees, including those being held at various detention centers, such as Guantanamo, Krome and Turner Guilford Knight. The majority of the material in this collection deals with the Haitian refugee population in Florida. Two aspects of this collection struck me. First, while this collection contains material that addresses the Haitian refugee crises from a broader political and historical perspective, it is notable for the quantity of material it contains that focuses on the stories and testimonies of individual refugees, in their own words, in documents such as affidavits and correspondence.
The second aspect of this collection that struck me as particularly interesting is the amount of material it contains on children – child refugees and detainees, children seeking asylum, children stranded in Haiti, and especially unaccompanied minors. As I became more familiar with this collection, I became especially interested in the detained child as both a fact and an idea. Sifting through accounts both by and about children of their emotional, mental, and physical experiences in detention, I began to wonder how the search for asylum and subsequent detention is conceived of by children.
The reason why this subject fascinated me is because of the strong incongruity in the idea of the child, on the one hand, and the idea of imprisonment of any kind, on the other, an incongruity that suggested to me that accounts of children in detention might uniquely illuminate how we think about detention and refuge. We often associate children with places of refuge, with a powerful need for and unique faculty to find or construct places of refuge. One example of this faculty is play. As I looked through photographs of and read testimony by children detained at Guantanamo, I began to wonder what place “play” has in detention, in homelessness, and in lack of refuge.
The subset of documents about which I am writing are dated from around the early and mid-1990s, during and following the campaign of terror against Aristide supporters. One must bear in mind that the majority of Haitian refugees held at Guantanamo at this time were forcibly returned to Haiti where their lives were imperiled (5,000 Aristide supporters were estimated to be killed in 1993). In fact, many of the children detained at Guantanamo were unaccompanied for precisely this reason – their parents or caretakers had been killed in Haiti during this period. As the AIJ Records reveal, many of these children, upon repatriation, were thus compelled to eke out a living on the streets.
So, how does the child reconfigure the way we conceive of detention? Three photographs from the Photographic Materials Series caught my attention. After I selected them, I asked myself why I had been drawn to them, and I realized that in each, a child or children were holding some kind of object – a fish, makeshift drums, a guitar.
I considered these photographs against the written testimony about and by children detained at Guantanamo (information packets, emergency action requests related to medical conditions, correspondence, affidavits, reports, etc.). The written documentation described abuses, including rape, that were committed at Guantanamo against women and children. Child detainees, not surprisingly, wrote of their desperation and depression (their own words), and observers of these children offered similar accounts. Yet, these children not only subsist at Guantanamo but also, as the photographs above communicate, find ways to play. It is not difficult to perceive a form of resistance in their play, in their insistence upon occupying places that we cannot envision as inhabitable. I was likewise captivated by the photographs in which children are holding objects because they seem to me to manifest the construction of places of refuge within displacement and dispossession. The subjects in these photographs seek asylum in the objects themselves. There is something about gripping an object, possessing that object, that also solidifies the reality of oneself – and this in a place in which that very reality is relentlessly objected to – in abuse, obscurity, neglect, remaining unheard.
Post contributed by Clare Callahan, graduate student assistant in Rubenstein Technical Services and the Human Rights Archive.
The name Freewater Films is perhaps best known for the film series it puts on in the Bryan Center. But in addition to these screenings, it is also responsible for providing workshops and support for amateur film-making by Duke students and community members.
The origins of Freewater Productions Films can be traced to 1969, when the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation gave funds for students from the Duke University Union Visual Arts Committee to make a 16mm film. In November 1970, several students produced an original film (called Dying), using a 16mm Bolex camera borrowed from the Union. Described by the maker as “a woman’s surrealistic encounter on an island,” Dying went on to win first prize at the Association of College Unions’ 1971 International Film Festival.
Over the years, Duke students produced a number of cutting-edge films under the auspices of Freewater, ranging from documentaries on urban Durham to science fiction and horror films set in the Duke Hospital. (The 1984 film A Medical Scutwolf in Durham tells the story of a doctor who becomes a werewolf.)
Saved in a variety of formats—including DVDs, VHS, Betamax, and 16 mm film—the Freewater Productions Films archives are now housed at Duke University Archives. They have recently been arranged in order by date, format, and title. In some cases, “unofficial” titles had to suffice, as in the reel titled “Footage of Ocean,” pictured above. Those that arrived in rusty cans or unstable cardboard boxes were transferred to archival plastic “cans.”
Pictured at left is a group of 21 sound effects from the collection, labeled as: “wooshes, whistles, crowd roars, and seal screams.”
We’re looking forward to the day when these historic films may be screened again!
Post contributed by Jessica Wood, William E. King intern for the 2011-2012 academic year.
Among the many fascinating documents, portraits, and letters of early Methodist preachers and missionaries in the Frank Baker Collection of Wesleyana and British Methodism are a variety of woodcut prints, engravings, and other visual sources depicting subjects as varied as social satire and British birds that might be rather unexpected in a collection that is primarily concerned with religious history. As an art historian, I am particularly drawn to such visual records, and so was especially struck by both the beautiful technique and the relative completeness of a portfolio of etchings by George Cruikshank in which the artist depicts various scenes from the adventures of Shakespeare’s Sir John Falstaff.
Cruikshank, a prominent nineteenth-century British artist who worked primarily in graphic media, is known for his virulent social satires and is frequently discussed alongside similarly comic-minded Brits such as William Hogarth and Thomas Rowlandson. By the middle of the nineteenth century, Cruikshank’s reputation was well-established and the artist had already completed prints for pamphlets by his friend, William Hone, a series of illustrations of the works of Charles Dickens, and the first English edition of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales. It is around this time that Cruikshank began work on a concept for a collaborative project with Robert B. Brough which, upon its publication in 1858, would be entitled The Life of Sir John Falstaff: A Biography of the Knight from Authentic Sources.
A copy of Brough’s rather unusual text is available in Rubenstein Library and provides an imaginative biography of the fictional Falstaff, who appears in the Bard’s Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsorand who is himself believed to have been a satirical portrayal of one of Shakespeare’s unfortunate contemporaries.
Cruikshank’s etchings appear throughout The Life of Sir John Falstaff, illustrating twenty scenes with expressive lines and an abundance of humorous detail in a compact, approximately 5×8” book-size format. While processing visual sources in the Baker Collection, I came across a larger set of these same prints; seventeen unbound plates on crisp white paper that are approximately 10×14” in size. The higher quality of the etched lines and cross-hatching seems to indicate that the Baker portfolio is an earlier edition. Missing only three scenes from the set reproduced in Brough’s text, the Baker Collection series begins with a print that is dated 1857 and bears a handwritten dedication along the bottom of the page, signed lightly in pencil by the artist and brought to my attention by archivist Michael Shumate.
The Falstaff print, a smaller copy of which also appears at the start of Brough’s book, depicts the portly title character, perched on a seat wearing pseudo-chivalric garb and staring out at the viewer, his mouth pursed in what can only be described as a mischievous grin. In addition to the volume’s title, publisher, and other documentary information, the print is inscribed with Cruikshank’s inimitable stylized signature which corresponds directly to the dedication, “Richard Ellison Esq. – with the regards of Geo. Cruikshank” scribbled below.
How this unique object came into the possession of Frank Baker, a former professor in Duke’s Religion Department, is a mystery; however the prints themselves invite further study. Did this 1857 portfolio serve as a kind of prototype for the images included in Brough’s 1858 book? What was the historical reception of Falstaff, and how would Cruikshank’s prints have been understood by nineteenth-century individuals? Indeed, these questions and countless other subjects of interest to art historians, British scholars, and literature students emerge in this visual document. Fortunately for those who, like myself, are intrigued by Cruikshank’s work and would like to learn more, Duke Libraries maintains a number of different sources on the topic, located at both the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library and within Lilly Library’s collection. In addition to the Cruikshank materials, the Baker Collection of Wesleyana contains more than 10,000 visual documents including portraits, landscapes, maps, and many other fascinating scenes.
Elisabeth Narkin is a doctoral student in Duke’s Dept. of Art, Art History and Visual Studies. She is also a student assistant in Rubenstein Technical Services.
For the past two years, I’ve been working with Technical Services on the Frank Baker Collection of British Methodism and Wesleyana. Baker, a religion professor at Duke, was the preeminent scholar on the foundations of Methodism, specifically its founder, John Wesley. The collection is vast: it contains research for Baker’s many books and articles, original Wesleyan and Methodist documents from the 18th and 19th centuries, teaching materials, correspondence with other prominent religious minds, and a variety of items that simply fit no category.
Perhaps the most interesting part of working with the Frank Baker collection is this treasure trove of miscellany collected by Baker throughout the years. Though primarily a Wesleyan scholar, Frank Baker had a penchant for all religious historical materials, and his collection is frequently peppered with unidentifiable portraits, letters, and notes relating to religion.
One such enigmatic finding was a folded, faded map that, at first, appeared rather unimpressive. Tucked away in a box of other large maps, our subject was folded, torn, and in pretty bad shape. Once unfolded, however, I was instantly drawn to it.
Self-titled, the map reads: “A Map of all the Earth And how after the Flood it was Divided among the Sons of Noah.” Though faded, brittle, and torn, the value of this map is instantly obvious. From the fascinating religious motifs around the sides (some familiar, some indecipherable), to the labeling of each continent with a son’s name, the map certainly sucks you in.
Some of my favorite parts of this map aren’t readily obvious, either. For example, take a good look at the West Coast of the United States. It’s subtle, but California is depicted as an island! It was actually this feature that helped me to date the map. With a little research as to when the name California came into usage, I discovered that our finding probably dates to the 1680s or 1690s. A little more research revealed that California was often depicted as an island in the 16th and 17th centuries: I even found a whole book full of maps with this cartographic error!
As a religion minor, I often found myself returning to the stunning religious motifs decorating the borders of this map. Some are familiar scenes, like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the Tower of Babel, the Crucifixion, etc. Others are less familiar, such as a shining city as viewed from a hill, or an unidentified man kneeling next to a tree.
I could spend hours trying to figure out the motivations behind the map, or its motifs, or why Japhet, son of Noah, got all of North America, but there’s many more mysteries to find and catalog in the Frank Baker Papers!
Post contributed by Chloe Rockow, a junior majoring in Public Policy Studies with a double minor in Religion and Political Science.
A few months ago, I processed the James Ludovic Lindsay Collection of French Manuscripts, which is by far the largest collection I have processed since I started working in Technical Services in October. As a freshman, I was incredibly excited to work on this collection. The collection is composed of 223 items, mostly letters and administrative papers, all dating to the French Revolutionary era (late 18th and early 19th century). Though the collection may not seem extremely appealing, unless you are an administrative papers-type person, it did have a few gems that are worth noting.
Let me begin with a little background on the collection. The collection was assembled by James Ludovic Lindsay, the 26th Earl of Crawford, and formed part of the larger “Bibliotheca Lindesiana,” a sizeable private library that Lindsay inherited from his father, Alexander, in the mid-1800s. Like his father, Lindsay had a passion for French Revolutionary writings. While Duke does not hold Lindsay’s entire collection (it was auctioned to many different entities), we have acquired a few items that are quite unique.
For example, scattered amongst mostly legal and administrative papers, I discovered a letter addressed to the Emperor Napoleon from a lawyer, Arnoud Joubert. The document was in perfect state, with no visible damage at all. I was most surprised by Joubert’s writing style (we also possess other letters from him). One would think that writing to an Emperor, especially once the monarchy had fallen, would require extreme politeness. However, Joubert did not make an extra effort towards Napoleon. This document, Box 3, Folder 160, made me wonder if there were other items of interest in the collection.
One such letter, from Cardinal Albani addressed to Alexander I, Emperor of Russia, requests the Emperor’s protection from French authorities. What is most interesting about this letter is that it is well-known that Alexander I and Napoleon had a tense relationship, and that Alexander often referred to Napoleon as “the oppressor of Europe and the disturber of the world’s peace.” This just shows that despite the fall of the monarchy, which hypothetically should have lessened tensions in France, and pleased most French citizens, certain individuals still searched for asylum in other foreign countries.
Another thing that I was not prepared for was how the documents were dated. Many of them used the old French Republican calendar. Unlike our Gregorian calendar, this calendar began with the fall of the French Republic in 1789, which was then renamed Year I. For a little over 12 years, this calendar replaced the commonly used Gregorian calendar in France.
Processing this collection definitely improved my knowledge of older French, and I am confident I can now read any sort of handwriting. Some of the pieces were near illegible, and it was sometimes difficult to decipher what was being said. But do not worry: if you ever have to write a paper on this period, or even if you are just curious about old French manuscripts, you should take a look at these documents.
Post contributed by Sophia Durand, Technical Services student assistant and Trinity ’15.
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University