Category Archives: New Collections

Catch You on the Flip Side – 1970s Duke Chronicle Digitized and Online

The 1970s are here!  That is, in digital form.  The Duke Chronicle digital collection now includes issues from the grooviest decade of the twentieth century.  

WatergateThe American memory of the 1970s is complex, wavering from carefree love to Vietnam and civil rights.  As the social turmoil of the 1960s flowed into the 1970s, Terry Sanford was sworn in as president of Duke University.  This marked the beginning of his sixteen-year term, but also marked the decade in which Sanford twice ran for president and partook in heated debates with Alabama governor George Wallace.  He presided over the university In the midst of the Vietnam War and national protests, the Watergate scandal, and the aftermath of the Allen Building occupation in 1969.

In response to the demands from the Allen Building takeover, the Duke University community worked to improve social inequalities on campus.  The 1972 incoming freshman class boasted more than twice as many black students than ever before in university history.  Black Studies Program faculty and students struggle to create their own department, which became a controversial event on campus throughout the ‘70s.  One Chronicle article even tentatively labeled 1976 as “The Year of the Black at Duke,” reflecting the strides made to incorporate black students and faculty into campus life and academics.

black student increase

The 1970s was also a decade of change for women at Duke.  In 1972, Trinity College and the Woman’s College merged, and not all constituents agreed with the move.  Women’s athletics were also shaken by the application of Title IX implemented by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW), that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex.  This regulation significantly impacted the future of the Physical Education Department as well as women’s sports at Duke.  

Look Familiar?
Look Familiar?

Amidst this sea of change at Duke, there were many things that brought students joy — like the Blue Devils defeating UNC 92-84 in basketball, and snowball fights in November.  

The addition of the 1970s to the Duke Chronicle digital collection marks a milestone for the Digital Projects and Production Services Department.  We can now provide you with a complete run of issues from 1959 to 1989, and the 1950s will be heading your way soon!  We invite you to explore the 1970s issues and see for yourself how history unfolded across the nation and across Duke campus. 

Post Contributed by Jessica Serrao

Today is the New Future: The Tripod3 Project and our Next-Gen UI for Digital Collections

Yesterday was Back to the Future day, and the Internet had a lot of fun with it. I guess now it falls to each and every one of us, to determine whether or not today begins a new future. It’s certainly true for Duke Digital Collections.

Today we roll out – softly – the first release of Tripod3, the next-generation platform for digital collections. For now, the current version supports a single, new collection, the W. Duke, Sons & Co. Advertising Materials, 1880-1910. We’re excited about both the collection – which Noah Huffman previewed in this blog almost exactly a year ago – and the platform, which represents a major milestone in a project that began nearly a year ago.

The next few months will see a great deal more work on the project. We have new collections scheduled for December and the first quarter of 2016, we’ll gradually migrate the collections from our existing site, and we’ll be developing the features and the look of the new site in an iterative process of feedback, analysis, and implementation. Our current plan is to have nearly all of the content of Duke Digital Collections available in the new platform by the end of March, 2016.

The completion of the Tripod3 project will mean the end of life for the current-generation platform, which we call, to no one’s surprise, Tripod2. However, we have not set an exact timeline for sunsetting Tripod2. During the transitional phase, we will do everything we can to make the architecture of Duke Digital Collections transparent, and our plans clear.

After the jump, I’ll spend the rest of this post going into a little more depth about the project, but want to express my pride and gratitude to an excellent team – you know who you are – who helped us achieve this milestone.

Continue reading Today is the New Future: The Tripod3 Project and our Next-Gen UI for Digital Collections

Introducing the Digital Monograph of Haiti

In 2014 the Rubenstein Library acquired the Monograph of Haiti, an aggregation of intelligence information gathered by the U.S. Marine Corps during their occupation of the country between 1915-1934. This item has recently been digitized, and this week guest bloggers Holly Ackerman and Sara Seten Berghausen introduce us to the monograph and its provenance.

MonographOfHaiti1932_0418
Interior image from the Monograph of Haiti

The catalog of the U.S. Marine Corps Archives is not publically available. Marine regulations make it necessary for researchers wanting to explore the Archives’ holdings to physically go to Quantico, Virginia. Once there, they must rely on expert staff to conduct a search for them. Researchers are then free to look at the materials.

Like any prohibition, the lack of direct access creates both frustration and allure. As the number of Duke faculty and students studying Haiti increased over the last five years, Holly Ackerman, Duke’s Librarian for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, felt the pull of possible treasure and traveled to Quantico. Since the U.S. Marines had occupied Haiti from 1915 – 1934, it seemed likely that there would be significant collections that might interest our scholars.

moh
An image of the Monograph prior to digitization.

The archives did not disappoint. Chief among the treasures was The Monograph of the Republic of Haiti, a book that looks more like an old accountant’s ledger than the accumulation of intelligence information from the U.S. occupation era that it really is. On its opening page the Monograph declares its purpose,

“The object of this book is to provide operative and war information upon the Republic of Haiti. A monograph aims to be so thorough a description of the country upon which it is written that the Commander of any Expedition approaching its coasts will have at his disposal all the information obtainable to commence active operations in case of a hostile invasion or a peaceful occupation, and to facilitate his diplomatic routine mission in time of peace.”

Since the Marine Corps Archive owned two of only six known copies of the Monograph, they offered to donate one to the Rubenstein Library at Duke. It was received in the Spring of 2014. The intent of the Marine Corps Archive was to share the monograph as widely as possible. To fulfill that pledge, the Duke Libraries’ Digital Production Center cataloged, conserved and digitized the Monograph in 2015, making it available worldwide via the Internet Archive. Scholars in Haiti and the U.S. have begun using the resource for research and teaching.

MonographOfHaiti1932_0272
Image of an interior page from the Monograph of Haiti

Post Contributed by Holly Ackerman, Librarian for Latin American, Iberian and Latino/a Studies and Sara Seten Berghausen, Associate Curator of Collections, Rubenstein Library

A Sermon: Moral Crisis in a Troubled South (1956)

The Library is currently in the middle of digitizing sermons from the Duke University Chapel recordings housed in the Duke University Archives, part of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Within this collection there are audio and video recordings along with printed sermons. While it takes many people to digitize and publish a collection of this size in its entirety, my part is to digitize the printed sermons.

MontgomeryBusBoycott

While I didn’t have time to read all of the sermons, a few titles caught my eye.  Moral Crisis in a Troubled South, The Dangerous Gift of Freedom, The South Under God, Demonstrations in the Street and in the House of God, An Address on Occasion of a Memorial Service (for Martin Luther King Jr.), to name a few.  martinlutherkingAll in someway related to the Civil Rights Movement. Here is a link to Moral Crisis in a Troubled South written by Hilrie Shelton Smith and preached in the Duke University Chapel on April 29, 1956.  The sermon speaks directly to the state of race relations in the South in 1955 amid civil rights unrest related to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Supreme Court decision on Racial Segregation in Schools, and the tragic death of Emmett Till. This sermon speaks of the long road that may be ahead of us to achieve a nation of racial equality. Indeed.

This sermon struck me because of its direct reference to specific events related to the Civil Rights Movement (at least more than the others) and how closely it echoes current events across the nation, particularly the story of Emmett Till’s horrific murder and the fact that his mother chose to have an open casket so that everyone could see the brutality of racism.Emmett Till

I am in awe of the strength it must have taken Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till, to make the decision to have an open casket at her son’s funeral.

Duke has many collections related to the history of the Civil Rights Movement. This collection provides a religious context to the events of our relatively recent past, not only of the Civil Rights Movement but of many social, political and spiritual issues of our time.

Please visit Duke Digital Collections to see additional digitized material related to the Civil Rights Movement.

Again, here is a link to the sermon: Moral Crisis in a Troubled South

 

Back to the ’80s – Duke Chronicle Style

Ah, the 1980s…a decade of perms, the Walkman, Jelly shoes, and Ziggy Stardust.  It was a time of fashion statements I personally look back on in wonderment.

Personal Computer Ad, 1980
Personal Computer Ad, 1980

Fashionable leotards, shoulder pads, and stirrup pants were all the rage.  And can we say parachute pants?  Thanks, MC Hammer.  If you’re craving a blast from the past, we’ve got you covered.  The digitized 1980s Duke Chronicle has arrived!  Now you can relive that decade of Hill Street Blues and Magnum P.I. from your own personal computer (hopefully,you’re not still using one of these models!).

As Duke University’s student-run newspaper for over 100 years, the Duke Chronicle is a window into the history of the university, North Carolina, and the world.  It may even be a window into your own past if you had the privilege of living through those totally rad years.  If you didn’t get the chance to live it firsthand, you may find great joy in experiencing it vicariously through the pages of the Chronicle, or at least find irony in the fact that ’80s fashion has made a comeback.

Sony Private Stereo Ad, February 12, 1980
Sony Private Stereo Ad, February 12, 1980

 

Here at Duke, the 1980s was the decade that welcomed Coach Krzyzewski to the basketball team, and made it (almost) all the way to the championship in 1986.  In 1980, the Chronicle celebrated its 75th year of bringing news to campus.  It was also a time of expansion, as Duke Hospital North was constructed in 1980 and the Washington Duke Inn followed in 1988.  President Reagan visited campus, Desmond Tutu spoke at Duke Chapel, and Princess Grace Kelly entertained with poetry at Page Auditorium almost two years to the day before she died.

 

The 1980s also saw racial unrest in North Carolina, and The Duke Chronicle headlines reflected these tense feelings.  Many articles illustrate a reawakened civil rights movement.  From a call to increase the number of black professors at Duke, to the marching of KKK members down the streets of Greensboro, Durham, and Chapel Hill, North Carolinians found themselves in a continued struggle for equality.  Students and faculty at Duke were no exception.  Unfortunately, these thirty-year-old Chronicle headlines would seem right at home in today’s newspapers.

 

The 1980s Chronicle issues can inform us of fashion and pop culture, whether we look back at it with distaste or fondness.  But it also enlightens us to the broader social atmosphere that defined the 1980s.   It was a time of change and self-expression, and I invite you to explore the pages of the Duke Chronicle to learn more.

Fashion Ad, May 10, 1984
Fashion Ad, May 10, 1984

 

The addition of the 1980s issues to the online Duke Chronicle digital collection is part of an ongoing effort to provide digital access to all Chronicle issues from 1905 to 1989.  The next decades to look forward to are the 1970s and 1950s.  Also, stay tuned to Bitstreams for a more in-depth exploration of the newspaper digitization process.  You can learn how we turn the pages of the Duke Chronicle into online digital gold.  At least, that’s what I like to think we do here at the Digital Production Center.  Until then, transport yourself back to the 1980s, Duke Chronicle style (no DeLorean or flux capacitor necessary).

A Look Under the Hood—and the Flaps—of the Anatomical Fugitive Sheets Collection

We have digitized some fairly complex objects over the years that have challenged our Digital Collections team to push the boundaries of typical digital library solutions for digitization and publication. It happens often: objects we want to digitize are sort of like something we’ve done for a previous project, but not quite, so we can’t simply mimic whatever we did before to get the new project done. We’re frequently flexing our creative muscles.  In many cases, our most successful projects ended up that way because we didn’t concede to the temptation of representing items digitally in an oversimplified manner, or, worse still, as something they are not.

Working with so many rare and unique items from the Rubenstein Library through the years, we’ve become unfazed by these representation challenges and time and again have simply pulled together our team’s brainpower (and willpower) to make something work. Dare I say it, we’ve been unflappable. But this year, we met our match and surely needed some help.

In March, we published ten anatomical fugitive sheets from the 1500s to 1600s. They’re printed illustrations from the Rubenstein Library’s History of Medicine Collections, depicting the human body using layers of paper flaps that can be lifted to reveal internal organs. They’re amazing. They’re distinctive. And they’re really complicated.

Fugitive Sheet
Fugitive Sheet example, accessible online at http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/rubenstein_fgsms01003/ (Photo Credit: Les Todd)

The complexity of this project necessitated enlisting help from beyond the library’s walls. Early on, Prof. Mark Olson in Duke’s Art, Art History & Visual Studies department was instrumental in helping us identify modern technical approaches for capturing and modeling such objects. We contracted out development work through local web firm Cuberis, who programmed the bulk of the UI. In-house, we handled digitization, metadata, and integration with our discovery & access application with a lot of collaborative creativity between the digital collections team, the collection curator, conservators, and rare materials cataloger.

In a moment, I’ll discuss what modern technologies make the Fugitive Sheets interface hum. But first, here’s a look at what others have done with flap-based items.

Flaps in the Wind, Er… Wild

There are a few examples of anatomical flap objects represented on the Web, both at Duke and beyond. Common approaches include:

  1. A Sequence of Images. Capture one image of the full item for every state of the flaps possible, then let a user navigate them as if viewing a paginated document or photo sequence.
  2. Video. Either film someone lifting the flaps, or make an auto-playing video of the image sequence above.
  3. Flash. Develop a Flash application and put a SWF file on the web.

The third approach is actually what powers Duke’s Four Seasons project, which remains one of the best interactive historical anatomy interfaces available today. Developed way back in 2000 by Educational Media Services, Four Seasons began as a Java program distributed on CD-ROM (gasp!) and in subsequent years found a home as a Flash application embedded on the library website.

Flash-based flap interface for The Four Seasons, available at http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/history-of-medicine/four-seasons
Flash-based flap interface for The Four Seasons, available at http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/history-of-medicine/four-seasons

Flash has fallen out of favor over the last decade for many reasons, most notably: 1) it won’t work on iOS devices, 2) it’s bad for accessibility, 3) it’s invisible to search engines, and most importantly, 4) most of what Flash used to do exclusively can now be done just as well using HTML5.

Anatomy of a Modern Flap Interface

The Web has made giant leaps forward in the past five years due to advances in HTML, CSS, and Javascript and the evolution of web browsers. Key specs for HTML5 and CSS3 have been supported by all major browsers for several years now.  Below are the vital bits (so to speak) in use by the Anatomical Fugitive Sheets. Many of these things would not have worked (or worked well) on the Web five years ago.

HTML5 Parts

1. SVG (scalable vector graphics). An <svg> element in HTML contains shape data for each flap using a coordinates system. The <path> holds a string with line instructions using shorthand (M, L, c, etc.) for tracing the contour: MoveTo, Lineto, Curveto, Arcto. We duplicate the <path> with a transform attribute to render the shape of the back of the flap.

SVG for flap
SVG coordinates in a <path> element representing the back of a flap.

2. Cross-window messaging API. Each fugitive sheet is rendered within an <iframe> on a page and the clickable layer navigation lives in its parent page, so they’re essentially two separate web pages presented as if one. Having a click in one page do something in another is possible through the Javascript method postMessage, part of the HTML5 spec.

  • From parent page to iframe: frame.contentWindow.postMessage(message, '*');
  • From iframe to parent page: window.top.postMessage(message, '*');

CSS3 Parts

  1. transition Property. Here’s where the flap animation action happens.  The flap elements all have the style declaration transition:1s ease-in-out. That ensures that when a flap property like height changes, it animates over the course of one second, slower at the start and end and quicker in the middle.  Clicking to open a flap calls a Javascript function that simultaneously switches the height of the flap front to zero and the back to its full size.
  2. transform Property. This scales down the figure and all its interactive components for display in the iframe, e.g., body.framed .flip-up-wrapper { transform:scale(.5) }; This scaling doesn’t apply in the full-size and zoomed-in views and thus enables the flaps to work identically at full- or half-resolution.

Capture & Encoding

Capture

Because the fugitive sheets are large and extremely fragile, our Digital Production Center staff and conservators worked carefully together to untangle and prop open each flap to be photographed separately. It often required two or more people to steady and flatten the flaps while being careful not to cast shadows on the layer being shot. I wasn’t there, but in my mind I imagine a game of library Twister.

Staff captured images using an overhead reproduction camera using white paper below each flap to make it easier to later determine and crop the contours. Unlike most images we digitize, the flaps’ derivative images are stored and delivered in PNG format to preserve transparency.

Encoding

As we do for all digital collections, we encode in an XML document the structural, administrative, and descriptive data about the digital objects using accepted library standards so that 1) the data can be preserved and ported between applications, and 2) we can use it to power our discovery & access interface. We use METS, a flexible Library of Congress standard for describing all kinds of digital objects.

METS worked pretty well for representing the flap data (see example), and we tapped into a few parts of the standard that we’ve never or rarely used for other items. Specifically, we:

  • added the LC MIX namespace for technical image metadata
  • used an amdSec to store flap heights & widths
  • used file/@GROUPID to divide flap images between figure 1, figure 2, etc.
  • used fptr/area/@COORDS to hold the SVG path coordinates for each flap

The descriptive metadata for the fugitive sheets posed its own challenges outside the box for our usual projects. All the information about the sheets existed as MARC catalog records, and crosswalking from MARC to anything else is more of an art than a science.

Looking Ahead

We’ll try to build on the accomplishments from the Fugitive Sheets Collection as we tackle new complex digitization projects. The History of Medicine Collections in particular are brimming with items that will be far more challenging than these sheets to model, like paginated flap books with fold-out pages and flaps that open in different directions. Undaunted, we’ll keep flapping our wings to stay aloft.

The History of Medicine’s Anatomical Fugitive Sheet Digital Collection

As Curator for the History of Medicine Collections in the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, I have the opportunity to work with incredible items, including Renaissance era amputation saws, physician case books from the nineteenth century, and anatomical illustrations with moveable parts, just to name a few.

HOM1
One of the Anatomical Fugitive Sheets with flap down.
HOM2
Same image as the previous one, but with top flap up.

In my opinion, our holdings of anatomical fugitive sheets are some of the most remarkable and rare items one can find in historical medical collections. Our collection includes ten of these sheets, and each one is fascinating for its own reasons.

These anatomical fugitive sheets, which date from the early sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth centuries, are single sheets, similar to broadsides, that are unique in that they contain overlays or flaps that lift to reveal the inside of the human body.

I have read arguments that such items would have been used by barber surgeons or medical students, but others say these were hung in apothecary shops or purchased and kept by individuals with an interest in knowing what was inside their body. After almost 500 years, it is amazing that these anatomical fugitive sheets still exist. While we do have a few sheets that have lost some or all of their flaps, I think it’s fascinating to examine where flaps are broken. Somehow these broken and missing parts make these sheets more real to me – a reminder that each one has a story to tell. How and when did the flap get torn? How would this have really been used in 1539?

After the success of our Animated Anatomies exhibit, many of my colleagues and I have been discussing how to make our materials that contain flaps available online. I can tell you, it’s no easy task, but I am thrilled that we now have a digital version of our collection of anatomical fugitive sheets. With funding from the Elon Clark Endowment, a local custom web design firm, Cuberis, was outsourced to create the code, making these items interactive. Our own amazing Digital Collections Team not only photographed each overlay, but also took the code and applied it to DUL’s digital collection site, making it all work freely to a public audience.

There are so many people involved in making something like this happen. Thanks to Mark Olson, Cordelia and William Laverack Family Assistant Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies here at Duke University, for his role in getting this project started. And here in the DUL – a huge thanks to Erin Hammeke (Conservation), Mike Adamo and Molly Bragg (Digital Production Center), Noah Huffman and Lauren Reno (Rubenstein Library Technical Services), Will Sexton, Cory Lown, and especially Sean Aery (Digital Projects Department). They are an incredible team that makes beautiful things happen. Obviously.

Post contributed by Rachel Ingold

When it Rains, It Pours: A Digital Collections News Round Up

2015 has been a banner year for Duke Digital Collections, and its only January! We have already published a new collection, broken records and expanded our audience. Truth be told, we have been on quite a roll for the last several months, and with the holidays we haven’t had a chance to share every new digital collection with you. Today on Bitstreams, we highlight digital collection news that didn’t quite make the headlines in the past few months.

H. Lee Watersmania

waterschart
Compare normal Digital Collections traffic to our Waters spike on Monday January 19th.

Before touching on news you haven’t about, we must continue the H. Lee Waters PR Blitz. Last week, we launched the H. Lee Waters digital collection. We and the Rubenstein Library knew there was a fair amount of pent-up demand for this collection, however we have been amazed by the reaction of the public. Within a few days of launch, site visits hit what we believe (though cannot say with 100% certainty) to be an all time high of 17,000 visits and 37,000 pageviews on Jan 19.  We even suspect that the intensity of the traffic has contributed to some recent server performance issues (apologies if you have had trouble viewing the films – we and campus IT are working on it).

We have also seen more than 20 new user comments left on Water’s films pages, 6 comments left on the launch blog post, and 40+ new likes on the Duke Digital Collections Facebook page since last week. The Rubenstein Library has also received a surge of inquiries about the collection. These may not be “official” stats, but we have never seen this much direct public reaction to one of our new digital collections, and we could not be more excited about it.

Early Greek Manuscripts

An example from the early Greek Manuscript collection.
An example from the early Greek Manuscript collection.

In November we quietly made 38 early Greek manuscripts available online, one of which is the digital copy of a manuscript since returned to the Greek government.  These beautiful volumes are part of the Rubenstein Library and date from the 9th – 17th centuries.   We are still digitizing volumes from this collection, and hope to publish more in the late Spring.  At that time we will make some changes to the look and feel of the digital collection.  Our goal will be to further expose the general public to the beauty of these volumes while also increasing discoverability to multiple scholarly communities.

 

Link Media Wall Exhibit

In early January, the libraries Digital Exhibits Working Group premiered their West Campus Construction Link media wall exhibit, affectionately nicknamed the Game of Stones.   The exhibit features content from the Construction of Duke University digital collection and the Duke University Archives’ Flickr sets.   The creation of this exhibit has been described previously on Bitstreams (here and here).  Head on down to the link and see it for yourself!campus_constr

 

History of Medicine Artifacts

Medicine bottles and glasses from the HOM artifacts collection.

Curious about bone saws, blood letting or other historic medical instruments? Look no further than the Rubenstein Libraries History of Medicine Artifact’s Collection Guide.   In December we published over 300 images of historic medical artifacts embedded in the collection guide.  Its an incredible and sometimes frightening treasure trove of images.

These are legacy images taken  by the History of Medicine.  While we didn’t shoot these items in the Digital Production Center, the digital collections team still took a hands on approach to normalizing the filenames and overall structure of the image set so we could publish them.  This project was part of our larger efforts to make more media types embeddable in Rubenstein collection guides, a deceptively difficult process that will likely be covered more in depth in a future Bitstreams post.

Digitization to Support the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Legacy Project Partnership

Transcript from an oral history in the Joseph Sinsheimer papers.
Transcript from an oral history in the Joseph Sinsheimer papers.

In the last year, Duke University Libraries has been partnering with the SNCC Legacy Project and the Center for Documentary Studies on One Person One Vote: The Legacy of SNCC and the Fight for Voting Rights.  As part of the project, the digital collections team has digitized several collections related to SNCC and made content available from each collections’ collection guide.  The collections include audio recordings, moving images and still images.  Selections from the digitized content will soon be made available on the One Person One Vote site to be launched in March 2015.  In the meantime, you can visit the collections directly:  Joseph Sinsheimer PapersFaith Holsaert Papers, and SNCC 40th Anniversary Conference.

 

Coach 1K

Coach K’s first Duke win against Stetson.

This one is hot off the digital presses.  Digital Collections partnered with University Archives to publish Coach K’s very first win at Duke just this week in anticipation of victory # 1000.

What’s Next for Duke Digital Collections?

The short answer is, a lot!  We have very ambitious plans for 2015.  We will be developing the next version of our digital collections platform, hiring an intern (thank you University Archives), restarting digitization of the Gedney collection, and of course publishing more of your favorite digital collections.   Stay tuned!

“See Yourself in the Movies!”: H. Lee Waters Goes Online

 

hleewaters-200x300_desaturated
H. Lee Waters, circa 1942.

When in the late 1980s Duke Libraries first began collecting H. Lee Waters’ “Movies of Local People,” the only way the films could be seen was through projection or, given the deluxe treatment, played back on a video tape.  Nearly 30 years later the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library and Duke Library’s Digital Projects and Production Services team are proud to bring the films online.  It is an important milestone for a collection that has grown so organically through the years and whose individual films have come from so many sources.

The motion picture films in the H. Lee Waters Collection play out a history of North Carolina (and Virginia, and South Carolina) in the late 1930s and early 1940s unparalleled in scope and vision.  But what would eventually become such a grand gift to the citizens and scholars and artists of the region did not begin with that in mind.  Like fellow commercial photographer and North Carolinian Hugh Mangum, Waters might be considered an accidental documentarian, taking to the road in the depths of the Depression as a resourceful businessman, filling theatre seats with audiences who paid to see themselves in the movies.  And yet, a natural behind the camera, Waters knew composition and how to frame a shot; more importantly, he knew people, loved to be around them, and could draw from his subjects positive reactions to this unexpected man with a camera, outside the mill, on main street, in front of the school, in the shop.  As Waters biographer and documentarian Tom Whiteside has noted, Waters’ quick-cut aesthetic managed the immediate goal of getting as many townsfolk into the movie as possible while achieving, in the long-term, an archive of still image frames that is vast in its scope and ripe for investigation.  From this perspective, the vernacular of his art puts him in the company of the prominent documentary photographers of his day.

 

A still from Clayton (N.C.), circa 1936-1937 (Reel 1), one of the films in H. Lee Waters Digital Collection.
A still from “Clayton (N.C.), circa 1936-1937 (Reel 1),” one of the films in H. Lee Waters Digital Collection.

Waters used reversal film, and the film he projected was the same film he shot in the camera, edited for length and his beloved special effects.  He worked quickly, didn’t make copies, and after coming off the road in 1942 shelved the films until, later in life, he started selling them to their respective communities.  Duke’s collection of H. Lee Waters films therefore owes a debt to the towns, libraries, and historical societies who over the years have sent, and continue to send, Waters’ legacy to Duke, recognizing that centralizing these resources works in favor of the region’s cultural heritage.  It also means that over the years Duke has accrued film in all conditions and states of preservation.  There is film in the collection that is literally turning to dust; there is also beautiful Kodachrome that could have been shot yesterday.  Since 1988, too, audiovisual preservation has changed dramatically.  Thankfully, and with the help of the National Film Preservation Foundation, a substantial number of the films have received full film-to-film preservation; nevertheless, earlier, heroic attempts at saving some films to videotape, some formulations of which are now severely degrading, have left us in a few cases with only a blurred shadow of what must have been on that original film.  So our digital project reflects the films and their creator, but also the history of the collection at Duke.

A still image from Kannapolis (N.C.), 1941 (Reel 1), one of the films in the H. Lee Waters Digital Collection.
A still  from “Kannapolis (N.C.), 1941 (Reel 1),” one of the films in the H. Lee Waters Digital Collection.

Many at Duke Libraries have made the Waters collection what it is today, and those of us working on bringing the films online build on the efforts of librarians, archivists, and technical staff who were as passionate about these movies as we are.  Ever in transition, the collection is marked by growth, an element that we see as integral to the website.  In fact we are already adding to it.  In addition to the films and (for some of them) shotlists, there are oral history interviews with the children of H. Lee Waters.  Tom Waters and Mary Waters Spaulding have not only been essential in bringing their father’s films online, they have a unique perspective on a talented man whose contribution to the history of North Carolina was only beginning to be appreciated when he died in 1997.  Waters’ home movies will be added to the site soon, and we anticipate presenting select work inspired by the Waters films, because, in addition to their own sublime artistry, the movies remain a magnet for artists and documentarians mining archival sources.  One such work will debut March 20 for Duke Performances, as Jenny Scheinman premieres her work “Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait,” based around film from the collection.

A still from "Smithfield (N.C.) and Selma (N.C.), 1937 (Reel 1)," one of the films in the H. Lee Waters Digital Collection.
A still from “Smithfield (N.C.) and Selma (N.C.), 1937 (Reel 1),” one of the films in the H. Lee Waters Digital Collection.

Of course, we also hope the site might draw other Movies of Local People out of hiding, because while Duke and the State Archives hold a good number of the films, we still don’t know the whereabouts of some of them.  So when you visit the site, take advantage of the embed and share functions accompanying each of the videos, use them on your blog or Facebook page, guide people to H. Lee Waters at Duke, and who knows? It may lead them to investigate further, to liberate that can of film that’s been sitting in the closet or biding its time at the local library.

Post Contributed by Craig Breaden, Audiovisual Archivist, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Preview of the W. Duke, Sons & Co. Digital Collection

T206_Piedmont_cards
When I almost found the T206 Honus Wagner

It was September 6, 2011 (thanks Exif metadata!) and I thought I had found one–a T206 Honus Wagner card, the “Holy Grail” of baseball cards.  I was in the bowels of the Rubenstein Library stacks skimming through several boxes of a large collection of trading cards that form part of the W. Duke, Sons & Co. adverting materials collection when I noticed a small envelope labeled “Piedmont.”  For some reason, I remembered that the Honus Wagner card was issued as part of a larger set of cards advertising the Piedmont brand of cigarettes in 1909.  Yeah, I got pretty excited.

I carefully opened the envelope, removed a small stack of cards, and laid them out side by side, but, sadly, there was no Honus Wagner to be found.  A bit deflated, I took a quick snapshot of some of the cards with my phone, put them back in the envelope, and went about my day.  A few days later, I noticed the photo again in my camera roll and, after a bit of research, confirmed that these cards were indeed part of the same T206 set as the famed Honus Wagner card but not nearly as rare.

Fast forward three years and we’re now in the midst of a project to digitize, describe, and publish almost the entirety of the W. Duke, Sons & Co. collection including the handful of T206 series cards I found.  The scanning is complete (thanks DPC!) and we’re now in the process of developing guidelines for describing the digitized cards.  Over the last few days, I’ve learned quite a bit about the history of cigarette cards, the Duke family’s role in producing them, and the various resources available for identifying them.

T206 Harry Lumley
1909 Series T206 Harry Lumley card (front), from the W. Duke, Sons & Co. collection in the Rubenstein Library
T206 Harry Lumley card (back)
1909 Series T206 Harry Lumley card (back)

 

 

Brief History of Cigarette Cards

A Bad Decision by the Umpire
“A Bad Decision by the Umpire,” from series N86 Scenes of Perilous Occupations, W. Duke, Sons & Co. collection, Rubenstein Library.
  • Beginning in the 1870s, cigarette manufacturers like Allen and Ginter and Goodwin & Co. began the practice of inserting a trade card into cigarette packages as a stiffener. These cards were usually issued in sets of between 25 and 100 to encourage repeat purchases and to promote brand loyalty.
  • In the late 1880s, the W. Duke, Sons, & Co. (founded by Washington Duke in 1881), began inserting cards into Duke brand cigarette packages.  The earliest Duke-issued cards covered a wide array of subject matter with series titled Actors and Actresses, Fishers and Fish, Jokes, Ocean and River Steamers, and even Scenes of Perilous Occupations.
  • In 1890, the W. Duke & Sons Co., headed by James B. Duke (founder of Duke University), merged with several other cigarette manufacturers to form the American Tobacco Company.
  • In 1909, the American Tobacco Company (ATC) first began inserting baseball cards into their cigarettes packages with the introduction of the now famous T206 “White Border” set, which included a Honus Wagner card that, in 2007, sold for a record $2.8 million.
The American Card Catalog
Title page from library’s copy of The American Card Catalog by Jefferson R. Burdick.

Identifying Cigarette Cards

  • The T206 designation assigned to the ATC’s “white border” set was not assigned by the company itself, but by Jefferson R. Burdick in his 1953 publication The American Card Catalog (ACC), the first comprehensive catalog of trade cards ever published.
  • In the ACC, Burdick devised a numbering scheme for tobacco cards based on manufacturer and time period, with the two primary designations being the N-series (19th century tobacco cards) and the T-series (20th century tobacco cards).  Burdick’s numbering scheme is still used by collectors today.
  • Burdick was also a prolific card collector and his personal collection of roughly 300,000 trade cards now resides at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

 

Preview of the W. Duke, Sons & Co. Digital Collection [coming soon]

Dressed Beef (Series N81 Jokes)
“Dressed Beef” from Series N81 Jokes, W. Duke, Sons & Co. collection, Rubenstein Library
  •  When published, the W. Duke, Sons & Co. digital collection will feature approximately 2000 individual cigarette cards from the late 19th and early 20th centuries as well as two large scrapbooks that contain several hundred additional cards.
  • The collection will also include images of other tobacco advertising ephemera such as pins, buttons, tobacco tags, and even examples of early cigarette packs.
  • Researchers will be able to search and browse the digitized cards and ephemera by manufacturer, cigarette brand, and the subjects they depict.
  • In the meantime, researchers are welcome to visit the Rubenstein Library in person to view the originals in our reading room.