Category Archives: New Collections

Comparing Photographic Views of the Civil War in Duke’s Newest Digital Collection

Duke Digital Collections is excited to announce our newest digital offering: The Barnard and Gardner Civil War Photographic Albums.  Rubenstein Library Archive of Documentary Arts Curator, Lisa McCarty contributed the post below to share some further information about these significant and influential volumes.

“In presenting the PHOTOGRAPHIC SKETCH BOOK OF THE WAR to the attention of the public, it is designed that it shall speak for itself. The omission, therefore, of any remarks by way of preface might well be justified; and yet, perhaps a few introductory words may not be amiss.

As mementoes of the fearful struggle through which the country has just passed, it is confidently hoped that the following pages will possess an enduring interest. Localities that would scarcely have been known, and probably never remembered, save in their immediate vicinity, have become celebrated, and will ever be held sacred as memorable fields, where thousands of brave men yielded up their lives a willing sacrifice for the cause they had espoused.”

Verbal representations of such places, or scenes, may or may not have the merit of accuracy; but photographic presentments of them will be accepted by posterity with an undoubting faith. During the four years of the war, almost every point of importance has been photographed, and the collection from which these views have been selected amounts to nearly three thousand.”

-Alexander Gardner

The opening remarks that precede Alexander Gardner’s seminal work, Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War, operate two-fold. Firstly, these words communicate the subject matter of the book. Secondly, they communicate the artists’ intentions and his beliefs about the enduring power of photography. Undeniably, Gardner’s images have endured along with the images of his contemporary George N. Barnard. Working at the same time, using the same wet collodian process, and on occasion as part of the same studio, Barnard created a work entitled Photographic Views of the Sherman Campaign. Both were published in 1866 and as a pair are considered among the most important pictorial records of the Civil War.

To compare these two epic tomes in their entirety is a rare opportunity, and is now possible to do both in person in the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Reading Room as well as online in new a digital collection. Whether you prefer to browse paper or virtual pages, there is much that can still be discovered in these 148 year-old books.

Something I noted while revisiting these images is that despite their many commonalities, Gardner’s and Barnard’s approaches as photographers couldn’t have been more different. While both works document the brutality and destruction of the war, Gardner’s images convey this through explicit text and images while Barnard chooses to rely heavily on metaphor and symbolism.

Alexander Gardner, Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg, Pennslyvania, Plate 41, Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War
George N. Barnard, The Scene of General McPherson’s Death, Photographic Views of the Sherman Campaign

 

Evidence of these opposing visions can be seen at their most severe when comparing how the two photographers chose to depict casualties of war. I find that these images are still shocking, but for completely different reasons.

My perception of the image by Gardner is complicated by my knowledge of the circumstances surrounding its production. Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook is oftennoted as being the first book to show images of slain soldiers. It is also been widely established that in Sharpshooter and other images Gardner and his assistants moved the position of the corpse for greater aesthetic and emotional affect. In this one image, Gardner opened up a variety of debates that have divided documentarians ever since: How should the most inhumane violence be depicted, for what reasons should the documentarian intervene in the scene, and under what circumstances should the public encounter such images?

The image by Barnard answers these questions in a wholly different manner. When examining this image close-up my reaction was immediate and visceral. A thicket marked by an animal skull and a halo of matted grass— the stark absence in this image is haunting. I find the scene of the death and its possible relics to be as distressing as Gardner’s Sharpshooter. For in this case the lack of information provided by Barnard triggers my mind to produce a story that lingers and develops slowly as I search the image for answers to the General’s fate.

Search these images for yourself in all their stark detail in our new digital collection:

http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/rubenstein_barnardgardner/

Post Contributed by Lisa McCarty, Curator of the Archive of Documentary Arts

Announcing the DukEngineer Digital Collection!

As the Engineering Librarian, and guest blogger for Bitstreams, I’m excited to announce Duke Digital Collections newest digital collection: DukEngineer!

DukEngineer
The DukEngineer magazine is the student run publication of the Pratt School of Engineering.  This collection was compiled from the holdings of Duke University Libraries, Duke University Archives, and Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering and includes nearly every issue published during 1940-2013.  The amazing team in the Digital Projects and Production Services department at the Library digitized 205 DukEngineer issues into images and text searchable pdf’s.  This digital collection was coordinated to be part of the 75th anniversary celebration of Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering in 2014-2015.

As stated in the inaugural issue dedication in May of 1940, DukEngineer has remained, “strictly a student venture” that covers the activities of engineering clubs, societies and departments at Duke.  The publication also includes articles about advancements in engineering at Duke and worldwide, in addition to alumni and faculty profiles. The inclusion of a final page of jokes, puzzles or cartoons has also remained a tradition throughout the run of DukEngineer.

Browsing the collection provides a fascinating overview of how things have changed and remained the same for engineering students since 1940.

DukEngineer Covers

Changing Technology…

For engineering students, the magazine has many examples of the progress of technology for completing calculations, from the trusted slide-rule to (rather large) calculators, and then (even larger) computers.  Eventually things became smaller and smarter, and Duke engineers have been part of that progress.

“The engineer’s most useful servant, be he designer or otherwise, is his slide-rule. Long, complicated calculations can be made with reasonable accuracy in a very short period of time with this instrument.“ -Sept 1945

Other technological advances that are covered include an explanation of the television in Dec 1940 and the many advancements in the space race during the 1960’s – just to name a few.

Changing Styles…

75 years of engineering students and faculty, means 75 years of changing styles, fashions and hairstyles.  The students in the 1940’s frequently wore jackets & ties to class (looking more dressed up than most faculty today), where as in the 1970s and 80’s short shorts and big hair was the way to go.  Of course, throughout the years, there may have been an  examples or two of the stereotypical white shirt, pocket protector, black glasses, engineer style.

DukEngineer Covers

Changing Culture…

Reading through the magazine, written from student’s perspective of the time, it is easy to be surprised at how things have changed in society as a whole and here at Duke.  The cartoons, and joke pages are some of the prime examples of what was considered socially acceptable throughout the years.  One of my favorite jokes (that I can use in this post) is from February 1956.

Mother—”What are you reading, son?”
M.E.—”Playboy.”
Mother—”Oh, all right, dear, I was afraid you had gotten hold of a ‘DukEngineer.’ “

The 1960’s and 1970’s also included a feature “Girl of the Month.”  Some ‘lucky’ co-ed on campus (not an engineering student) was chosen to be highlighted each issue with a photo spread and some details about their likes, major and sometimes even a name.  An issue in Spring of 1986 did a flashback of this and decided to try to even the score with “Men of the 80’s”.

Women of the 60's... Men of the 80's

Changes at Pratt…

Of course, engineering at Duke has changed a lot through the years also.  The College of Engineering at Duke became official in 1939.  It has grown in the number of students, faculty, departments and buildings as it evolved into the Pratt School of Engineering that we know today.  The big move of engineering from East Campus to West is illustrated on the cover of March 1945.  Other highlights of engineering growth include the building of “old red” (aka Hudson Hall), the design and building of the new Teer engineering library building through the more recent Fitzpatrick Center & CIEMAS.

However, some things never seem to change…

Park in Durham? Ha!

We hope you enjoy browsing the issues of the DukEngineer digital collection.  There are many amazing articles about advancements in engineering, fantastic advertisements, pictures of students, profiles of faculty and alumni, etc.

Happy 75th Pratt!

 Post Contributed by Melanie A. Sturgeon

Announcing the Duke Chapel Recordings Digital Collection and Video Player!

Duke Digital Collections is excited to announce our newest digital collection: Duke Chapel Recordings!

 dukechapel

This digital collection consists of a selection of audio and video recordings from the extensive collection of Duke University Chapel recordings housed in the Duke University Archives, part of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.   The digital collection features 168 audio and video recordings from the chapel including sermons from notable African American and female preachers.  This project has been a fruitful collaboration between Duke Chapel, the Divinity School, the Rubenstein Library and of course the digital projects team in Duke University Libraries.  To learn more, visit the Devil’s Tale blog (the blog of the Rubenstein Library).

But wait, there’s more!

sermon video
Brenda Kirton speaks in this still from one of the Duke Chapel Recordings digital collection.

Fifteen of the recordings were digitized from VHS tapes and are available as video playable from within the digital collection.  These are our first digitized videos delivered via our own infrastructure. Our previous efforts have all relied on external platforms like YouTube, iTunes, and the Internet Archive to serve up the videos. While these tools are familiar to users, feature-rich, and built on a strong technological backbone, we have been intending for quite awhile to develop support for delivering digital video in-house.

When you view a video from the Duke Chapel Recordings, you’ll see a “poster frame” image of the featured speaker. Click the play button to begin (of course!) and the video will play within the page. Watching the videos is a “pseudo-streaming” or “progressive download” experience akin to YouTube. That is, you can start watching almost immediately, and you can click ahead to arbitrary points in the middle of the video at any time.  And while you might occasionally have to wait for things to buffer, videos should play smoothly on desktop, tablet, and smartphone devices, and can be easily enlarged to full-screen. Finally, there’s a Download link right below the video if you’d like to take the files with you.

Behind the scenes, we are using the robust JW Player tool, for which the Pro version was recently made available by site-license to the Duke community by our friends in the Office of Information Technology. JW Player is media player software that uses a combination of HTML5 video and Javascript. It can play video from a streaming server, but as in our case, it can also pseudo-stream video over HTTP via a standard web server. Using HTML5 video, the browser requests and receives only the chunks of the video file that it needs as it plays. Almost all of the major modern browsers support HTML5 video delivering H.264/AAC MP4 content (our video encoding of choice), and a peek at our use statistics indicates that more than 80% of our users visit our site with these browsers.  For the rest, JW Player renders a nearly identical media player using Adobe Flash.

We’re looking forward to hearing from our users and learning from our peers who are working with digital media to keep refining our approach.  We hope to make many more videos from our collections available in the near future.

Post authored by Sean Aery and Molly Bragg.

Announcing 310 Newly Digitized Behind the Veil Interviews and a New Blog!

Duke Digital Collections is pleased to announce that we have published 310 newly digitized interviews in the Behind the Veil: Documenting African-American Life in the Jim Crow South digital collection!  The new interviews are specifically focussed on North Carolina residents.  Although several regions are represented, many interviews focus on the Charlotte, Durham and Enfield regions of the state.

Visit the Behind the Veil Digital Collection

The North Carolina recordings were all digitized as part of the Triangle Research Libraries Network’s project “Content, Context and Capacity: A Collaborative Large-Scale Digitization Project on the Long Civil Rights Movement in North Carolina.”  Publishing these recordings concludes this multi-year endeavor, which digitized collections from UNC Chapel Hill, NC Central University and NC State’s special collections holdings as well as Duke.

Prior to publishing the new NC recordings the Behind the Veil digital collection, contained 100 recordings.  Although we were able to build on the existing collection without developing new technology we essentially QUADRUPLED the number of interviews available online!!    The digital collection was created by digitizing the original audio cassettes and scanning any existing transcripts.   The entire collection (over 1,200 interviews on audio cassettes) is available for research at the John Hope Franklin Center for African and African American History and Culture in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.  Visit the Devil’s Tale (the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library blog) for more details.

Speaking of blogs, you are looking at the brand new blog of Duke’s Digital Projects and Production Services Department.  Visit Bitstreams to learn more about all the exciting and innovative digital projects at Duke University Libraries!