A Fond Farewell

From 2002 to 2011, Tim Pyatt served as Duke’s University Archivist. This summer, the Libraries bid Pyatt farewell as he left Duke to become the Dorothy Foehr Huck Chair and Head of the Eberly Family Special Collections Library at Penn State. But before he left, we asked him to reflect on his time here as Duke’s official keeper of institutional history.

Photo courtesy Tim Pyatt

Thirty years ago, on May 10, 1981, I graduated from Duke after four wonderful years studying everything from history to medieval German. The following day, I joined the library’s cataloging department as a “pre-cataloger.” From there I went on to several different positions around the library, including assistant in the Rare Book Room, where I had previously worked as an undergraduate. I left Duke for the first time in March 1985 and was fortunate enough to return in March 2002 as University Archivist.

During my time at Duke, I had the privilege of working for two incredible library directors—David Ferriero and Deborah Jakubs. With their support and guidance, I was able to expand the University Archives’ programs to include records management, electronic submission of theses and dissertations, acquisition of born-digital records, and, most recently, harvesting and archiving university websites. Over the last nine years, access to the University Archives holdings has greatly expanded through such tools as the Libraries’ digital collections, Flickr, Wikipedia, and the Internet Archive. In 2006 the University Archives merged with the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library (recently renamed the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library), which allowed us to offer more reading room hours and increased support for public programming and exhibits. The merger also gave me the opportunity to work closely with associate university librarian Bob Byrd as I took on an expanded role as associate director of the Special Collections Library. His direction and leadership helped me develop my vision for the Archives and gave me valuable administrative experience.

During my second “tour of duty” at Duke, I have experienced a number of personal and professional highlights. Space prevents me from listing them all, but touring incoming President and Mrs. Brodhead around Trinity, North Carolina, in the summer of 2004 was truly special. They both were kind and gracious, especially after learning it was the first tour

I had ever given of Duke University’s birthplace. More recently, bringing the papers and records of James B. Duke’s only daughter, Doris, “home” to join the records of her extended family and related foundations helped complete the record of the university’s founding family. On a personal level, since 2002 I have played in the Duke Pep Band during holiday breaks while the students are away. In 2006 I got to live out my Duke basketball fantasy when I rolled across the floor of Cameron with the Blue Devil surfing on my back. That memory will be with me forever. Fortunately, the bruises have long since faded.

With the career opportunities and professional engagement I have experienced over the last nine years, I feel like I am “graduating” a second time from Duke. I will greatly miss my colleagues and campus friends, but plan to continue my ties with my alma mater through the Alumni Association and the Friends of Duke University Libraries. Duke will always be a part of me and a source for inspiration.

Tim Pyatt, Class of 1981, Duke Parent 2007