Why They Give: FOCUS Friends Preserve Collections in Honor of “Transformative” Experience

When John Mishler (T’09) signed up for the “Changing Faces of Russia” FOCUS Program cluster in the summer of 2004, he had no way of knowing how big an impact that choice would have. In his first semester at Duke, the jumble of first-years Mishler met in his FOCUS seminar courses would develop into a tight-knit group of friends, sticking together across all four years of college and keeping in touch even now—over seven years after graduation.

John Mishler (T’09)

Today, these grateful alums are giving back.

As a tribute to the common academic experience that brought them together, Mishler and his FOCUS cluster friends recently made a gift through the Libraries’ Adopt a Digital Collection program to sponsor a striking collection of Soviet-era Russian propaganda posters. By offsetting the storage costs of long-term digital preservation, the program allows library supporters like Mishler and his friends to keep digitized collections like this one forever free and accessible for everyone.

An image from the Russian Posters collection that Mishler and his FOCUS friends adopted in honor of the academic experience that brought them together.

Why do they do it?

“My time at Duke was definitely a transformative experience,” Mishler explained. As a practicing attorney in Houston, Texas, and a national member of Duke’s Young Alumni Development Council, he feels he owes a lot to the university and the Libraries in particular. When they heard how much a difference a donation like this could make, Mishler said, he and his FOCUS cluster knew their alma mater was due for some support.

“It was a great experience, and I’d like to see more people participate in it,” Mishler said. “You know the Libraries, they make it so easy—you just click a button!”

An image from the Paul Kwilecki Photographs collection, adopted by Mishler in honor of a friend.

Mishler, in fact, has been something of a habitual collection adopter in recent years. When three of his friends recently turned thirty, he decided to sponsor a different digital collection in honor of each of them, based on their particular interests. The collections include a set of letters by the “father of criminology” Cesare Lombroso, a selection of manuscripts and woodcuts by members of the celebrated Bloomsbury Group of English artists and writers, and the black-and-white photographs of self-taught documentarian Paul Kwilecki.Mishler seemed excited by the idea of other people following his example—although, he noted, “It doesn’t have to be just for a birthday. You can always find a reason to give back.”

For people like Mishler, there’s no excuse for not getting involved in preserving some of the Libraries’ most valuable scholarly and cultural resources. “There’s such a huge variety of collections,” he said. “It’s easy to find something that catches your interest.”

About the Adopt a Digital Collection Program

Every year, the Duke University Libraries digitize thousands of items in our collections. These digital assets must be carefully managed to preserve them for generations of students and researchers to come. This work requires storage space, the specialized expertise of our talented staff, and you!

We need your help expanding our capacity to preserve Duke’s digital collections. Learn more about how you can support the long-term preservation of these important resources.