Category Archives: Collections Highlight

Digitizing DukEngineer: Every Issue Since 1940 Now Online

DukEngineer Vol 11 No 3 1949

By Gwen Hawkes

DukEngineer Vol 5 No 3_1943
DukEngineer cover from 1943

To help celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Pratt School of Engineering, the Duke University Libraries recently finished digitizing a classic campus publication: DukEngineer. Since 1940, DukEngineer has been written, edited, and published by a volunteer team of engineering students who chronicled campus developments and recorded their experiences and perspectives. The entire magazine archive is now available online, beginning with the very first issue and running through the most recent editions of 2013.

The magazine provides a fascinating look at the life of Duke engineering students through the decades. Clicking through old copies, it is easy to see how many things have changed—and how some things have remained the same. Many of the articles are academic in nature, recounting the latest developments in technology or sharing the details of students’ work and research. However, there’s plenty of more whimsical fare. An article from the February 1960 issue entitled “Do-It- Yourself Still” chronicles the author’s encounter with an “honest-to-goodness bootlegger” and explains how to make your own hooch at home.

DukEngineer 2003_2004
Decades later DukEngineer is still representing the voices of students on campus (cover image from March 2004).

Every academic discipline has its stereotypes, and engineering is no exception. One could be forgiven for skimming the (no doubt fascinating) multi-part series on the history of the slide-rule. Another example is the “Girl of the Month” photo spreads that regularly appeared in the 1960s and 1970s, often featuring attractive coeds from Trinity or the Divinity School. (Today, approximately 30 percent of undergraduates and graduate students at Pratt are women.) Many issues also featured a section of jokes and “Diversions,” including brain-teasers, mind-benders, and a fair share of puns that non-engineers will simply have to trust are funny.

Over the years, DukEngineer has helped to keep the Duke engineering student community connected. The DukEngineer digital collection allows us the opportunity to watch the growth and evolution of this world-class academic community from its earliest days.

Gwen Hawkes (T’16) is an English major and Library Communications Assistant at Duke.

Collections Highlight: John Wesley Blassingame and the African American Experience

Courtesy of Yale University

The John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture at the Special Collections Library recently acquired the papers of John Wesley Blassingame, a nationally renowned scholar of American history and the author of such influential works as The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South, Black New Orleans: 1860-1880, and Frederick Douglass: The Clarion Voice. Blassingame’s groundbreaking scholarship has had a profound impact on the understanding both of slavery in the United States and the African American experience. The Duke collection includes correspondence, personal manuscripts, and research files from Blassingame’s long academic career. It is particularly rich in materials drawn from his work on the Frederick Douglass Papers.

When Blassingame died in 2000, he was professor of history, African American studies, and American studies at Yale University, where he had been a member of the faculty for twenty-nine years; he chaired the African American Studies Program from 1981 to 1989. Before receiving his appointment at Yale, he had been a lecturer, educator, and historian at Howard University, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Maryland. Professor Blassingame’s widow chose Duke’s Franklin Research Center as the repository for his papers after conferring with John Hope Franklin and meeting several times with Franklin Research Center Director Karen Jean Hunt.

Blassingame was a prolific scholar who also served as a contributing editor to the journal Black Scholar and as a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Negro History, the American Historical Review, and Southern Studies. In addition, he mentored a generation of African American scholars at Yale and elsewhere. Nearly three decades of correspondence with fellow scholars and collaborators, included in his papers, provides insight into Blassingame’s attitudes towards academic life and the study of African American history.

Blassingame’s 1972 book, The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South, may be his most famous work. It was one of the first historical studies to describe slavery from the perspective of the enslaved. At the time of The Slave Community’s publication, most of the historiography of the slavery period derived from the records and accounts of slave owners.

A letter written by Vilet Lester, a slave, is one of fewer than a dozen such letters that have been identified among the vast holdings of plantation records at Duke’s Special Collections Library.

By concentrating on the experience of slave owners, historians had presented a distorted view of plantation life that, in Blassingame’s words, “stripped the slave of any meaningful and distinctive culture, family life, religion, or manhood.” Blassingame addressed this distortion by analyzing, among other sources, fugitive slave narratives published during the nineteenth century. In so doing he overturned prevailing stereotypes about slave character and behavior and provided insight into the complexity of the cultural and social lives of African American slaves. Several boxes of materials Blassingame assembled during his preparation of The Slave Community are now in the collection at the John Hope Franklin Research Center where they can be used by students and scholars of American slavery, especially slavery during the colonial period.

Over the last twenty years of his life, Blassingame dedicated himself to editing the papers of Frederick Douglass; he had co-edited six volumes of Douglass’s manuscripts before his death. Collected in the Blassingame papers are nearly fifty boxes of notes and materials compiled by Blassingame for the Frederick Douglass project, making the John Hope Franklin Research Center a key depository for resources on one of the most influential figures in American history.

Blassingame’s dedication to the collecting and editing of Douglass’s papers evidenced his larger concern that limited and poorly-organized source material had prevented students and scholars from fully understanding the “peculiar institution” of chattel slavery in the southern United States and the subsequent experiences of African Americans in postbellum America. He corrected this deficiency with his 1977 book, Slave Testimony, which comprises over seven hundred pages of previously unpublished material, including slave letters, interviews, and speeches. Slave Testimony is one of the most important sources of documentation of the slave experience published in the twentieth century; the Blassingame papers include materials from this project, as well as additional slavery-era documents.

In addition to materials pertaining to Blassingame’s published work on slavery and antebellum America, the collection of his papers includes research and notes for a project on Blacks and Jews, another of his long-time interests.

Scholars of the African American experience, whether they specialize in antebellum, postbellum, or twentieth-century American history, will find myriad pertinent materials in the Duke collection of Blassingame’s papers.

David McIvor, Intern, John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture at the Special Collections Library

Read Selected Books by John Blassingame

Collections Highlight: Ethiopic Manuscripts at Duke

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers,
who let me finish the writing of the Zemmâre and the Mawâs’et
in peace and well-being,
for ever and ever. May it be!”

(Colophon of ms. Duke Eth. 83)

image of people and horse

Courtesy Lucas Van Rompay

Magic scrolls, Psalters, prayers, and hymns are among the treasures in a collection of more than one hundred Ethiopic manuscripts at Duke’s Special Collections Library. Christianity was introduced in Ethiopia in the 4th century AD and established by Egyptian missionaries. The Ethiopian Christian church retained its connection to the Patriarch of Alexandria until the 20th century.

The manuscripts at Duke are representative of a worldwide diaspora of the Ethiopian Christian heritage that began in the second half of the twentieth century and continues today. While the removal of the manuscripts from Ethiopia is regrettable, Professor Lucas Van Rompay takes a pragmatic view:

As scholars, we cannot undo the process by which these objects left Ethiopia and arrived here, but we can in our own way halt their movement from their original environment. By giving these objects our respect and scholarly attention and by using all possible modern technologies—such as digitizing—we can help to ensure that they will be available for study and research by the international scholarly community as well as by Ethiopian Christians in Ethiopia and elsewhere.

Van Rompay, a member of Duke’s Department of Religion faculty, and Aaron Butts from the University of Chicago’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations intend to do just that—increase visibility of the manuscripts in the Duke collection and make them more readily available. The manuscripts are certainly of value to biblical scholars and to students of early Christianity. However, scholars and students of African history, popular religion, and manuscript production (all the manuscripts are written on parchment and the bindings often have interesting and rare features) will also use them.

image of manuscript

Colophon of ms. Duke Eth. 83 from Duke’s Special Collections Library
Courtesy Lucas Van Rompay

For the past two summers Van Rompay and Butts have been working with the manuscripts, preparing a catalogue of the Duke holdings that will be published in 2010. Their catalogue will supersede an unpublished description of manuscripts 1-29 compiled in 1979 by William F. Macomber, a well-known scholar of Syriac, Coptic, and Ethiopic Christianity; Macomber died in 2008.

Photo of amulet

Amulet from Duke’s Special Collections Library

The twenty-nine items Professor Macomber studied include seventeen magic scrolls as well as eight Psalters, one Gospel of John, two collections of prayers, and one collection of the Miracles of the Virgin Mary. Van Rompay and Butts are cataloguing all of the manuscripts Duke has acquired since 1979 as well as the twenty-nine that Macomber described. Among the more recent acquisitions are additional magic scrolls (five with amulets), biblical texts, hymns, liturgical collections and devotional prayer books, hagiography, theological writings, and miscellaneous materials.

Most of the manuscripts date from the 19th or 20th centuries, with only a few originating as early as the 18th century. Yet, while the manuscripts are relatively recent, they are of interest to scholars because of their distinctive characteristics, the textual evidence they contain and the record of Ethiopian Christianity in the modern period that they provide.

The twenty-eight Psalter manuscripts offer much to explore, from textual patterns that almost certainly reflect local religious traditions to a variation in the content of some of the prayers to an occasional unique binding to a single illustrated Psalter. This Psalter, one of only two manuscripts in the collection with illustrations as old as the manuscripts themselves, has a carefully executed drawing of King David holding his harp. The other illustration, in one of the prayer book manuscripts, is a modest, but very fine drawing of the Archangel Michael, with crown and wings and carrying a staff. In both cases, there is a clear connection between the content of the manuscript and the illustration. The rarity and simple character of the illuminations are in keeping with the general nature of the Duke collection, evidence that these manuscripts must have belonged to, and been produced on behalf of, individuals or monastic or church congregations of limited means.

The eight hymn manuscripts in the Duke collection are among its highlights. Several were intended for liturgical use: their script is smaller than that of the other manuscripts, and there is interlinear musical annotation. One collection of hymns is attributed to Yared, the father of Ethiopic hymnography.

Ethiopic hymns are typically structured around the feasts of the liturgical year. Many of the hymns are based on the Bible, both Old and New Testament, and may be seen as liturgical commentaries on the Bible, not unlike the hymns of other Christian churches. The liturgical structure of two of the groups of hymns in the Duke collection is similar to hymn manuscripts in the British Library but with sufficient variation to merit more scholarly attention.

In the field of hagiography, the biography of saints and venerated persons, one noteworthy group of three manuscripts, Dersana Mika’el, is a collection of texts related to the monthly feasts of the Archangel Michael. Each month typically includes a homily, a miracle, a salutation, and often an “explanation of the feast.” This collection is of interest, not only for its obvious links with Coptic and Christian-Arabic homilies about Michael, but also for the homilies’ attributions to church fathers of the early Christian age (Timothy of Alexandria, Epiphanius of Cyprus, and Severus of Antioch) as well as to later Ethiopian authors (John of Ethiopia and John of Aksum).

photo of prayer scroll

One of the prayer scrolls unrolled
Photo by Eleanor Mills

Duke’s forty-seven magic scrolls, also called prayer scrolls, many acquired bundled together, are of a recent date, although they are written in Ge’ez, a language no longer spoken in Ethiopia but which persists as the Ethiopian Church’s liturgical language. One of the most fascinating aspects of the scrolls is that, in contrast to the manuscripts, the prayers they contain address particular concerns of Ethiopian women, including illness, sterility, and unhappiness in love. Indeed, the prominence of women in these prayer scrolls raises questions that beg for further research.

With the publication of the Van Rompay and Butts catalogue, information about the Duke Ethiopic manuscript holdings will be available to anyone with access to the Internet. Digitization of the manuscripts, which is being discussed, will make the content of the manuscripts themselves available as well.

Photo of Lucas Van Rompay and Aaron Butts

Lucas Van Rompay and Aaron Butts

This note is adapted with the permission of Lucas Van Rompay from a lecture he gave at the 2008 annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.

Collections Highlight: Celebrating and Preserving the Art of Documentary Filmmaking at the Full Frame Archive

Kirston Johnson

Born into Brothels

Born into Brothels, directed by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman, won the 2004 Full Frame Audience Award and was Best Documentary Feature at the 77th Academy Awards.

In the ten years since the founding of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, this organization has exhibited the most important contemporary documentaries from America and abroad. It has also created signature film series made up of new and vintage works which explored themes that have contributed to community discourse and have gone on to become hallmarks of international film exhibition. As documentaries play a vital role as witness and effectively comment on all aspects of society, the sum total of these works serves as an essential historical record of the last ten years. They reveal turbulent, changing times, a complex and powerful decade of events that have both shocked and inspired those who lived through them.

Nancy Buirski, Founder of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival,
The Power of Ten, 2007 Full Frame Program

When the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival began in 1998 as the DoubleTake Documentary Film Festival, it changed Durham, North Carolina’s cultural landscape forever. During that first festival, a total of forty-five films were screened in three cinemas at Durham’s historic Carolina Theater. Three prizes were awarded to individual filmmakers for new documentaries and Albert Maysles and Michael Apted, pioneers of documentary filmmaking, were honored for lifetime achievement. Within a few years the Festival had made Durham a mecca for documentary filmmakers and film lovers from around the world.

City of Cranes

City of Cranes/Eva Weber

Now, more than a decade later, close to one hundred films are screened every April during the four-day Festival and between ten and twelve prizes are awarded for new documentaries made by both U.S. (including several from NC) and international filmmakers. The Festival also continues to present career awards to established filmmakers who have made significant contributions to the documentary arts.

As the Festival’s reputation grew, so did the appreciation of documentary film as a unique record of the social, cultural, political, and economic realities experienced by people around the world. In recognition of the genre’s significance, the Full Frame Festival and the Duke University Libraries entered into a partnership in 2007 to create the Full Frame Archive. The Libraries agreed to acquire, archive, and preserve copies of the Festival’s award-winning films at the Archive of Documentary Arts in the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library.

I for India

I for India/Sandhya Suri

The Full Frame Archive is one of only a few collections in the nation dedicated to preserving award-winning documentary films, which are a unique resource for interdisciplinary research. The Archive staff creates preservation masters of each film and houses them in the Library’s secure, climate-controlled storage facility. DVD copies of the films are made available at the Special Collections Library to Duke students and faculty and the larger scholarly community for teaching and research.

With over one hundred award winning films currently in the Full Frame Archive’s collection and at least eight new documentaries slated for preservation each year, the Archive has the potential to support research and teaching in a wide variety of disciplines and programs. Faculty from Duke’s Film/Video/Digital Program, Women’s Studies Program, Human Rights Center, and Divinity School have already used the films, which are transcultural in scope and explore themes as varied as world religions and spirituality, race, gender, human rights and war as well as an array of esoteric topics, each with its own unique appeal. The films are as individual as the filmmakers themselves and as diverse as the human experience. There are films on everything from modern life in a Tibetan monastery, female soldiers in Iraq and a children’s home in Russia, to demolition derbies, the art of making samosas, and the high-pressure world of professional Scrabble tournaments.

Intimacy of Strangers

The Intimacy of Strangers/Eva Weber

To encourage the use of the films, the Archive staff is making them available on campus for collaborative events that bring together students and faculty from different departments. Duke’s Divinity School recently screened 2007 Full Frame award winner The Monastery, followed by a panel discussion that included participants from the Center for Documentary Studies, the Department of Religion, and the Divinity School.

The Full Frame Archive promotes the groundbreaking work created by today’s documentary filmmakers and guarantees a lasting legacy for both the Festival and the artists. In a predominantly visual culture, and as visual studies increasingly become a part of every aspect of teaching and learning, this exciting collaboration encourages the use of documentary film as a catalyst for interdisciplinary scholarship, dynamic dialogue, and social change.

Non-circulating DVD copies of each preserved film will be available for use in the reading room of the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, as well as for classroom screenings and special events. Licensed copies of the award-winning documentaries will be purchased from the filmmakers and will be more widely available through the circulating collection at Lilly Library. For a complete list of films preserved to date, please visit the Archive’s website at To find more information about the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina, and to see a listing of 2009 events, please visit the Festival website at

The Full Frame Archive receives support from the following sponsors:

  • Eastman Kodak
  • Alpha Cine Labs, Seattle
  • Duke University Office of the President
  • The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Read More about Documentary Filmmaking

  • Patricia Aufderheide. Documentary Film: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, ©2007.
  • Erik Barnouw. Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction Film. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
  • Stella Bruzzi. New Documentary. London; New York: Routledge, ©2006.
  • Jack C. Ellis and Betsy A. McLane. A New History of Documentary Film. New York: Continuum, ©2005.
  • Lewis Jacobs. The Documentary Tradition, from Nanook to Woodstock. New York: Hopkinson and Blake, ©1971.
  • Introduction to Documentary Production. Ed. by Searle Kochberg, London: Wallflower, ©2002.
  • Making History: Art and Documentary in Britain from 1929 to Now. Ed. by Barson, Morris, Nash, and Company, London: Tate Publishing, ©2006.
  • Bill Nichols. Introduction to Documentary. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, ©2001.
  • Liz Stubbs. Documentary Filmmakers Speak. New York: Allworth Press, ©2002.
  • Beyond Document: Essays on Nonfiction Film. Ed. by Charles Warren, Middletown, CT: University Press of New England [for] Wesleyan University Press, ©1996.

Kirston Johnson is Moving Image Archivist at the Full Frame Archive.

Images of the Russian Civil War in Siberia from the Robert L. Eichelberger Collection at Duke University Libraries

Collections Highlight

Eric Zitser

eichelbergerRobert L. Eichelberger (1886-1961), a 1909 West Point graduate, served with distinction in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of lieutenant general before his retirement in 1948; he later received a fourth star. Throughout his career, during many extended assignments away from home, Eichelberger wrote letters every day—and sometimes as frequently as four times a day—to his wife, Emma, a native of Asheville, NC. Addressing her “Dear Miss Em,” Eichelberger filled the letters with details of his experiences (without divulging military secrets) and anecdotes about colleagues, including Douglas MacArthur, referring to them in a code only Miss Em would understand. And along with the letters he sent photographs.

After Eichelberger died, Emma Eichelberger donated her husband’s personal papers, comprising nearly 30,000 items, to Duke’s Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. While the bulk of the collection dates from the World War II era, a series of unique and almost unknown photographic images of the Russian Civil War in eastern Siberia recall one of the general’s earliest assignments.

golden horn bay
Golden Horn Bay

Eichelberger was posted to Siberia in 1918, where he served for two years as assistant chief of staff, Operations Division, and chief intelligence officer with the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). The AEF went to Russia by order of President Woodrow Wilson on a mission that constituted America’s first attempt to use its armed forces for peacekeeping purposes.

From an office on Svetlanka St., in Vladivostok, Eichelberger oversaw an intelligence network that extended over 5,000 miles into the Ural Mountains. In his official capacity as America’s chief intelligence officer in Siberia, he interviewed (frequently over a bottle of vodka) hundreds of Russians from all walks of life, including “everything from a Baron to a prostitute.”1 The intelligence he gathered, his analysis of it, and the reports he wrote allowed his commanding officer, Lieutenant-General William S. Graves, to set an American course in the face of “competing signals” from both Washington and the Inter-Allied Military Council, a ten-nation coalition of American, British, French, and Japanese officers. The Council debated, formulated, and tried to implement a coherent Allied policy for Siberia and eastern Russia between 1918 and 1920.

Inter-Allied Council
Members of the Inter-Allied Council

Materials in the Eichelberger Papers pertaining to his participation in the AEF’s incursion into Siberia are grouped into two series: military papers and pictures. The Military Papers Series includes typed letters, handwritten notes, intelligence summaries, memoranda and reports, and leaflets, as well as maps. An oversize “top secret” map is one of a series made on tracing paper to record the changing locations of military bases and troop strength of American forces in Siberia along the railroad linking Vladivostok and the Nikolsk-Ussuri and Suchan mines.

The U.S. government considered the mines and the railroad necessary for the “economic relief” of the Russian people. These same installations were also deemed critical to the success of the U.S. military’s political mission, namely, supporting “any efforts at self-government or self-defense in which the Russians themselves might be willing to accept assistance.” The question, of course, was which one of the various warring factions in the Russian Civil War constituted the true representatives of the Russian nation.

The Picture Series, comprising over a thousand photographs, complements the written record of Eichelberger’s tour of duty in eastern Siberia and is equally important. Some of the photographs are loose and some have been pasted, probably by Emma Eichelberger, into two photo albums. The albums contain official AEF photos (primarily of foreign troops parading down Svetlanka) as well as scenic views of Siberia’s architectural and natural landscapes, among them Golden Horn Bay.

boy soldierThe many loose photos differ in character from the official pictures and panoramic landscapes preserved in the albums. These are much less romanticized images of everyday life in eastern Siberia: an enormous hog outside a Chinese tailor’s shop; three peasant children; a young Russian soldier almost drowning in his big fur hat and heavy military overcoat.

Eichelberger’s Siberian photos provide unique visual documentation of both American involvement in the Russian Civil War and daily life during war-time in an ethnically and religiously diverse region on the border of three major 20th-century powers: Russia, Japan, and China. And now these images are available on the Web at to anyone with access to an Internet browser. The Eichelberger photographs and other related photographs have been digitized to form a collection titled “Americans in the Land of Lenin: Documentary Photographs of Early Soviet Russia.” “Americans in the Land of Lenin” was modeled, at least in part, on the University of Michigan’s “Polar Bear Expedition Digital Collections,” which consists of materials related to the American intervention in northern Russia at the end of World War I.

The Duke project encompasses roughly 1,400 images, many with captions and other annotations, and is one of the largest collections of photographs of the Russian Civil War in the United States. The launch of “Americans in the Land of Lenin” marks the completion of the first step in the digitization of Duke University’s extensive collection of 20th-century Russian visual culture.

Erik Zitser is the librarian for Slavic and East European Studies.

1All the quotes from Eichelberger’s correspondence are taken from Paul Chwialkowski’s 1991 Duke University doctoral dissertation, “A ‘Near Great’ General: The Life and Career of Robert L. Eichelberger” (Ph.D., Duke University, 1991). Chwialkowski’s thesis has been published under the title In Caesar’s Shadow: The Life of General Robert Eichelberger [ Contributions in military studies, no. 141] (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993).

Read More about Robert Eichelberger and the U.S. in Siberia

About Eichelberger:

Dear Miss Em: General Eichelberger’s War in the Pacific, 1942-1945. Ed. by Jay Luvaas. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1972.

John F. Shortal. Forged by Fire: General Robert L. Eichelberger and the Pacific War. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1987.

Paul Chwialkowski. In Caesar’s Shadow: The Life of General Robert Eichelberger. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993.


Ric Hardman. Fifteen Flags. Boston: Little, Brown, c1968.

Nikolai Nikitin. Northern Aurora. Translated by B. Isaacs and R. Prokofieva. (Soviet Union?: s.n., 1950s).

Arif Saparov. The Game is Up. Arlington, VA: Joint Publications Research Service, 1972.

Evgeny Zamyatin. The Islanders. Vsevolod Ivanov. Armored-Train 14-69. Ann Arbor, MI: Trilogy Publishers, c1978.

Personal Narratives

William S. Graves. America’s Siberian Adventure, 1918–1920. New York: J. Cape & H. Smith, [c1931].

John Ward. With the “Die-Hards” in Siberia. New York: Doran, c1920; [2007?] reprint, n.p.: Kessinger Publishing. Electronic edition at

Ned Elvin Wick. Service in Siberia. Rapid City, SD: Fenwynn Press, c1975.

Additional Resources

Polar Bear Expedition Digital Collections. Ann Arbor, MI: Bentley Historical Library, s.d.,

Gibson Bell Smith, “Guarding the Railroad, Taming the Cossacks: The U.S. Army in Russia, 1918–1920,” Prologue Magazine 34, no. 4 (2002),

John M House, “Wolfhounds and Polar Bears in Siberia: America’s Military Intervention, 1918-1920” (Ft. Belvoir Defense Technical Information Center, 1986)

China: Trade, Politics and Culture 1793-1980

Collections Highlight

Luo Zhou

China: Trade, Politics, and Culture

From England’s first diplomatic mission to China in the late 18th century to the rise of the People’s Republic in the twentieth century, European and American government representatives, missionaries, business people and tourists living and working in China documented their activities and observations, creating an invaluable record of China’s evolution over two centuries into a modern power. Many of the materials compiled by these visitors, together with rare periodicals, color paintings, maps, photographs, and drawings, are preserved in London at the library of the School of Oriental and African Studies and the British Library. Holdings from these libraries supplemented by sources from several other libraries in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the United States, including Duke’s Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, are the basis for a newly published digital collection, China: Trade, Politics and Culture 1793-1980, which the Duke Libraries have acquired.

Chinese lettersThe collection offers accessible and authoritative English-language sources that give an account of China’s interaction with the West over time. Because the collection is available online, it will be especially attractive for use in the classroom. In addition, the collection’s breadth and depth make it an ideal resource for projects on almost any aspect of Chinese history during the two hundred years that are covered. Recognizing the collection’s potential value to students and China scholars, Duke faculty members encouraged the Libraries to purchase it. History professor Dominic M. Sachsenmaier says in his recommendation,

“This database can be a superb research and teaching device. The visual material is wonderful, and the interactive maps are some of the best ones in the field of Chinese history that I have seen thus far. In addition, the English translations of many texts will be extremely helpful to students. With this database, undergraduate students will be able to produce a kind of research papers, which they could not have possibly written before.”

The collection’s riches include key documents from the Chinese Maritime Customs Service as well as the original reports of the English diplomatic missions of 1792 and 1816. There are letters that detail events of the first Opium War, survivors’ descriptions of the Boxer War, and personal diaries and photographs that open the door on family life. Extensive and fully searchable runs of periodicals such as The China Recorder and Light and Life Magazine describe the lives of missionaries and report on their work in China.

Chinese stamps

In addition to the collection’s textual material, there are more than 400 color paintings, maps, and drawings by English and Chinese artists, as well as countless photographs, sketches and ephemeral items that depict Chinese people, places, customs and events. The graphic material can be browsed and searched, with a large-screen viewer permitting close examination of each image. The interactive map facilitates searches of the collection by geographical region. Zoomable province maps can be viewed simultaneously with documents, making it possible to trace events and journeys mentioned in the texts.

The abundance of images and wealth of English-language primary sources comprising China: Trade, Politics and Culture 1793-1980 will enable students to undertake ambitious research projects, many of which would have been impossible in the past because of the language barrier. This remarkable digital collection also enhances the Duke Libraries’ holdings in modern Chinese history, which is a collecting focus.

Luo Zhou is the Chinese Studies Librarian for the Duke University Libraries.

Tea and coins

The Factory Front: Science and Technology in WWII

Collections Highlight

WWII collections

During the Second World War, the Allies feared that German applications of science and technology were superior to their own and might be a determining factor in the outcome of the conflict. Consequently, as Allied troops secured German territory, British and American intelligence agents swept in behind them to gather information, specifically targeting the operations of industrial leaders like Bosch, Siemens, Agfa, Daimler-Benz, Krupp and Farben. The reports the agents prepared form an unusual collection of booklets that is part of the Duke University Libraries’ Special Collections Library.

WWII collectionsDuke’s collection is referred to as Science and Technology in Germany During the 1930’s and 1940’s. It includes over 3,000 individually titled reports on industries and technical applications that were of particular interest to the Allies, including armaments, communications, chemical warfare, aviation, naval technology, engineering, rubber production, the automobile industry, oil fields, synthetic fuels, rocketry and jet propulsion. The authors of the reports were civilian experts and military specialists, a cadre of some 12,000 investigators who submitted detailed descriptions, technical drawings, statistical reports, charts and graphs, and summaries of interrogations of German scientists.

The reports are a rich resource for researchers interested in the economy of the Third Reich or the history of science around the time of the Second World War. Although many are related in some way to armaments, a host of other topics are also covered. WWII collections 2Autobahn (highway) bridges, woodworking machines in the furniture industry, public transport, photographic film, toys and dolls, dyestuffs and textiles, feathers, cork, leather, furs, pens and pencils, foodstuffs, rope, and twine are among the products and processes examined.

When the reports were published, they were made available to both industrial firms and the general public. Buyers, corporate and individual, tended to purchase only the reports that related to their area of interest. The Duke Libraries, on the other hand, acquired 2,858 reports in 1983 from British sources and a second lot of over 200 in 1990, making Duke’s extensive collection exceptional. The reports, researched from 1944-1947 and printed 1946-1949 in England, complement the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library’s large collection of Nazi imprints and help fill out a picture of this era for anyone studying the rise and the resources of the Third Reich.

WWII collections 3Quotes from “German Methods of Wall Decoration,” #876, which consists of reports on individual factories, recipes for wall covering mixes and paint removers, diagrams, photographs of rollers in action

Artekobin Ges. Gerhard & Co. “Former premises and plant 100% destroyed and now carrying on in a small shed. The process of manufacture is confined to hand-punching small shapes of sponge rubber from sheet and to gumming the former individually on wooden roller. The process employed is laborious and primitive and compares unfavourably with the methods of other manufacturers referred to later in this report.”

Continentale Coutchouc & Guttapercha Werke, A.G. “…the largest Rubber Goods Manufacturers in Germany.” They make cylindrical coverings for Stippling Tools which “produce a large variety of wallpaper-like effects.” “We have seen a number of rooms attractively decorated by means of these Tools.”

From “German Activities in the French Aircraft Industry,” #610. “Object of their visit was to obtain information on all work done for the Germans by the principal French aircraft factories outside the Paris area during the occupation.”

The report covers aircraft design and production with description of the manufacture of individual parts and diagrams and photographs of planes, including Junkers. Some of the work was construction and repair, but it also covered designs and prototypes for new German aircraft. The French reported that at times, over their objections, the Germans transported all the machine tools and laborers out of a French factory and into Germany. The French, in one form of retaliation, reported that sabotage in the work they did for the Germans was “rife.” An example was putting emery powder into a graphite grease used in assembly, with “effective results.” The French got the emery powder from secret drops provided by the British Royal Air Force.

Welding tools, WWII collectionThe Schacht Marie Salt Mine, Beendorf (Dispersal of Siemens, Berlin), #2388

In order to move German industry away from bombing near Berlin, some went underground. This report is a 1945 investigation of the Siemens factory operations for the manufacture of aircraft instruments and autopilots, which went under cover in 1944. Investigators found the plant “in a disused salt mine at a depth of approximately 1200 feet. There are approximately 14 miles of tunnels and 150 main chambers of which 39 were planned to be used [for manufacturing].” Wiring had been installed and machinery moved in, but the plant had not yet gone into production when it was captured by American forces. It was “laid out for about 2000 men [employed] in two shifts,” and was within a month of being ready. At the time of its capture, there were “600 Germans and 400 foreigners” working there.

The remaining spaces in the mine were used for storage by the Luftwaffe. The Allies confiscated thousands of cases of parts for guns, photography equipment, raw silk and rigging for parachutes, airplane parts, bombsights, compasses, motors, and naval torpedoes.

Linda McCurdy, Head, Research Services, Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library and University Archives

Seeing Japanese Popular Culture through Anime

Collections Highlight

After your first random fifteen minutes of any (non-dubbed) anime you’re bound to be overwhelmed by its otherworldliness. You will encounter a different gravity, an unlikely atmosphere, an unexpected moisture. Tangible one moment, it melts into a strange texture the next. Once caught by its ocular excess and sonic gestalt, your sense of the imaginable future is radically changed. The growth in Western audiences for anime over the past decade testifies to the addiction these worlds induce… Dive in-things become viscous, shiny, loud. This is the appeal, the fascination, the allure of anime.

– Philip Brophy from his introduction to 100 Anime, British Film Institute, 2005

Introducing Anime

Anime: Courtesy of AnimEigo, Inc. (c) Kitty Films. Licensed to AnimEigo by Fuji Creative, LTD.Anime, pronounced a˘n´-ma¯´, describes a Japanese animation style as well as the films created in that style. Unlike American animation, which is predominantly a children’s medium, anime, with richer and more challenging story lines, is the major form of visual entertainment in Japan. Anime also differs from Western animation in its use of sophisticated cinematic effects such as panning shots to create background motion and shifting the visual focus from background to foreground. The artistic rendering of anime characters-their large eyes, tiny mouths, and wildly colored hair, instantly recognizable-further distinguishes the style from Western animation. Another hallmark of anime is its relationship to other media, including video games and manga (Japanese comics and print cartoons). It’s quite common for anime to be based on a manga or even a video game – and vice versa.

The first anime to appear on U.S. television was Astro Boy, which aired in the 1980s on NBC at about the same time that anime broke into the U.S. film market with Akira (1989), directed by Katsuhiro Otomo.[1] Anime was firmly established in the U.S. by the 1990s when the television series, Sailor Moon, began airing. These early successful forays into American homes and theaters were followed by the arrival of blockbuster anime feature-length films like Hiyao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away (2001) and Howl’s Moving Castle (2005).

The Genesis of the Duke Libraries’ Anime Collection

In 2002 the Freeman Foundation made a four-year grant to the Libraries’ International Area Studies Department (IAS) to expand its support of undergraduate education and teaching in Japanese Studies. Professor Tomiko Yoda of Asian and African Languages and Literature (AALL), and Kristina Troost, the head of IAS and librarian for Japan and Korea, worked in collaboration to build a collection of manga and anime. Professor Yoda uses these resources in “Topics in Japanese Anime,” a course she teaches regularly to capacity enrollments. Professor Yoda recently related these observations about her class and its relationship to the Libraries’ collection:

Anime has offered me both opportunities and challenges as a teacher. It is the first cultural medium produced in Japan that has been almost instantaneously subtitled/dubbed and distributed in the U.S. The availability of diverse anime titles allows me to organize undergraduate courses, in which I teach students with no background in Japanese language, under a large range of specific themes. I have never taught a material that so many students express such powerful personal interest in.

In the Duke classrooms today, we have a generation of students who grew up in the U.S. and around the world-including China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, England, Brazil, Mexico-watching various anime series on television. Part of the challenge of teaching anime lies in the fact that my course has tried to treat not only anime films but also TV animes that can span 13 to 26 episodes per season, and some titles go on for multiple seasons. I assign selected episodes from these series. But without the library’s willingness to collect these long and expensive series (which also poses some cataloging and shelving challenges), I would not be able to handle TV anime series.”

Professor Yoda continues to recommend new anime titles for addition to the Libraries’ collection, which currently includes almost two hundred DVDs. And while anime are readily available for purchase, the Libraries still encounter various challenges in acquiring them. One is sorting out series and the titles belonging to each. Another is deciding whether to buy the Japanese DVD release of an anime, which will not play on North American DVD players, or to wait for several months, if not longer, for the U.S. release. If a title has been requested for use in a class, the Libraries may decide to import it from Japan and then purchase another copy when the anime becomes available in the U.S.

And then there is the question of language. Some fans prefer the original Japanese voice acting with subtitles because they feel they are experiencing the film more nearly as the creator envisioned it. However, in recent years serious fans in increasing numbers have begun to prefer English dubbing-especially as Western producers spend more money to add a high-quality English language track.[2] Most currently released anime DVDs come with both options: original Japanese language track with optional English subtitles and a dubbed English track.

So, delve into the marvelous, otherworldly realm of anime, at Duke or another library near you.

Danette Pachtner is the Film, Video & Digital Media Librarian at the Duke University Libraries

Finding Anime Titles at Duke’s Lilly Library

Go to the Duke Libraries’ online catalog. Choose “advanced search”-limit the format to “film/video”-use subject keywords “animated films japan” or “animated television programs japan”

Links to Anime Resources


1. BWI, Public Librarian’s Guide to Anime (Lexington, KY: , BWI, 2006), 6.
2. BWI, 11.