Category Archives: Fall 2007

Exhibits – Fall 2007

The Perkins Gallery remains closed for renovation until August 2008.

Special Collections Gallery

Picturing Home: Family Albums as Historical MemoirAugust/October
Picturing Home: Family Albums as Historical Memoir
This evocative exhibit documents the history of four generations of the Davis family of Hampton, Virginia. Chloe Tarrant Campbell created the first photography album in the 1870s prior to moving from Alabama to Mississippi. Her daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughters continued the photographic tradition, creating a rich record of African American life from Reconstruction to the civil rights movement. The exhibit, which traces the maternal line of Chapel Hill donor Louise Davis Stone, is drawn from the Davis Family Papers Collection.

Louise Davis Stone: Duke University Photography “I’m impressed by what collections can teach someone who has no knowledge of black middle class life. White people don’t know our aspirations, goals and gracious living. It’s about dispelling stereotypes. We had a life. We still have a life. We enjoyed the creature comforts despite segregation and racism.”

–Louise Davis Stone

Image from Driftless: Photographs from IowaNovember/December
Driftless: Photographs from Iowa
Black-and-white photographs by Danny Wilcox Frazier of a contemporary rural Iowa of vanishing towns and transformed landscapes. As viewers study these images, they will also see what is happening in many other parts of the United States. A version of this exhibit is available online.

Hours for the Special Collections Gallery: Monday-Saturday, 9am-9pm, and 10am-9pm on Sunday. Call 919.660.5968 or visit for more information.

Papyri Go Global

PapyrusThe Greek, Latin, and Egyptian papyri from ancient Egypt are our best window on daily life in antiquity. Surviving documents, which number in the tens of thousands, tell us about marriage and divorce, birth and death, livelihoods and taxes; about the place of law, religion, and economics in the lives the farmers, villagers, and townsmen who dwelled along the Nile two thousand years ago.

Bringing this important body of evidence to life for scholars and other interested readers is a huge undertaking, one at which papyrologists around the world have been hard at work since the late 1900s. And in recent years, international projects have begun to bring technology to bear on the endeavor. A team at Duke University has been entering the Greek and Latin texts of the ancient papyri in a single database (DDBDP, Duke Data Bank of Documentary Papyri); another at Universität Heidelberg has been massing critical meta-data, including dates, locations of published photographs, controlled descriptive keywords, and translations, for the same set of data (HGV, Heidelberger Gesamtverzeichnis der griechischen Papyrusurkunden Ägyptens). An international consortium of papyrus-holding institutions, APIS (Advanced Papyrological Information System), based at Columbia University, has been gathering high-resolution digital images, detailed catalog records, translations, of papyri in international collections, both literary and documentary, in Latin, Greek, Coptic, Demotic, Middle Egyptian, Aramaic, and more. Other projects are hard at work on Greek inscriptions from Egypt, Demotic, Coptic, and Arabic papyri, etc.

Thanks to a recent grant of $500,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Duke, Columbia, and Heidelberg are now leading the way in integrating the three principal digital resources for papyrology, the DDBDP, APIS, and HGV, taking a major step toward the day in which all of the notable resources of the field are fully digital, fully interoperable, fully accessible to anyone anywhere with a connection to the Web.

Project members are excited not just about what they are accomplishing, but also about how they are doing it. The team is global, with partners, in London, Heidelberg, New York City, Chapel Hill, Durham, and Huntsville. All tools created in the process will be open-source and fully documented, so that other projects will feel free to use and improve them, and in so doing widen the pool of interconnected papyrological resources. Moreover, the team is building its data model on one already in development for use by epigraphists, students of documents inscribed on stone and other hard surfaces. The total number of surviving inscriptions dwarfs that of the papyri. Use of a common standard will help to bring the two documentary sister disciplines closer together than they have ever been. Thus, the ultimate goal of this project, which is only an initial step in a long process, is not only to help to integrate papyrology itself, but to bring the field into tighter coordination with the other disciplines associated with Classics and ancient history.

– Joshua Sosin, Associate Professor of Classical Studies, Duke University

A Day for the Dead that Celebrates Life

Day of the DeadIf you were visiting a Latin American country on November 1 (All Saints’ Day) or November 2 (All Souls’ Day), you would probably find yourself caught up in Dia de los Muertos festivities. Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a holiday that honors the dead and celebrates the continuation of life. It is commemorated according to a wide range of customs and beliefs that are often unique to a region. In parts of Mexico, for example, families clean and decorate the graves of loved ones, leaving offerings (ofrenda) of flowers and trinkets and candies. Pan de muerto (bread of the dead) and sugar skulls are also holiday traditions as are altars or shrines that families may erect in their homes.

This year, Duke students will borrow the form of the traditional Latin American Dia De Los Muertos ofrenda to curate an exhibit of altars at Perkins Library. In creating the altars, the students will draw on the collections of the Duke Libraries’ Archive for Human Rights to explore the relationships linking memory, history, community, social action, and power.

SkullClasses participating in the Dia de Los Muertos project are considering a broad range of topics, including human rights in Latin America, contemporary humanitarian challenges, and educational and labor issues facing Latino immigrants here in Durham. In addition to using primary source material in the Libraries’ collections for their projects, students will also have the opportunity to work with groups such as Student Action with Farmworkers, whose records are part of the Libraries’ collections.

The altars the students create will be on display at Perkins Library from Tuesday, October 30 through Sunday, November 4.