Category Archives: Fall 2011

Crown Jewel: Presenting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

In the heart of campus is a building that contains 20 centuries worth of history and culture, from ancient papyri to the records of modern advertising agencies. Its holdings number more than 350,000 printed volumes and 20 million items in manuscript and archival collections. Now Duke’s Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library has a new name. Soon it will have a new home.

Rubenstein Library is at the heart of historic West Campus

A Transformative Gift
A great library is one of the purest expressions of a university’s spirit. It’s where the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next never ceases. Once in a while, the next generation transfers something back.

Earlier this year, Duke University trustee David M. Rubenstein announced that he would give $13.6 million to the Duke University Libraries. It is the largest donation the Libraries have ever received. In recognition of this extraordinary gift, Duke’s Board of Trustees approved a measure to rename the special collections library in Rubenstein’s honor. The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library was welcomed as the newest point of pride on campus.

“Nationally, David Rubenstein has been a strong supporter of libraries and archives, and of the way the preserved past can increase present understanding,” said President Richard H. Brodhead. “We at Duke are grateful for this magnificent gift, which will ensure access to documents that are part of our shared intellectual and cultural heritage.”

The Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, housed in the original West Campus library building, is scheduled to be renovated in the final phase of the Perkins Project, a multi-year library renovation project that began a decade ago. The renovation will transform one of the oldest and most recognizable buildings on West Campus into a state-of-the-art research facility where students, faculty, and visitors can engage with the Libraries’ collection of rare and unique scholarly materials.

The Perkins Project began with the construction of Bostock Library and the von der Heyden Pavilion, both completed in 2005, followed by the renovation of Perkins Library between 2006 and 2008. The final phase is slated to begin late in 2012 and will focus on the original 1928 West Campus library building and its 1948 addition (including the iconic Gothic Reading Room and Mary Duke Biddle Rare Book Room), which together comprise the new Rubenstein Library.

This portion of the main university library complex is at the very heart of the Gothic campus designed by the Horace Trumbauer architectural firm. The cornerstone for the university is visible at the foot of the library tower. Situated at the intersection of the West Campus quadrangles, it is easily accessible to scholars, students, and visitors.

“Libraries are at the heart of any great educational institution,” said Rubenstein. “This renovation and modernization program will help ensure that the Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s priceless collection is preserved and accessible to scholars and the public for decades to come.

“When I was a student at Duke I worked at the library, so this gift also reflects my appreciation for that opportunity and the important role it played in my academic experience,” Rubenstein added.

A Baltimore native, Rubenstein is co-founder and managing director of The Carlyle Group, a global alternative asset manager. He graduated magna cum laude from Duke in 1970 and serves as vice chair of the university’s Board of Trustees. He and his wife, Alice Rogoff Rubenstein, have three grown children.

Artist's rendering of the new library entrance plaza

Rubenstein’s appreciation for historical documents is well known, as is his support for the libraries, museums, archives, and other cultural institutions that preserve them. In 2007, he purchased the last privately owned copy of the Magna Carta and placed it on permanent loan to the National Archives in Washington D.C., so that the public could view the document. He has also bought of a copy of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln, which he loaned to the White House. (It now hangs in the Oval Office.) And earlier this year, Rubenstein purchased the first map printed in North America, depicting the boundaries of the new American nation and showing the “Stars and Stripes” for the first time, and likewise loaned it to the Library of Congress.

“The Rubenstein Library will be a distinguished, enduring institution that will collect, protect and make accessible rare and unique documents, satisfy intellectual curiosity, stimulate learning and facilitate the creation of new scholarship,” said Deborah Jakubs, the Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and vice provost for library affairs. “David Rubenstein’s generosity enables us to create the kind of home for special collections that Duke deserves, designed with the students and scholars of today and tomorrow in mind. Researchers well beyond our campus will also benefit from this gift.”

A Place of Exploration and Discovery
Duke’s collections are open to everyone—students, scholars, and those with a curiosity about the past.  Roughly 40 percent of the Rubenstein Library’s registered researchers every year are Duke undergraduates, and another 50 percent are visiting scholars from across the country and around the globe. If you earn a master’s or doctorate degree from Duke, one of the last items on your graduation checklist is depositing your thesis or dissertation in the University Archives—part of the Rubenstein Library.

In addition to the University Archives, the Rubenstein Library is home to several specialized research centers, each one representing a collecting area of particular breadth and depth. These include the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture; the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture; the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History; the Archive of Documentary Arts; the Human Rights Archive; and the History of Medicine Collections.

The Gothic Reading Room will be updated but keep its historic charm.

There are also individual collections of note. For instance, did you know that Duke boasts one of the top three collections of Walt Whitman manuscripts and publications in the world (along with the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library)? Or that no one has a better collection on the history of modern economic thought, including the personal papers of nine Nobel Prize winners?

All of these materials have one thing in common—they are the real deal, the primary sources of knowledge and history. In this age of digitization and e-books, it is still possible to see a 500-year-old copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle up-close and in person, or hold in your hands a fragile letter written by an African American slave.

That kind of face-to-face encounter with original documents and artifacts is what real-world research is all about. Every year, scholars from Duke and other institutions use the Rubenstein Library’s rich holdings to write new histories, explore significant lives, study ecological change, trace the evolution of texts, understand cultural shifts, and create new art and literature. In the process, they advance the frontiers of knowledge and increase our appreciation for the range of human experience.

A Crowning Finish
Such inspiring work deserves an equally inspiring setting. The upcoming renovation will increase the research, instruction, storage, and exhibition capabilities of the Rubenstein Library. It will also address the need for state-of-the-art stacks with high-tech security and a closely-monitored environment.

The original stacks were built for standard-size books, not the oversized folios and oddly shaped artifacts that are frequently found in special collections libraries. The stack levels are also cramped, not up to current fire and safety codes, and navigable only by vintage 1920s and 1940s elevators.

During the renovation, the entire stack core will be removed—from basement level to roof—and replaced with a new floor structure that will support high-density shelving. It will be an engineering feat unlike anything seen on campus. To accomplish it, the Libraries are working with architectural firm Shepley Bulfinch, who also designed the much-loved Bostock Library and von der Heyden Pavilion, as well as the highly successful renovation of Perkins Library.

The new special collections reading room will accommodate more people than the current space, and it will offer researchers more elbow-room per person. There will also be designated spaces for collaborative research.

Updates will also extend to the Mary Duke Biddle Rare Book Room and the Gothic Reading Room. The charm and character of these signature Duke spaces will be preserved, but their finishes, furnishings, lighting, technology infrastructure, and exhibition facilities will be enhanced.

Rendering of the new entrance to the library.

Finally, the library’s main entrance will be redesigned with new doors, windows, and lighting to give the entire library complex a more unified and welcoming presence on the historic West Quad.

Construction work is expected to begin in late 2012 and continue for several years. In the meantime, library staff are developing plans to relocate materials, services, and personnel to the third floor of Perkins Library, which will become the Rubenstein Library’s temporary home during the renovation. The plan will be implemented in phases so that library operations and services can be maintained throughout the project and researchers can continue to work with special collections materials.

“The Cornerstone Phase of the Perkins Project will bring the Rubenstein Library’s rich collections to centerstage,” said Naomi Nelson, director of the Rubenstein Library. “Our transformed spaces will welcome visitors, students, and scholars to engage with history and the arts through interactive exhibitions, specialized classrooms, and a variety of research settings. In our new event spaces, the Duke community and wider public will come together to discuss and debate how our understanding of the past shapes our vision for the future. The Rubenstein Library will be a new focal point on campus for inquiry and innovation.”

When the renovation is complete, the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library will provide a striking culmination to the Perkins Project. It also promises to become one of the crown jewels of Duke, a splendid symbol of the adventurous and creative life of the mind.

At their best, libraries inspire, inform, and educate. The re-envisioned and re-invigorated Rubenstein Library will be the intellectual center Duke deserves, one that can match the lofty aspirations of a university that wants to change the world.


See also:

About David M. Rubenstein

Timeline of the Perkins Project


Rememberer-in-Chief: Say Hello to the New University Archivist

Ever want to see the original blueprints for Duke Chapel? Or watch a film of the legendary 1938 football team (the “Iron Dukes”) defeat the University of North Carolina 14-0? Or imagine how snazzy you would look wearing James B. Duke’s top-coat? Valerie Gillispie can show you the genuine article.

Gillispie is Duke’s new University Archivist, the official keeper of Duke history, preserver of university records, and all-around font of institutional knowledge. She is only the third person to hold that office, following William King (1972–2002) and Timothy Pyatt (2002–2011). It’s a big job, being the remember-in-chief of all things Duke. But this native of Fargo, North Dakota, is no stranger to campus.

“I first fell in love with Duke as a graduate student,” Gillispie says. She spent two years working here in the University Archives as an intern while earning a master’s degree in public history from North Carolina State University and a second master’s in library science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “I spent many hours learning about Duke’s history as I worked with the papers of Alice Mary Baldwin, Edmund Cameron, and the Marine Lab Collection,” she says. “I had the sense each day when I walked in to work that I was entering a special place. So the opportunity to return as University Archivist is a dream come true.”

Photo by Alex Bajuniemi

For the last five years, Gillispie has served as the Assistant University Archivist at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, another distinguished institution with Methodist roots and a rich academic history. But she’s excited to be back in the Triangle area, and eager to meet the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and visitors who regularly consult the Archives’ holdings.

So what, exactly, does the University Archives hold? For starters, any administrative, legal, fiscal, and historical records that have enduring value for the Duke community, going all the way back to the school’s 1838 Randolph County origins and continuing up to the present. You can also find campus publications, audiovisual materials by and about Duke University, papers and selected publications of Duke faculty members, records of student and employee organizations, not to mention theses, dissertations, final projects, and senior honors papers produced by Duke students—all of it carefully cataloged, organized, and preserved for posterity. There are even digital records, including websites, video and audio files, images, and multimedia projects.

But Gillispie and her staff don’t just collect things, although that’s an important part of the job. The University Archivist also participates in the life of the university, welcoming freshmen and returning alumni, sitting on university committees, leading tours on campus history and architecture, supporting the university administration, and providing guidance on records management for offices all over campus (what to keep, what to toss, and how to store and transfer files safely).

“I look forward to working with everyone—students, faculty, staff, and alumni—to make sure we’re preserving Duke’s unique history,” Gillispie says, “Even the history we’re making right now!”

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

In Their Own Words: Recorded Stories of America’s Jim Crow Past Now Available

Unidentified family photograph. Donated by Larry Henderson, Alabama (undated)

One hundred oral histories of life in the Jim Crow South, complete with transcripts, have been digitized and made available on the Duke University Libraries website and iTunes U, a dedicated area within the iTunes Store.

From 1993 to 1995, dozens of graduate students at Duke and other schools fanned out across the South to capture stories of segregation as part of “Behind the Veil,” an oral history project led by Duke faculty historians William Chafe, Raymond Gavins, and Robert Korstad at the Center for Documentary Studies. The students sought to preserve the stories before the men and women who survived Jim Crow passed away. The interviews—some 1,260 in all—were recorded on regular cassette tapes, transcribed and archived in the John Hope Franklin Research Center, part of the Rubenstein Library.

Some of the interviews were included in an award-winning book and radio documentary, Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South, produced ten years ago by the Center for Documentary Studies and American RadioWorks.

Henry Hooten with mother. Troy, Alabama, c. 1925

But many of the interviews never made it into the book or documentary.

Take Imogene Watkins Wilson of Memphis, Tennessee, who tells the story of how a group of African-American businessmen launched a boycott of that city’s largest daily newspaper. The year was 1957, and the men bought every copy they could find of the Memphis Commercial Appeal and threw them in the Mississippi River. They were protesting the paper’s policy of not using courtesy titles, like Mr. or Mrs., when referring to blacks.

“I don’t care how prominent you were, you were just Willie Brown,” said Wilson, a schoolteacher whose husband edited the Memphis Tri-State Defender, the city’s leading African-American newspaper. “You weren’t Rev. Willie Brown, you weren’t Dr. Willie Brown, you weren’t Professor Willie Brown. And then, if [they] referred to your wife, she was Suzie. Not Mrs. Suzie, just Suzie.”

Wilson’s words were recorded in a July 1995 interview with a Duke student, but her story never made the original project’s final cut. Now her memories—along with the personal accounts of scores of other Americans who lived through the Jim Crow era—are among the hundred stories that have been digitized and made available for free for researchers, genealogists, educators,
and others.

Other interviewees describe loss of land, educational inequity, and the terror of white supremacy. Another newly digitized story is told by Ernest A. Grant of Tuskegee, Alabama, who recounts how his mother had to flee town in the trunk of a car after an insurance salesman made advances on her and she burned him with a hot iron.

These interviews capture the vivid personalities, poignant personal stories, and behind-the-scenes decision-making that bring to life the African-American experience in the South during the late-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century. Not only do they offer a window onto an important era of American history, but they present that time through the words and experiences of the ordinary men and women who lived it.

Note: Photos from the John Hope Franklin Research Center, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library


See also:

Listen to the Behind the Veil interviews online

Roland Martin and Duke professor Bob Korstad discuss the Behind the Veil digital collection on the Tom Joyner Morning Show (11/21/2011)

Hear an interview on NPR’s “Tell Me More” about the Behind the Veil digital collection with Duke professor Bob Korstad and Leslie Brown of Williams College (11/25/2011)

Duke’s William Chafe and Leslie Brown of Williams College discuss the Behind the Veil digital collection on NPR’s Michael Eric Dyson Show (12/13/2011)

Duke professor Bob Korstad and Frank Stasio talk about the Behind the Veil digital collection on NPR’s “The State of Things” (12/14/2011)

A New Way to Give (and Avoid the Tax Man)

Sara and Bruce Brandaleone

Sara Brandaleone T’65 is a long-time supporter of the Duke University Libraries and member of the Libraries Advisory Board. She is retired from the investment business and lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, Bruce. They have two children, both Duke grads, Christopher T’03 and Jennifer T’07.

This year, the Brandaleones took advantage of a new law that allows them to make charitable gifts to the Duke University Libraries by rolling over funds from their individual retirement accounts. In December 2010, President Obama signed the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, which reinstated the charitable IRA rollover through 2011.

Donors who use this giving method can transfer up to $100,000 each year from their IRA to qualified charitable organizations, like Duke University, without increasing their gross income for the year and without ever paying taxes on the money.

We recently caught up with Sara to find out more about the IRA giving provision, how it works, and why you don’t have to be an investment guru like her to use it.

Q. Why do you support Duke University Libraries?

A. I have always loved books and reading. That has been a constant throughout my life. Naturally, I have always loved libraries. I can still remember when I was deemed old enough by my parents to walk to our public library in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, by myself. That was a big day for me! I think it’s important to preserve the written word, whether it comes in a book, e-book, or any other form. There’s also just something about walking into a library that gives me a good feeling.

Q. Why was the option of making a gift from your IRA attractive?

A. We got a card in the mail from my husband’s alma mater, Princeton, notifying us about the giving option, which is still not widely known. When I looked into it, I found out that it was very easy to do. The best things about it are 1) it’s easy, and 2) you avoid paying income tax on the money you withdraw. You can give money straight from your IRA. It never comes into income and you don’t have to take the extra steps to claim a deduction. In fact, many people may come out ahead on their taxes.

Q. How difficult was the process?

A. It was super-easy. There’s a form that you have to fill out anytime you withdraw funds from your IRA, and there’s a box on that form that you check. One check and you’re done. It’s as easy as giving stock outright. It only took as long as filling out a form, and the distribution was made the next day.

Q. Would you do it again, or encourage others to give through an IRA?

A. Most IRAs involve a minimum distribution. If you make a gift this way, it counts toward that minimum distribution. It simplifies life and lets you do good in the way you want to do it! If this option is still available in the future, we will definitely consider doing it again.


Nitty-Gritty on the Charitable IRA Rollover

Things to remember

  • You must be at least 70½ years old at the time of your gift.
  • You need to make your gift by December 31, 2011. The date of your gift is the date that your check from an IRA account is postmarked, not the date that you send transfer instructions to your IRA administrator.
  • You can contribute a maximum of $100,000 from your IRA each year through the rollover.
  • Gifts must be made directly from an IRA administrator to Duke University Libraries.

How to do it

  • Request an IRA disbursement form from your IRA administrator.
  • Check the box indicating that you want to contribute to a nonprofit.
  • Return the form to your IRA administrator and let us know your gift is coming.
  • It’s that easy!

Why to do it

  • Donors pay no federal taxes on the IRA withdrawal, and the gift decreases your taxable estate.
  • The withdrawal counts towards your required minimum distribution.
  • You will avoid taxes and may even save money, and if that isn’t enough…
  • You can support a cause that is important to you.


Contact Duke’s Office of Gift Planning


See also:

Watch a video about making a charitable IRA rollover to Duke: Unwrapping Gifts: The Charitable IRA Rollover