Category Archives: Fall 2014

The Library as Artist’s Studio: Where Information Serves Inspiration

Jenny Scheinman and Lisa McCarty
Composer, singer, and violinist Jenny Scheinman (right) talks with Lisa McCarty (left), curator of the Archive of Documentary Arts. Scheinman was commissioned by Duke Performances to write an original work inspired by the Depression-era films of North Carolina filmmaker H. Lee Waters.

By Aaron Welborn

The last few years have seen the blossoming of a vibrant arts scene at Duke. From major exhibitions at the Nasher Museum of Art to a new experimental and documentary arts MFA program, the arts have been taking center-stage on campus, and the university is investing more than ever in making them an integral part of the Duke experience.

The same trend can be seen here in the Libraries, where we hosted our first visiting artist-in-residence this year and witnessed the development of two original works of art inspired by archival collections. This is a different side of the library than most people normally see or think about—not the sanctuary of quiet study and serious scholarly work, but the “maker-space” of raw source material and artistic incubation.

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write,” said the great Samuel Johnson. “A man will turn over half a library to make one book.” He might have said the same about making one piece of music, or one play, or any other work of art. Creativity needs something to play with. And for many artists, no matter the media in which they work, the library is an open studio.

Here’s a look at three recent projects at Duke that celebrate the fruitful intersection of art and archives.

Steve Roden Image
Steve Roden visited Duke this fall as the inaugural Barbaralee Diamonstein-Speilvogel Visiting Artist.

So Many Ways To Do Research

Steve Roden is a visual and sound artist based in Pasadena, California. His work includes painting, drawing, sculpture, film, video, sound installations, text, and performance pieces. Roden has shown and performed his work around the world, and his pieces are included in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens, Greece, among other places.

This October, Roden spent three weeks at Duke as the inaugural Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel Visiting Artist. Named in honor of Dr. Diamonstein-Spielvogel, a prolific author, interviewer, and champion of the arts, this new biennial artist-in-residence program provides an extended opportunity for an artist to study and engage with collections in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The fellowship is open to artists working in all media, and fellows are given free rein to explore more than twenty centuries worth of history and culture represented in the collections of the Rubenstein Library.

During his first week on campus, Roden was treated to a parade of treasures from the Rubenstein Library’s holdings. A team of curators assembled selections of their favorite rare books, documents, and artifacts, ranging from ancient papyri and medieval medical treatises to the records of twentieth-century human rights organizations.

“It was like having dessert for every meal,” said Roden, who was a bit overwhelmed by the possibilities.

“Ever since I was young, I tended to like things older than me,” he said. “I have a fondness for old paper and things that decay.” Some of the archival materials brought out for Roden to investigate were related to things he collects on his own, like old photographs and sound recordings. Others took him by surprise, like the haunting illustrations from a sixteenth-century work on eye surgery.

This was not the first time Roden had gone fishing for ideas in archival waters. In 2011, he traveled to Berlin for a month-long residency at the Akademie der Künste, where he had been invited to work with the papers of the literary critic, philosopher, and translator Walter Benjamin. It was an unusual assignment, since Roden neither speaks nor reads German. Instead, he turned his eye toward the visual elements of Benjamin’s papers. The result was a series of works in multiple formats, entitled Ragpicker, inspired by the color-coded symbols Benjamin used to organize and annotate his work. Selections from Ragpicker were featured in solo exhibitions last year in New York and Los Angeles.

Works from Roden's Ragpicker series, which was inspired by the papers of literary critic, philosopher, and translator Walter Benjamin.
Works from Roden’s Ragpicker series, which was inspired by the papers of literary critic, philosopher, and translator Walter Benjamin.

During his residency at Duke, Roden gave a public talk about the experience of working with Benjamin’s papers and how they had inspired a body of creative work. The rest of his time he spent working in the Rubenstein Library reading room, taking notes, making sketches, consulting different sources, meeting with students and faculty, and letting his curiosity guide him. “There are so many different ways you can do research,” he said.

It’s too early to say what Roden’s brand of research will unearth. But we look forward to inviting him back to show us what he discovered in the archives that we didn’t know was there.

11-20-14 William Tyler Publicity Photo
Duke Performances commissioned acclaimed Nashville solo guitarist William Tyler to compose original music inspired by the Civil War photographs of Alexander Gardner and George N. Barnard. Image courtesy of Duke Performances.

A Present Part of History

In 2013, the Rubenstein Library’s Archive of Documentary Arts celebrated two noteworthy acquisitions. Alexander Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War and George N. Barnard’s Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign, both published in 1866, contain some of the most iconic—and graphic—images of the American Civil War. They are among the most important pictorial records of the conflict, not to mention outstanding examples of early American photography.

Soon after the photos arrived at Duke, Aaron Greenwald, Executive Director of Duke Performances, mentioned them to William Tyler, an acclaimed Nashville solo guitarist. Duke Performances has been working with the Rubenstein Library to launch a new initiative called “From the Archives,” commissioning world-class performing artists to create new works that engaged with archival materials. Greenwald asked Tyler if he might be interested in working on something about the Civil War, taking the Gardner and Barnard photographs as inspiration.

“Aaron had no knowledge that I had grown up obsessed with the Civil War,” Tyler said recently. “I agreed to do the piece on the spot.”

Gardner Photo Book Title Page
The Libraries recently digitized the Gardner and Barnard photo albums, making them freely available online.

The result, nearly a year in the making, is Corduroy Roads, a film and music project that reflects on the lingering legacy of the Civil War, coinciding with its sesquicentennial. Tyler collaborated with filmmaker Steve Milligan and theater director Akiva Fox, both Durham residents, to create a suite for solo guitar that blends music, film, and spoken text and examines the ways in which the war continues to haunt the South to this day. The work is unlike anything Tyler has done before. (And probably unlike anything Gardner and Barnard have been involved with, for that matter.)

Corduroy Roads premiered with four sold-out performances in November at 305 South Dillard, a new multi-use arts space in downtown Durham.

The experience has been a personal one for William Tyler, a southerner with deep roots in Tennessee and Mississippi. He remembers being fascinated by the war from an early age. “It was a very present part of history,” said Tyler, who grew up in an area where every small town had its war memorials, battlefields, and historical markers. The clincher came when his parents took him to see a reenactment of the Battle of Shiloh during the war’s 125th anniversary year. “That hooked me,” he said.

Photograph of the Capitol Building in Columbia, SC, from Barnard's Photographic Views.
Photograph of the Capitol Building in Columbia, SC, from Barnard’s Photographic Views.

Poring over the photographs by Gardner and Barnard revived that early interest. But the images also revealed things Tyler had not seen or thought about before—for example, how labor-intensive the photographic process used to be. “I don’t think people understand how fragile and delicate wet plate photography was,” said Tyler. “Our relationship with photography has changed so much over the last 150 years, from being an extension of portraiture to something that is so ephemeral it’s almost an afterthought.”

Tyler’s music offers a contemporary soundtrack to the distant past, looking at the way photography shapes our understanding of history, as well as our own personal memories.

Prior to the performance, the Duke University Libraries digitized the Gardner and Barnard photo albums, which are now freely available on our website. A century and a half later, the images still shock with the raw devastation of war. But they also preserve fleeting moments of life moving on, leaving future generations to write the history books.

03-20-15 Jenny Scheinman Publicity Photo
Jenny Scheinman’s Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait is inspired by the films of H. Lee Waters. It will debut on March 20 in Duke’s Reynolds Theater. Image courtesy of Duke Performances.

Every Face in Town

Another commission by Duke Performances highlighting the creative intersection of film and music will debut this spring. Jenny Scheinman is an award-winning composer, singer, and violinist. She has toured and recorded with Bill Frisell, Norah Jones, Madeleine Peyroux, Bruce Cockburn, and many others, and has seven albums of original music to date. Scheinman was commissioned to write an original work set to seventy-year-old archival footage by the late North Carolina filmmaker H. Lee Waters.

Herbert Lee Waters (1902-1997) was a studio photographer in Lexington, North Carolina. In the 1930s, he began supplementing his income by traveling to small towns across the South and filming the people who lived there going about their day. Waters worked with local movie theaters to screen his 16-mm films, which he called “Movies of Local People,” charging audience members a nickel or dime to see themselves on the big screen.

Waters Movies of Local People Poster

Waters produced 252 films across 118 communities in North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and South Carolina, the only such collection from an itinerant American filmmaker of that era. The surviving footage, now held in the Rubenstein Library at Duke, provides a rare glimpse of everyday life in the Piedmont South during the Depression.

In 2004, the Library of Congress selected Waters’s film, Kannapolis, North Carolina, for inclusion in the National Film Registry, a list of films deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” to American culture. The film was shot in 1941, just months before the U.S. entered World War II.

It was Kannapolis that convinced Scheinman to take on the project. “It’s a particularly beautiful and joyous film,” Scheinman said. “Also, I love the fiddle and mountain music of this region. I started out as a fiddle player, and I had been looking for a project where I could get back to that again. I was living in New York at the time, and I had a little bit of artistic homesickness.”

On March 20, 2015, Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait will premiere in Duke’s Reynolds Theater. The piece blends music and film, pairing a live score by Scheinman with re-edited footage from Waters’ films. Scheinman worked with director Finn Taylor and editor Rick Lecompte to comb through fifteen of Waters’ films and choose scenes where the music and imagery would click. They also brought in sound designer Trevor Jolly to bring Waters’ silent footage to life.

When she first watched the archival films, Scheinman was struck by how Waters managed to create a different snapshot of each community. “He would set up his camera in one town for one day, and he tried to capture every face in that town,” she said.

Film stills from Kannapolis (1941) by H. Lee Waters.
Film stills from Kannapolis (1941) by H. Lee Waters.

Waters filmed a variety of ordinary scenes, including school recitals, sporting events, and workers arriving and departing from mills and factories. He slyly included numerous shots of children to entice their families to the theater. Waters, who was white, was also one of the few filmmakers at the time to capture intimate scenes of African Americans going about their daily lives.

Without meaning to, the films reflect and critique certain things about our world today, Scheinman says. “This was before television or any modern devices. So people are very engaged with each other, very attentive and affectionate. You see them walking down the street arm-in-arm. You see people showing off for the camera, dancing, and teasing each other.”

In keeping with the time period, Scheinman’s score draws inspiration from regional folk music sources. Although she’s not from North Carolina herself—she grew up in rural California—her music, combined with Waters’ footage, conjures a powerfully resonant vision of a particular time and place in the South. The effect is not nostalgic, but plainspoken and familiar.

The Duke University Libraries are currently in the process of digitizing all 252 of Waters’ films, including Kannapolis. They will be freely available online by the end of this year. Although most of the “local people” in them have long since passed on, contemporary viewers will recognize something of themselves in the faces that still live on in the archives.

Our Giving Story: Jan Tore Hall and Ruthann Huling Hall

Jan Tore Hall and Ruthann Huling Hall in South Africa, 2005. Photos courtesy of Jan Tore Hall.

A lifetime of love and memories that started at Wallace Wade

By Audra Ang
Their love story began at a football game with a scream.

The setting was Wallace Wade Stadium on a sunny Saturday, September 19, 1970. Duke was playing Maryland.

Jan Tore Hall, a bespectacled rising sophomore, sat next to Ruthann Huling, a sports-loving freshman with golden blonde hair who was spending her first weekend on campus. The game took an exciting turn and Huling cheered enthusiastically for her team.

“She screamed in my ear. She really did—and LOUDLY,” recalls Hall.

The attraction was immediate and, happily for him, mutual.

Jan and Ruthann Hall 1
Ruthann and Jan as undergraduates at Duke.

Their relationship blossomed quickly. Within three weeks, the pair became “an item.” Hall joined the percussion section of the Duke University Marching Band (DUMB) to be with Huling, a flautist. Huling took summer school to ensure that they graduated at the same time. Once, they got tossed out of the short-order grill in Huling’s dorm for “improper smooching in public,” Hall says. By the end of their junior year, they became the first married couple in DUMB.

“I had a serious, dour, Scandinavian sort of outlook on life. She could be very serious about things but was happy most of the time and deep down, always joyful,” Hall says. “She was also very pretty. I am most blessed even for her to have noticed me that first day.”

The couple graduated with honors in 1973, Hall with a degree in economics and political science and Huling with one in mathematics. During their 40-plus years together, they moved from North Carolina to Connecticut to Tennessee before settling in Massachusetts. They had successful careers—Hall was a lawyer and Huling was an investment actuary—but they felt the need to do more in the world.

After much soul-searching and discussion, Hall and Huling decided to become volunteer missionaries in South Africa. They completed an initial two-year commitment in Durban as administration consultants and outreach assistants before Huling was diagnosed with cancer, requiring surgery and treatment. Still, they planned and worked on a long-term effort to get Massachusetts churches to establish relationships with counterparts in the KwaZulu-Natal region.

They travelled back and forth from 2004 onwards until Huling’s cancer recurred. The couple returned to Durban in 2008 one final time to thank the churches for letting them serve as missionaries.

Huling died in 2012 at age 59. She was at home, holding her husband’s hand.

Later that year, he scattered her ashes in a Durban township where they had worked.

What does Hall miss most about his wife? “Everything. It can’t be otherwise; she was everything to, for, and with me.”

Their memories and shared experiences—at Duke and later in life—are what inspired the couple to include Duke in their will. Their gift will provide support for Libraries’ staff continuing education, scholarships for students from southern Africa, and unrestricted use. Recently, Hall made additional gifts to support Duke Gardens, the Libraries, and the marching band. Each of those gifts is dedicated to the memory of Huling.


Q&A with Jan Tore Hall


How did your time at Duke develop and shape you as a person? Is there something you took away from your education here that has stood you good stead through the years, either personally or professionally?

There’s a real intertwining of the personal and the educational in this.

Besides my life with Ruthann, I’ve carried with me over the years something I learned from a semester in Professor Martin Bronfenbrenner’s course on Marxist economics. That was a particularly striking experience of learning about a system of thought from someone who disagreed fundamentally with its premises but analyzed and critiqued (rather than criticized) its structure and methods with dispassion and respect.

This was an early, very important, instance of my learning the value of considering questions on their own terms rather than from a predetermined set of values or with a particular conclusion in mind.

Why is giving important at a place like Duke? What is the best and/or the most inspiring experience you’ve had here?

Well, the best and most inspiring experience must be meeting Ruthann, mustn’t it? Not perhaps something to go in the promotional literature, but there it is.

Also, the concept of a university as a community extends to those in place and to those who have come from there, so it’s a community across space and time. The benefits to be drawn from that community carry with them a responsibility of participation and support of the enterprise through time.
That duty can come more and less naturally to each of us, but at its best, it would include ‘giving back,’ as we are able.

What’s your favorite place/hangout at Duke?

I’d say the Chapel, and portions of the Gardens, as providers of a sense of place. Experientially, I think of two places that probably don’t exist anymore in the same form: the Rare Book Room, where I worked for three years as a student, and the snack bar in the basement of the old Grad Center dorm (Trent Hall, now, I believe), out of which Ruthann and I were summarily tossed for excessive PDA.

The truth is that Duke constituted the place of origin for Ruthann and me. It is where we met, where we came to know each other, and where we began the time and life together that continued for four decades more. So I suppose that even though we left, and only rarely went back, it’s natural to think on it again, now, in these ways.


Audra Ang is a Senior Development Writer with Duke’s Office of University Development. A previous version of this story originally appeared at Blueprints, the blog of the Duke University Planned Giving Office.

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.

Filming the Great Famine of China

Memory project faces
Filmmakers working on “The Memory Project” amassed over 1,000 hours of interview footage with survivors of China’s Great Famine (1959-1961).

By Ezgi Ustundag

The true story of China’s Cultural Revolution is found not in history books but in the memories of those who survived the Great Famine, says Guo-Juin Hong, co-director of the Franklin Humanities Institute’s Audiovisualities Lab.

Wu Wenguang
Filmmaker Wu Wenguang. The video footage of his Memory Project oral history interviews will be archived at Duke.

“Capturing the real history is a race against time,” says Hong, a scholar of Chinese literature and culture. “There are no official state accounts of the Great Famine—we don’t even know exactly how many people died, and their names and stories will be lost forever in a few years’ time.”

Little known a half-century later in America, the Great Famine of 1959-1961 killed between 20 million and 43 million Chinese, according to different scholarly studies. Coming during the upheaval of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the famine occurred during a period of drought and bad weather, but many scholars focus blame on the policies of the Communist Party.

Hong hopes “The Memory Project” will help illuminate this blight on China’s history. The project began in 2010 when Wu Wenguang, a pioneer of Chinese documentary film best known for Bumming in Beijing (1990), and his cohort of young filmmakers returned to their native villages in twenty provinces to interview survivors of the Great Famine. By 2013, they had amassed over 1,000 hours of footage.

Zou Xueping
Filmmaker Zou Xueping

The project was the focus of Wu and his protégés Li Xinmin, Zou Xueping and Zhang Mengqi’s two-week residency at Duke this October. The residency, which was co-sponsored by Duke University Libraries, included three film screenings, a master class for the MFA program taught by the filmmakers, and a panel discussion featuring the filmmakers, Hong and faculty from Duke’s department of cultural anthropology and the MFA program.

“There’s this very strong activist energy in preserving memories against a highly suppressive state like the Chinese government,” Hong added. “And that’s exactly what Wu Wenguang and his studio have done with ‘The Memory Project.’”

The residency also featured a reception with the filmmakers hosted by Rubenstein Library to celebrate Wu’s donation of the entire body of project interviews. During their time at Duke, Wu and his cohort worked with librarians in Rubenstein and International and Area Studies to catalogue and promote the new collection online.

Both the acquisition of the 1,000-hour body of footage and the university’s relationship with Wu dates back to 2012, when Wu and three filmmakers from his studio came to Duke for the first time as filmmakers-in-residence. The success of the residency two years ago started a dialogue between the Libraries and the filmmakers that culminated in Wu’s decision to donate the complete collection of interviews to Duke.

Zhang Mengqi
Filmmaker Zhang Mengqi

“Because the oral histories of the Great Famine were totally excluded from state history, the most important thing for these filmmakers is for these memories to be accessible,” Hong said. “This history is going to be secure at Rubenstein, but we’re not hiding it from anyone.”

Hong hopes those who attended the events and use the donated footage in their research will not only learn more about the Great Famine but also realize the amount of information that is still hidden from public view.

“I want this residency to give (members of the Duke community) a good sense of how little we actually know about Chinese state violence in the 20th century,” Hong said. “The goal is not for people to walk out of the screenings knowing everything about the Great Famine but for them to realize that though nobody can ever know the extent of this tragedy, it was very real and needs to be studied.”

Ezgi Ustundag (T’16) is an Arts and Humanities Intern in Duke’s Office of News and Communications. A previous version of this article originally appeared online in DukeToday.

Librarians and Teachers Build Copyright Knowledge through MOOC

Collage image
Left to right: Gilliland (UNC), Smith (Duke), and Macklin (Emory) c0-taught the MOOC “Copyright for Educators and Librarians”

By Courtney Lockemer

Can a library use an image of a book cover on its website? Can an artist make a drawing of a copyrighted photo without infringing the photographer’s copyright? Can an elementary school show Frozen at its student/parent movie night without fear of being sued by the film studio?

Every day, Kevin Smith fields multiple questions like these. Smith is director of the Office of Copyright and Scholarly Communications at Duke University Libraries and is both a librarian and an attorney experienced in copyright and technology law. He is one of a handful of individuals with these intersecting areas of expertise, and it makes him a much sought-after resource for librarians and educators from around the country, and the world, with questions about copyright and intellectual property licensing.

“Just putting together a lesson plan requires that you make decisions about how to use other people’s stuff,” said Smith.

Teachers are concerned about personal liability or liability for their school. Librarians end up fielding many of their copyright questions. “Because they’ve got books all around them, they’re assumed to be experts in copyright,” Smith said.

So, Smith and two of his fellow copyright experts—Anne Gilliland of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Lisa A. Macklin of Emory University—decided to teach a MOOC on copyright—a free, convenient way to help thousands of librarians and educators become “copyright mavens.”

The course, “Copyright for Educators & Librarians,” ran for four weeks this summer on Coursera. Over 10,000 participants from 130 different countries enrolled. Participants quickly started using the course’s discussion forums and social media to help each other answer copyright questions from the course and their daily work.

Kristina Eden, a copyright instruction librarian at the University of Michigan, started an on-campus discussion group for colleagues taking the course. To accommodate employees on multiple campuses, Eden rotated the location of the meeting. Each week, 10-15 individuals met, each with a role at the university that dealt with some kind of copyrighted materials: videos for foreign language instruction, archives, streaming media for departmental courses. “They all wanted support and to talk about it with other people,” said Eden.

Months after the course ended, the discussions are still going. Eden created an email list to continue the conversations that took place in the discussion groups, and is using it to field copyright-related questions that come up in course her colleagues jobs and to share resources, like an infographic about fair use. MOOC participants continue to share copyright-related news and questions on the course’s Facebook page.

Feedback from students indicate many hope to continue developing their copyright knowledge by taking “Copyright for Educators & Librarians” again. Smith said the course instructors intend to teach a second session and have even talked about expanding it to include more global perspectives from copyright experts outside the U.S. “The chance for all of us to learn about what copyright issues are like in the rest of the world would be wonderful.”

Courtney Lockemer is the Communications Manager for Online Education Initiatives at Duke. A previous version of this story origially appeared at