Category Archives: Fall 2023

My Giving Story: Kelly Braddy Van Winkle T’99

Kelly Braddy Van Winkle ’99 is convinced that the future of a Duke education can still be found in the (virtual) stacks.

By Greg Jenkins, Senior Writer, Duke Alumni Engagement and Development

Kelly Braddy Van Winkle says she has finally stopped bouncing.

For years, when she was introduced to innovative, interesting new work at Duke, she dove into it, supporting it financially and as a volunteer… until the next interesting idea came along and she bounced over to it. Then Van Winkle learned about the Human Rights Archive at Duke Libraries, and it felt like a place she could invest in long-term.

As a comparative studies major specializing in Western Europe and Latin America, Van Winkle considered a Ph.D. program in Latin American studies with a focus on South American dictatorships. Instead, she became an entrepreneur and started her own industrial tool supply company. Now living in Dallas and running her family’s roofing business, her heart and mind are still with human rights challenges in Latin America and beyond—97 percent of her employees are of Latin American descent.

“I love that Duke Libraries has this collection,” she says. “Even now, almost twenty-five years since I graduated, these issues remain so important to me.”

With Duke Libraries established as her main avenue of support, Van Winkle recently established an estate gift that will benefit the Libraries. She also has made an expendable five-year gift to provide current support for the Human Rights Archive.

What’s so special about the archive? Starting in 2006, it has acquired, preserved, described, and provided access to the records and papers of human rights advocates. Its archival partners include grassroots organizations and transnational NGOs, religious and political leaders, human rights advocates, and artists. The Human Rights Archive’s collections show the impact that organizations and individuals have made on government policy in support of human rights, and the important role they played in the development and transformation of the international human rights movement. Early strong support from faculty in Latin America and Caribbean studies is reflected in the archive’s extensive holdings in this area.

Van Winkle is also convinced of the importance of libraries in general. She sees them as places of community and gathering where students learn together, peer to peer. Keeping libraries modern by supporting digitization is another major component of her support. Her family has a long relationship with Penn State University, so she participates in similar support of these efforts at their libraries.

“I think this is my calling now,” Van Winkle says. “I’m now going to be working with the Penn State libraries and the Duke Libraries. The concept is the same in both. It’s similar in preserving the student experience.”

Van Winkle’s grandfather started a residential roofing company in Erie, Pennsylvania, during the Great Depression that thrived despite the times. It was largely weather (100+ inches of snow per year) that prompted the company to move to Texas in the mid-1980s, where they could perform commercial construction year-round.

In 2011, Van Winkle closed her tool company and joined the family business, King of Texas Roofing Company. In 2019, she was named CEO, and in 2020 the company was certified as a woman-owned business by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.

Naturally, Van Winkle has a vested interest in helping women in male-dominated businesses. She sees libraries as a place where speakers and other experts can address issues of female leadership, creating an archive of material on that subject.

Meantime, she will continue on the leadership council of the Duke Women’s Impact Network (WIN), promoting female philanthropy and leadership. “Everyone in that group is so dynamic,” Van Winkle says. “Every single person in Duke WIN has given selflessly above and beyond.”

Van Winkle is well-aligned with WIN’s mission of female empowerment. Just as she’s changing the culture in the roofing industry, she’d like to be a part of a paradigm shift in philanthropy, starting at Duke.

“Believe it or not, in 2023 I still know a lot of couples where the woman isn’t making the philanthropic decision,” Van Winkle says. “There are still a lot of women who don’t have their own voice to decide on their own philanthropy. So our goal is to try and enable women to say where they want their money to go.”

This story originally appeared on the Giving to Duke Blueprints blog. Reprinted with permission.

One Fine Day at Duke

In the Duke University Libraries, there’s no such thing as a typical day on the job. They’re all a little extraordinary.

By Aaron Welborn
Photography by Janelle Hutchinson

It couldn’t be a lovelier September day. Out on the terrace behind Perkins Library, an upper-level political science seminar is underway (above), taking advantage of the mild weather to have class al fresco.

Meanwhile, over on East Campus, first-year students are lining up outside Lilly Library for free ice cream, the bait to lure them inside for an Academic Resources Open House (below), where representatives from Duke’s many student support services are handing out helpful information and free swag.

And inside Smith Warehouse, Nestor Lovera Nieto, a visiting scholar with Duke’s Center for the History of Political Economy, helps to process materials from a recent acquisition, the papers of American economist Jack Treynor (below). Treynor’s papers are part of the Economists’ Papers Archive in the Rubenstein Library, the largest assemblage of papers by modern economists in the world, including many Nobel Prize winners.

In this issue of our magazine, we offer a snapshot—a day in the life of one of the top research library systems in the country. The Duke University Libraries employ more than 200 people full-time and scores of part-time student workers and interns. Some work on the front lines, many more behind the scenes. But they all come together to support the teaching and research needs of the entire Duke community. It’s all in a day’s work.

Smith Warehouse: Paula Jeannet, Visual Materials Processing Archivist, holds an original print by photographer Danny Lyon, whose iconic images of the 1960s Civil Rights movement were recently acquired by the Rubenstein Library (see story in this issue). Jeannet has worked here for over thirty years, during which time countless fascinating collections have crossed her desk. Lyon’s photos are the last collection she will process before she retires in December.
von der Heyden Pavilion, Perkins Library: Students hit the books (and laptops) at “the Perk,” the popular café and meet-up spot at Perkins Library.
Photography Gallery, Rubenstein Library: Documentary photographer Earl Dotter explores an exhibit of his own photographs from the 1970s documenting the lives of Appalachian coal workers. Dotter had just given a talk in the library about his long career photographing American workers, especially those who labor in dangerous and unhealthy conditions. His papers and photographs were recently acquired by the Rubenstein Library’s Archive of Documentary Arts.
Rubenstein Library Classroom: A statistics class visits the Rubenstein Library to get an up-close look at the history of data visualization. Some 194 classes visited the Rubenstein last year for instruction sessions, reaching roughly one-third of all undergraduates at Duke.
Perkins Library Main Floor: Alex Konecky, Access and Library Services Assistant, assists a library patron at the Perkins Library Service Desk. Last year, library staff handled over 8,000 one-on-one interactions with patrons, spanning research assistance, circulation and directional questions, technology assistance, and more.
Smith Warehouse: Materials on carts wait to be shipped to a commercial bindery, in nearby Greensboro, North Carolina, where they will be given a hardback cover. Libraries often bind together issues of periodicals to make them more convenient to use, less likely to go missing, and sturdier on the shelf. We also bind books with properties that make them more subject to physical damage, like being unusually tall, small, thick, thin, or just plain floppy.
Verne and Tanya Roberts Conservation Lab, Perkins Library: Library books don’t always age gracefully. They get dropped, their spines crack, and their pages get penciled and stained from years of usage. When that happens, they go to the Conservation Lab to be repaired. Senior Conservation Technician Jovana Ivezic works with a simple brush, glue, and book press to rebind volumes whose bindings have come undone.
Tarasoff Meeting Room, Perkins Library: Staff from Duke Employee Occupational Health and Wellness administer free flu shots in Perkins Library, part of a university-wide effort to fight the flu.
Rubenstein Library Stacks: An oversized case in the Rubenstein Library accommodates items like maps, posters, and other jumbo-sized documents that are too large to be shelved normally and must be laid flat or rolled up.
Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library: A panel discussion is underway about Birthing Black Mothers, a new book by Jennifer C. Nash, Jean Fox O’Barr Distinguished Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies at Duke (third from right). The event was the latest in a series highlighting notable books by Duke faculty.
Gravatt Seminar Room, Rubenstein Library: At a meeting of the Libraries’ senior leadership team, Aaron Pruka, Community Service Officer with Duke Police (second from left), discusses an upcoming safety presentation for library staff. As some of the most high-traffic and high-occupancy buildings on campus, Duke’s libraries have unique safety considerations, and it’s important that all staff know what to do in case of emergency.
Smith Warehouse: Dan Maxwell, Senior Library Assistant in Monograph Acquisitions, works his way through a cart of books waiting to be copy cataloged. Maxwell is one of nine library employees who have worked here for 35 years or more. Commitment like that is unusual in today’s work culture but it says something about the kind of place this is. Working in a library comes with many rewards, not least of which is a genuine appreciation for things that last. You could even say it informs nearly everything we do.
Music Library: Streaming music is convenient, but some recordings are only available in legacy formats. At this listening station, library users can play CDs, DVDs, VCR cassettes, audio cassettes, and even laser discs (remember those?).
Smith Warehouse: Vivian Sekandi, a sophomore at Duke and library student employee, scans foreign language materials that will be outsourced for cataloging. The Libraries employ scores of student workers every year. From scanning documents to shelving journals, and answering common questions for patrons, students assist in almost every aspect of our day-to-day operations.
Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library: A toothbrush tester, part of the Consumer Reports Archive, is one of many unusual artifacts on display at a special Rubenstein Library show-and-tell for students and faculty in the Pratt School of Engineering.
Brandaleone Lab for Data and Visualization Services, Bostock Library: Data Science Librarian John Little helps a student with a research question. Last year our Center for Data and Visualization Sciences logged a record number of one-on-one consultations, assisting 1,726 different individuals across 36 academic departments with research data questions.
Digital Production Studio, Perkins Library: Digitization Specialist Aaron Canipe scans a beautiful Rubenstein Library copy of Alfred Tennyson’s book-length poem “In Memoriam,” illuminated by Phoebe Anna Traquair. Once digitized, high-resolution scans of the document will be sent to the researcher who requested them.
Smith Warehouse: Well-thumbed titles on book history, historical printers, book bindings, and related topics serve as a handy reference shelf for the Rubenstein Library’s Technical Services team, who work with materials that encompass the full range of print history, from ancient to modern times.
Staff Workroom, Rubenstein Library: Rubenstein staff use the workroom to review archival materials to be used in upcoming classes visiting the library. Research Services Librarian Brooke Guthrie (left) prepares materials on the history of data visualization for a statistics class later that day, while Josh Larkin Rowley (center), Reference Archivist with the Hartman Center, pulls together historical ads for a class on the psychology of consumer advertising. Meanwhile, Research Services Librarian Kate Collins (right) tracks down the answer to a question submitted by a researcher.
Pearse Memorial Library, Duke Marine Lab, Beaufort, NC: Jodi Psoter, Librarian for Marine Sciences and Head of the Duke Marine Lab Library, is paid a visit by Latke, who stopped by the library to help his owner pick up a book. Latke belongs to Gabrielle Carmine, a Ph.D. student in the Nicholas School of the Environment, and is a regular fixture at Marine Lab events. (Photo by Jeff Priddy)
Smith Warehouse: Stephen Conrad, Team Lead for Western Languages in Monographic Acquisitions, demonstrates that you can pack a lot of personality—and Halloween spirit—into not a lot of workspace.
Facilities and Distribution Services Department, Perkins Library: Facilities Coordinator Kyle Jeffers (left) and Daniel Walker, Facilities Manager (right), load the delivery truck for the daily run, distributing books and other materials requested by patrons to library locations across campus.
Rubenstein Library Stacks: Jargo James, a first-year at Duke and library student employee, takes a dust rag to shelves in the Rubenstein Library’s secure stack area. Though few people think about it, dusting must be done every few years to keep Duke’s priceless research collections in good order and prevent important historical documents from deteriorating.
Staff Workroom, Rubenstein Library: Research Services Librarian Brooke Guthrie shows off the first documented example of a pie chart, by the Scottish engineer and so-called father of statistical graphics William Playfair (1759–1823), who is also credited with inventing the line graph, bar chart, and circle graph. Such curious finds are one of the daily joys of working in a library.
The Link, Perkins Library: A graduate seminar for international students on academic writing meets in a classroom in the Link, a 24,000-square-foot teaching and learning center on the lower level of Perkins Library. Some 177 classes across 41 different academic departments meet every week in the Link, which is also home to the main IT help desk for the university.
The Edge Workshop Room, Bostock Library: Drew Keener, Map and Geospatial Data Specialist, leads a workshop on making story maps in ArcGIS, a software that lets researchers combine interactive maps with narrative text, images, and videos. Workshops offered by our Center for Data and Visualization Sciences are in high demand year-round, especially by students in the Pratt School of Engineering, Nicholas School of the Environment, and School of Medicine.
Outside Perkins Library: A group of prospective students and families stops outside Perkins Library during a campus tour. A familiar sight in the course of another fine day at Duke!

Saint Nicholas’s Long and Winding Road to Duke

By Aaron Welborn

This is not a Christmas story, but it does begin with a very old St. Nick.

The twelfth-century Byzantine manuscript shown here recounts the life of Saint Nikolas of Myra and how he visited the home of three poor girls at night, leaving them each a bag of gold for a dowry and saving them from a life of sin. Saint Nicholas, of course, is a distant model for Santa Claus.

Greek Manuscript 018 [Menologion for December 4-13 by Symeon Metaphrastes], 1100s, Rubenstein Library.

Known as Greek Manuscript 18 (or MS 018), it’s part of a large assemblage of ancient Greek manuscripts—one of the largest in the United States—held by the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke.

Even for those of us who don’t read Greek, its nine-hundred-year-old parchment pages evoke the classic image of a monk painstakingly copying ancient tomes by hand. It was originally part of a much larger, multi-volume set of Eastern Orthodox saints’ lives as retold by Symeon Metaphrastes, or a “Menologion,” meant to be read aloud on certain days of the church year. This page shows December 6, the feast day of Saint Nicholas.

At some point, perhaps after World War I, the volume was brought to southern Germany, where it entered the rare book market. Years later it showed up in a London bookshop, where it was purchased on behalf of Duke in 1953.

How did a medieval manuscript migrate from Germany to London, and finally to Durham, North Carolina? According to Jennifer Knust, Professor of Religious Studies at Duke, there’s reason to believe that National Socialism had something to do with it.

Knust specializes in early Christian history and the religions of the ancient Mediterranean. She also co-directs the Franklin Humanities Institute’s Manuscript Migration Lab, an interdisciplinary collaboration among Duke scholars, students, and librarians to explore the complicated and sometimes unsettling backstories behind the oldest rare books and manuscripts in the library. The goal is to reckon with the ethical, cultural, and political questions increasingly facing libraries and museums today about their historical collecting practices. Or as Knust puts it, “Who were these manuscripts taken from, and who were they given to?”

In researching the provenance of Greek MS 018 and how it ended up at Duke, Knust discovered a troubling clue. A guide to hagiographical Greek manuscripts published in Germany in 1938 places the volume in the Ludwig Rosenthal Antiquariat, a distinguished Jewish-owned antiquarian bookstore in Munich.

In 1938, under a policy of forced “Aryanization,” the National Socialists liquidated the bookstore’s stock and deported its owner, Nathan Rosenthal, to the Dachau concentration camp. From there, Rosenthal and his wife were eventually transferred to Theresienstadt and murdered. Other members of the family fled to England and Holland and survived the Holocaust.

After the war, Duke purchased the Menologion from a London bookseller named Raphael King. When and how did the manuscript travel from Munich to King’s bookshop in London? Was it before or after the period of “Aryanization?” Conclusive evidence has yet to be discovered. “We still have a lot more work to do to determine its provenance,” said Knust, who continues to research the document’s history.

It’s important work with real-world implications. “Duke has one of the largest collections of ancient Greek manuscripts in the country,” said Knust. “That’s a tremendous opportunity, but it’s also a tremendous responsibility. One of the things I love about this library is its willingness to be transparent and public about what’s in our special collections.”

By examining the historical, political, and market forces that brought such collections to Duke, we can better appreciate their importance as survivors and witnesses to history.

This is one of several documents on display as part of the exhibit, Manuscript Migration: The Multiple Lives of the Rubenstein Library’s Collections, running through February 3, 2024, in the Mary Duke Biddle Room. The exhibit was curated by students, faculty, and affiliates of the Manuscript Migration Lab in the Franklin Humanities Institute.

Around the Libraries

Celebrating a History Book for the History Books

On October 24-25, the Duke University Libraries and North Carolina Central University (NCCU) co-hosted a symposium on one of the most definitive and enduring books written about the experience of Black people in America. Written by John Hope Franklin, a pioneering scholar who taught at both Duke and NCCU and whose scholarship was key to launching the discipline of African American studies, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans is still relevant more than sevety-five years after it was first published.

The symposium featured leading scholars in history and African American Studies, including (left to right) professors Mark Anthony Neal (Duke), Adriane Lentz Smith (Duke), and Brandon K. Winford (University of Tennessee). Photo by Bill Snead.

The symposium, “From Slavery to Freedom: From Durham to the World” honored the legacy of Franklin (1915-2009) and his seminal work, featuring panel discussions and receptions on both campuses with leading scholars in history and African American studies.

Portrait of John Hope Franklin (1996), by Simmie Knox. Gothic Reading Room, Rubenstein Library.

Published in 1947, From Slavery to Freedom traces the story of Black Americans, starting from their ancestral roots in Africa through the centuries of enslavement in the Western world, to their place and contributions in modern America. The book, now in its tenth edition, has endured as an authoritative work of history, written by one of its most respected practitioners. Franklin originally wrote it while a professor of history at NCCU. But he continued updating the work on it throughout his life, even after he came out of retirement to serve as the James B. Duke Professor of History at Duke (1982-2009). He was also a professor of legal history at the Duke School of Law (1985-1992).

In 1995, Franklin donated his personal and professional papers to the Duke University Libraries. In recognition of this and his many other achievements, the university established the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, a division of the Rubenstein Library. It was the first of many things at Duke named for Franklin, and since then it has grown into one of the foremost repositories documenting the history and culture of people of African descent.

Artificial Intelligence Goes to College

Like it or not, ChatGPT and other forms of generative artificial intelligence (AI) have become a part of daily life. But the rise of free, user-friendly tools that can generate convincing text and imagery in response to virtually any command has raised important questions about how students and faculty should engage with these new technologies.

Photo by Jared Lazarus

Now, Duke is joining forces with other universities across the country to develop policies and guidance around the appropriate uses of AI in higher education. Over the next two years, a team of staff from the Duke University Libraries and Duke Learning Innovation will represent the university in a nationwide study on how schools can harness the potential benefits of AI, not simply regard it as a threat to academic integrity.

The study, “Making AI Generative for Higher Education,” includes nineteen large and small universities and is led by Ithaka S+R, a nonprofit organization that provides research and strategic guidance to libraries and academic institutions on navigating technological change.

“As the rapid growth of emerging technologies like generative AI makes innovation and deeper engagement possible, it is also disrupting the situation in which we all learn and work. It is in this environment that Duke has both an opportunity and a responsibility to impact not only the future of learning at our institution, but the future of higher education in our society,” said Joseph A. Salem, Jr., the Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs. “Collaborations like these allow us to be a part of a much bigger conversation—one that will shape how we teach and learn.”

Together, the partners in the Ithaka S+R project will assess emerging AI applications and explore the long-term needs of institutions, instructors, and scholars as they navigate this new environment.

In Memoriam: David Lee Kim, 1959-2023

On June 14, 2023, the Duke University Libraries lost a longtime and cherished friend. David L. Kim T’82 had been a member of our Library Advisory Board since 2010.

David Kim, 2005

Born in New Jersey, David grew up in Pennsylvania and attended the prestigious Hill School there before graduating from Duke with a bachelor’s degree in political science. After graduation, he remained an active and loyal member of his Duke fraternity, Beta Phi Zeta. Years later, he joined the Duke Library Advisory Board, giving back to a place that meant so much to him while enriching his own love of reading.

David had a distinguished and varied career in marketing and public relations, including senior-level positions at Anheuser-Busch, the United States Mint, AARP, and other major brands and organizations. Most recently, he served as President and CEO of the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging. Consistent across David’s many professional and volunteer roles was his desire to be a champion for Asian Americans, to represent their interests in the corporate, government, and nonprofit worlds, and to secure their place in our multicultural society. We are grateful for David’s many years of support and service to the Duke University Libraries and will deeply miss his witty repartee, energetic spirit, and talent for making (and keeping) lifelong friends.

Headline from History

As we prepare to celebrate Duke’s centennial in 2024, we’re looking back at our own library milestones over the last hundred years.

Lilly Library on Duke’s East Campus can boast several firsts, including being the first library to serve the fledgling Duke University. (After Trinity College was renamed Duke in 1924, the old Trinity library was torn down and replaced by the building you see today, which opened to students and faculty before construction on the Gothic West Campus was complete.)

But did you know that Lilly was also Duke’s first art museum?

From the February 25, 1931, issue of the Duke Chronicle.

On February 25, 1931, the Duke Chronicle published this item announcing the first exhibition of the newly formed Duke Art Association in the Woman’s College Library—as Lilly was known back then. On display were many examples of Chinese art, etchings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder and William Blake, plus a hodgepodge of antique furniture, including a complete Queen Anne bed set. (Imagine trying to keep that safe from sleep-deprived students today.)

Almost all of it came from a single private collection on loan to Duke (with option to purchase) by Margaret L. Barber of Missouri, who inherited part of the Diamond Match fortune and spent it collecting art and antiques. William K. Boyd, first director of the Duke University Libraries, negotiated the collection loan, which he hoped would inspire additional loans and donations of art.

The library continued to serve as Duke’s art museum until 1969, when a science building on East Campus was renovated for that purpose. It wasn’t until 2005 that Duke’s Nasher Museum of Art opened, finally giving the university the world-class art museum it deserved.

In the end, Duke opted to purchase only two items from Barber’s art collection. One was a circular Chinese teakwood table, now in Lilly Library’s Thomas Reading Room. The other—more valuable by far—was a complete original set of the double elephant folio edition of John James Audubon’s masterpiece, The Birds of America.

Yes, THAT Birds of America—the bigger-than-life volumes you can still see today on permanent display in the Rubenstein Library’s Mary Duke Biddle Room. Almost a century later, they’re still a draw for library visitors looking for inspiration, artistry, and perhaps a touch of Duke history.

Audubon’s Birds of America, on display in the Mary Duke Biddle Room, Rubenstein Library.

Happy Camper Department: Looking Back at Libraries Summer Camp 2023

By Will Shaw, Digital Humanities Consultant

From June to August, most Duke students may be off, but summer is still a busy time here in the Libraries. At the same time, summer often means less face-to-face time with our colleagues. Lucky for us, that’s when Libraries Summer Camp rolls around.

Summer Camp began in 2019 with two goals: to foster peer-to-peer learning among library staff, and to help build connections across the many units of our organization. This was the third Summer Camp I’ve helped organize (the pandemic scuttled our plans in 2020-2021), and it’s starting to feel like a Duke Libraries tradition. Over one hundred staff came together to teach with and learn from each other in twenty-five sessions this year.

What did they learn? Professional development workshops are the core of Summer Camp. But over the years, our focus has broadened to include a wider range of personal enrichment topics. This year’s “campers” could learn how to crochet or play the recorder, explore native plants, create memes, or practice ​​Koru meditation. At the same time, we had opportunities to teach each other the essentials of data visualization, discuss ChatGPT in libraries, learn fundraising basics, and improve our group discussions and decision-making skills. That balance has helped us find the right tone: learning together, as always, but having fun and focusing on personal growth, too.

Like any good Summer Camp, we wrapped things up with a closing circle and snacks—sharing lessons learned, favorite moments, and hopes for future camps. It’s hard not to feel excited for Summer Camp 2024.

Proud Duke Parent and All That Jazz

Every October, we look for a parent of a Duke student who has an interesting job and invite them to share their experiences with other Duke moms and dads during Family Weekend. This year, we were proud to welcome world-renowned saxophonist, bandleader, composer, and Duke dad Branford Marsalis.

University Librarian Joseph A. Salem, Jr. (left) poses with Duke first-year student Thaïs Marsalis (center) and her father, saxophonist and bandleader Branford Marsalis.

Best known as the leader of the Grammy-winning Branford Marsalis Quartet, Marsalis has over thirty albums to his name and has been honored as a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. He has played alongside artists as diverse as the Grateful Dead, Tina Turner, and Sting, and he formerly led the house band on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. In classical music, he’s sought after as a featured soloist with acclaimed orchestras around the world.

Needless to say, he filled the room. Marsalis and his wife, Nicole, live in Durham. They are the parents of Thaïs, a first-year student at Duke, who introduced her dad at the event. No stranger to being on stage, Marsalis shared insights and anecdotes from a long career of making beautiful music.

Fun fact: After Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, Marsalis teamed up with his friend and fellow NOLA native Harry Connick, Jr., to found Musician’s Village, a neighborhood in the city’s Upper Ninth Ward built by Habitat for Humanity as an affordable housing community for local musicians and artists who lost their homes to the storm.

Rubenstein Library Acquires Archive of Danny Lyon, Whose Lens Captured Heroism and Violence of Civil Rights Movement

Demonstration at an all-white swimming pool, Cairo, Illinois, 1962. All photos by Danny Lyon.

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University has acquired the archive of photographer and filmmaker Danny Lyon, who shot some of the most powerful and enduring images of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

The collection encompasses Lyon’s work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and his continued documentation of the movement up to the present day through writing, photography, and film. It was acquired as a gift of the Kohler Foundation, a family foundation based in Kohler, Wisconsin, that supports the arts, education, and art preservation. The family has a long-standing connection to the university with alumni Laura Kohler T’84, David Kohler T’88, and Rachel Kohler Proudman T’23.

Born in Brooklyn in 1942, Lyon began taking pictures at the age of seventeen and taught himself photography. After earning a degree in history from the University of Chicago, he met SNCC executive secretary James Forman, who convinced the twenty-year-old Lyon to join the youth-led, voting rights organization as staff photographer.

SNCC demonstrators stage a sit-in at a Toddle House restaurant, Atlanta, Georgia, 1963.

During his time with SNCC, Lyon, one of several white Northerners inspired to join the movement, captured the dramatic struggle for racial equality across the South, and his photographs became the visual backbone of SNCC’s campaigns. They depict the courage and commitment of young people in the movement, as well as the violence and hatred of segregationists who opposed them. Many of Lyon’s now-iconic images were instrumental in garnering public sympathy for the Civil Rights movement and inspiring others to get involved. This is the first time they have been assembled as a collection and made publicly available for research and consultation.

The collection includes nearly 8,500 individual images, most of which have never been published or seen outside of Lyon’s studio. They include over 300 gelatin silver prints made between 1962 and the early 1970s, and more than 200 contact sheets containing a complete record of Lyon’s civil rights photography from 1962 to 1964, with the photographer’s notes and markings throughout. The collection also contains correspondence, SNCC publications and posters, and materials related to the publication of two books of Lyon’s civil rights photography, The Movement: Documentary of a Struggle for Equality (1964, with text by Lorraine Hansberry) and Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement (1992).

Also included are all elements used in Lyon’s 2020 documentary film SNCC, along with hundreds of hours of unused digital audio and video footage featuring SNCC veterans, particularly U.S. Representative and civil rights icon John Lewis, recorded near the end of Lewis’s life. As a SNCC staff member, Lyon developed close ties with Lewis, Julian Bond, James Forman, and other well-known civil rights activists of the time, who figure prominently in his photographs now at Duke.

Front and back of a print of James Forman and John Lewis, 1962.

Taken together, the materials in Lyon’s archive offer a previously unseen, eyewitness view of the social and political upheaval that embroiled the South in the 1960s. They complement other noteworthy collections of civil rights photography held by the Rubenstein Library’s Archive of Documentary Arts— including the work of photojournalists James Karales and James “Spider” Martin—and numerous collections documenting civil rights and social justice work held by the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, also part of the Rubenstein Library.

“We are honored to be the institutional home of Danny Lyon’s historic civil rights photography, and we are grateful to the Kohler Foundation for bringing his archive to Duke, where it will be open to the public,” said Joseph A. Salem, Jr., Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs. “His thousands of images documenting SNCC’s activism across the South represent an invaluable visual record. They provide additional, never-before-seen context to a critical chapter in our nation’s history, and they have the potential to open up profound new understanding of grassroots organizing and the civil rights era.”

An anonymous woman confronts a white mob abusing SNCC demonstrators with kicks, blows, and burning cigarettes in Atlanta, Georgia, 1963. From Lyon’s notes about the scene: “When someone yells, ‘If you feel that way, why don’t you marry one of them?’ she sits down and joins the demonstrators.”

This acquisition also contributes to the Movement History Initiative, a collaboration between the SNCC Legacy Project and Duke University that that brings together activists, archivists, and academics. This partnership lifts up the grassroots organizing tradition and passes on successful organizing strategies and tactics to the next generation. Archiving the records of activists and artists of the civil rights era and engaging today’s activists in the preservation of their own history are critical to documenting movement history from the bottom up and the inside out.

Over the last ten years, the Movement History Initiative has established intergenerational relationships among activists; built an archive of movement knowledge in the Franklin Research Center, including new oral histories and multimedia works; developed and sustained innovative digital platforms that serve as encyclopedic sources and educational tools for movement history; changed the way civil rights history is taught through curriculum development and teacher institutes; hosted national conferences on voting rights and grassroots organizing; and mentored Black archivists. The SNCC Digital Gateway and Civil Rights Movement Archive websites, both supported by the Duke University Libraries, attract hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. This work has been supported through grants from the Mellon Foundation, Ford Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the generous gifts of individuals.

“Danny Lyon’s documentary work reflects his keen commitment to be much more than a passing observer,” said Tom Rankin, Director of the MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts Program at Duke and Professor of the Practice of Art, Art History & Visual Studies. “With a historian’s mind and a humanist’s heart, Lyon’s documentary photography and writing have forever brought intimate clarity to the central issues of our day. His civil rights work and archive—from his photographs, films, notes, and ephemera—bring viewers close to the ordinary moments as well as the crucible events of the civil rights movement. Having Lyon’s humanity, commitment, and clarity of vision with Duke’s archive provides a profound and lasting resource to scholars, students, artists, activists, and viewers of all kinds.”

Contact sheet, 1964, with Lyon’s notes on starred image: “In a Ruleville Freedom House, I, in deep cover, and Frank Smith take turns posing before a door perforated by shotguns of night riders.”

“Kohler Foundation is deeply honored to be a part of preserving this remarkable collection,” said Laura Roenitz, Executive Director of Kohler Foundation, Inc. “Danny Lyon’s work is not just a snapshot of history; it’s a testament to the enduring spirit of those who challenged injustice and fought for a more equitable society. This donation aligns perfectly with our mission of preserving the art that connects communities and we know the Rubenstein Library at Duke University, known for its commitment to preserving and sharing historical collections, is an ideal home for the Danny Lyon Archive. This donation provides students, scholars, and the public with access to this invaluable resource, ensuring that it continues to inspire and educate for generations to come.”

Since his early work with SNCC, Lyon has gone on to become one of the most influential and noteworthy documentarians of our time. He has received Guggenheim Fellowships in photography and filmmaking, numerous grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and his work has been featured in major museums. His many books showcase Lyon’s immersive approach to documentary photography, whether training his camera on outlaw biker gangs (The Bikeriders, 1968), urban renewal (The Destruction of Lower Manhattan, 1969), Texas prisoners (Conversations with the Dead, 1971), or Native American reservations (Indian Nations, 2002). In 2022, Lyon was inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum.

Discover more about Danny Lyon

Visit Danny Lyon’s website, or follow him on Instagram.