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Long, Beautiful, Archivally-Preserved Hair

Just a few more days to see hair on display!

The current Perkins Gallery exhibit, “The Life of Memorials: Manifestations of Memory at the Intersection of Public and Private,” explores the tradition of commemorating events and remembering people. Memorials can be large-scale statues and museums but can also include more personal items, such as mementos and souvenirs.

One very common practice has been to retain the hair of our loved ones—and some of these locks, from the Rubenstein Library’s collections, are on display as part of this exhibit through October 16. (Or, visit the online exhibit!)

Many of our collections contain locks of hair—some are the typical parental memory of youth, like the young blonde curls of Sallie Bingham; some are the desire to connect to our literary heroes, like a nice lock of the poet William Cullen Bryant or a few strands tied together from Walt Whitman; and some are from other kinds of heroes, like envelopes full of hair from Jefferson Davis (the envelope reads: ” . . . hair from Jefferson Davis at Fort Monroe. . . “).

Jefferson Davis' Hair
Jefferson Davis' Hair

Our collection also contains “one strand” of hair, with certification, from Abraham Lincoln; a few very small hairs allegedly from John Wesley; and some hair from our own Reynolds Price. Come by and visit the hair on display through October 16 in the Perkins Gallery, or come by the Rubenstein Library’s reading room and ask to see the hair in person!

Tomorrow, in conjunction with their exhibit, Team Kenan will be presenting a a moderated panel discussion that will examine the ways people live with traumatic experiences in different political and cultural contexts.

Living with Memory: A Moderated Panel Discussion of Memorials
Date: Thursday, October 6th
Time: 5:00 PM
Location: Rare Book Room

Panelists Jehanne Gheith, Associate Professor of Russian Literature, and Stephanie Seiburth, Associate Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies will take part in a student-moderated discussion and offer multimedia presentations on their work on collective memory in Russia and Spain.

For more information, visit

Post contributed by Meg Brown, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation Exhibits Librarian and Conservator for Special Collections.

4 thoughts on “Long, Beautiful, Archivally-Preserved Hair”

  1. I have in my possession what appears to me to be a piece of Duke Bluedevils sports memorabelia. It is a circular flat brown stone intrically engraved on the from as follows: H. Palmer

    On the reverse of the stone are inscribed a number of names starting with: H. Palmer; H. Steele; S. Beskid; Elmer Kress; Mike Goloski; Joe Nass; Gus Zukie; Sam Deutch etc.

    I have no affiliation with Duke University other than I root for your basketball team (since the 1960’s). I would appreciate it if someone could research these names during these years to confirm/disprove that the names refer to Duke students.

    I look forward to hearing from you.


    Bill Morrow in Houston, TX

    1. Hi Bill,

      Thanks for contacting us! We’ll follow up with a reply to your e-mail address in a few days.

  2. I love how it says, “Long, Beautiful, Archivally-Preserved Hair!”
    It sounds like you guys want me to eat it or something…..

Comments are closed.