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A Candid Doris Duke

Post contributed by Mary Samouelian, Doris Duke Collection Archivist

Cecil Beaton's portrait of Doris Duke
Cecil Beaton’s portrait of Doris Duke

One of the most well-known photographs in the Doris Duke Photograph Collection is a very glamorous Doris Duke draped in a floral gown and pearls, standing against an ornate backdrop. The photograph was taken in the early 1930s by Cecil Beaton, a fashion photographer known primarily for his portraits of celebrated persons. For most people this image is Doris Duke.

Doris Duke’s class portrait, probably from kindergarten
Doris Duke’s class portrait, probably from kindergarten

However, the recently published Doris Duke Photograph Collection finding aid sets out to introduce you to a Doris Duke who is very different from her public persona. Approximately 3,500 photographs out of 12,000 photographs in the collection have been digitized and are viewable from within the finding aid. Amongst these digitized items you can scroll through images of Doris as a young girl, Doris’ volunteer work for the United States Government during World War II, images of her travel, various estates,and an assortment of pictures of her dogs, cats, cows, and camels!

If you are interested in seeing the actual photographs, you can hover the cursor over any of the images and information about the physical location of the photograph within the collection is displayed. You can then request the box(es) you are interested in using through Duke University’s library catalogue.

Finding aid how to
Hover over digitized photographs to find out which box it’s stored in

The finding aid also describes photographs that have not been digitized but are available for use in the Rubenstein Library. Some of the more fascinating images in the collection are tinted photographs of Duke Farms (Somerville, New Jersey) from the 1900s, autographed pictures of a sultry Rudolph Valentino (Doris’ school girl crush), and color glass mounted slides of Doris Duke’s trip to the Middle East in 1938.