Kate Collins, Research Services Librarian
If you stopped by the coffee shop in Perkins Library in February, you might have been surprised to see undergraduate students crowded around a table using glue, scissors, and images from the Rubenstein Library. They were using, of course, scanned images from the collections that had been printed out for students to use for the Valentine’s Day pop-up. There were copies of historical valentines, as well as anatomical hearts from the History of Medicine Collection, Victorian floral illustrations, photographs of friends, and doodles from zines, that students could cut out and collage together to make their own valentines to send to friends and family.
The Valentine’s Day craft pop-up is just one of the ways we’re working to connect with students beyond the classroom. Hundreds of Duke undergraduates come into our reading room and classrooms each year, but we also want to build relationships with students that transcend their coursework. For the last two years, Lucy Dong T’20 served as the Middlesworth Outreach and Social Media Fellow in the Rubenstein Library, helping us develop creative ways of reaching undergraduates both on campus and online.
With Dong’s assistance and the gift of two mobile exhibit cases from Ken Hubbard T’65 and Tori Dauphinot P’15 P’16, we’ve been able to safely bring our collections out for pop-up exhibits, going beyond our usual classroom and exhibit spaces to reach students who may never make it to the Rubenstein. In the fall, we hosted pop-up exhibits recognizing Transgender Awareness Week and Native American Heritage Month. Both of these small exhibits took place outside of the popular coffee shop in Perkins Library and included a variety of eye-catching material from across the Rubenstein Library’s collections, inviting passersby to slow down and take a closer look.
In the digital realm, Dong focused her work on our Instagram account, a platform popular with undergraduate students. She explored the Rubenstein Library’s collections to find content that would interest the Duke community. One of her favorite finds was the Library Question and Answer Book with student queries from the 1980s, a flashback to when typewriters were essential to Duke students and an anonymous student’s concerns about becoming a slave to technology seem quaint. Dong also used the platform to help students to see themselves as creators of history, encouraging student organizations to place their records in the University Archives.
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Ever wondered where you can use your typewriter in the library? Find your answers in the Perkins Library Suggestions/Answers book. Here are some of the first suggestions and answers recorded when the book was introduced in September of 1982 as a loose-leaf binder set up in the lobby of Perkins Library, by John Lubans. Most people not on the Library staff did not know the identity of the Answer Person, which was a popular mystery for many years. Follow along on this series featuring “best-of” selections and the history of the #TheAnswerBook . #universityarchives #dukeuniversity #dukehistory
Our long-running Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen blog series also got an update, thanks to a collaboration between Dong and Sonia Fillipow T’20. Inspired by minimalist cooking videos on platforms like Buzzfeed and Bon Appetit, they brought this snappy modern style to retro recipes for Jell-O they found in a 1962 Joys of Jell-O cookbook from our Nicole DiBona Peterson Collection of Advertising Cookbooks. Their three minute video walked viewers through making an attention-grabbing “Crown Jewel Dessert” cake and a Jell-O vegetable salad.
We look forward to continuing to find new ways to engage with Duke students and helping them get to know the Rubenstein’s collections in ways that inspire curiosity, foster creativity, and inform their understanding of the present moment.