All posts by Will Hansen

My Rubenstein Library: A Newly Acquired Greek Manuscript

In this post Professor Lucas Van Rompay, Chair of the Duke University Department of Religion, explains an exciting new addition to the Rubenstein’s early manuscript collections.  Thanks, Professor Van Rompay!

Recently acquired Greek “Menologion” manuscript, ca. 11th century, Constantinople. Image courtesy Lucas Van Rompay.

The Rubenstein Library recently acquired a fascinating 11th-century Greek manuscript.

With some colleagues and students of the Graduate Program in Religion, we went to see the manuscript on Thursday, October 6, and were greeted by Naomi Nelson, Director of the Rubenstein Library, and J. Andrew Armacost, Head of Collection Development and Curator of Collections.

The new manuscript contains a collection of the lives of saints celebrated in the Greek Orthodox Church during the month of September. It is the first volume of what once must have been a ten-volume set, known as the ‘Menologion’ and covering the entire liturgical year (which begins in September). This particular collection is associated with the name of Symeon Metaphrastes, who in the late 10th century rewrote and collected much of the ancient Greek hagiographical tradition.

While Symeon’s collection became authoritative in the Greek Orthodox Church and is preserved in a great number of manuscripts, the new Duke manuscript stands out for its early date and for the exceptionally fine quality of its script and its lavish execution. It may safely be dated to the middle of the 11th century and must have been produced in Constantinople, from where in the 11th century a number of copies of Symeon’s Menologion were sent to churches and monasteries all over the Byzantine Empire.

Students and faculty view the new manuscript with Curator of Collections Andy Armacost. Image courtesy Lucas Van Rompay.

Until 1960 the manuscript belonged to the library of the Dionysiou Monastery on Mount Athos, from which it was sold, and later sold at auction to the Schoyen Collection, which recently deaccessioned it. It will be part of the Kenneth Willis Clark Collection at Duke, which already contains a great number of very fine Byzantine manuscripts.

Thanks to Andy Armacost, Curator of Collections, for coordinating this post.

Gedney’s Cars

With this post, the Archive of Documentary Arts inaugurates a monthly series highlighting work in our holdings that has been digitized. Our first post “Gedney’s Cars” celebrates the work of photographer William Gedney and his fascination with cars and people’s behavior/relationship with automobiles.  All four of the photographs below are untitled and were taken in Kentucky in 1972.  To see more of Gedney’s work in our digital collections, visit  William Gedney’s life’s work is housed in the Archive of Documentary Arts.

Post contributed by Karen Glynn, Photography Archivist, and Kirston Johnson, Moving Image Archivist, Archive of Documentary Arts.

A Busy Week in Archives Education

(L to R) Panelists Holly Smith, Dr. L. Teresa Church, and Jenn Thompson. Photo courtesy SCOSAA-UNC.

Rubenstein Library staff visited our neighbors in Chapel Hill last week to speak on two panels sponsored by UNC-Chapel Hill’s Student Chapter of the Society of American Archivists (SCOSAA).  Jenn Thompson, the Research Services and Collection Development Librarian for the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, spoke on November 7 about the Franklin Center’s collections as part of a panel entitled “Diversifying the Archives.”  Naomi Nelson, the Rubenstein’s Director, spoke on November 10 about reappraisal of archival materials with colleagues from UNC’s Wilson Library.  For more information on the panels, see SCOSAA’s blog (linked above) or their Facebook page.

Naomi Nelson (back row center) with fellow panelists Bill Landis, Tim West, and attendees of panel. Photo by Patrick Michael Brown, courtesy SCOSAA-UNC.

New Digital Collection: Marshall T. Meyer

Interview with Marshall Meyer published on 5 February 1984. From the Marshall T. Meyer Papers.

Duke University Libraries announces the publication of the Marshall T. Meyer digital collection (available at
) which documents the human rights activism of the Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer in 1970’s and 1980’s Argentina.  The digital collection is a subset of the Marshall T. Meyer papers held at the Rubenstein Library.

Marshall Meyer was an activist rabbi who expounded a politically engaged Conservative Judaism. After being ordained rabbi in 1958, Meyer and his wife moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1959, where they were to stay until 1984. Meyer led the reinvigoration of Argentina’s Jewish community and lived and fought through the political upheavals and turmoil of the 1970s and 1980s, openly speaking out against the human rights abuses perpetrated under the rule of the military junta, and visiting and attempting to secure the release of prisoners who were unlawfully incarcerated. After the return of democracy to Argentina in 1983, Argentine President Raul Alfonsin recruited Meyer to serve on the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CONADEP in Spanish), which led a national investigation to establish the extent of the abuses suffered under the military junta.

Meyer returned to the United States in 1984 and took over the helm of congregation B’nai Jeshurun, reviving the decaying New York City synagogue and transforming it into a dynamic center for Judaism in the United States. Meyer advocated for inter-religious dialogue and peace efforts, the plight of marginalized groups within the United States, against human rights abuses in Central America (El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala), and for peace and respect for human rights in Israel and Palestine.

The items in the Marshall Meyer digital collection focus on his work in Argentina on behalf of human rights.  Approximately 6 linear feet of paper documents were digitized and individually cataloged. The digital collection contains 1,025 items including correspondence, project files, subject files, publications, and other documents.  The web portal allows researchers to access individual documents via subject, document type, date, language, and titles.  Future enhancements to the collection will include addition of archival descriptions and access and the addition of a/v material.

The Marshall Meyer digital collection is complimented by two other digital initiatives:  the on-line exhibit: “I Have No Right to Be Silent, The Human Rights Legacy of the Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer” ( ) produced by The Duke Human Rights Archive in partnership with the Duke Human Rights Center and the Center for Jewish Studies at Duke, and the Fondo Marshall Meyer ( ) produced by Memoria Abierta.

Post contributed by Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist.

He Lives! Frankenstein in the Rubenstein

Scary, but true: the Rubenstein’s Hinton Collection of Plays contains what’s believed to be the first published image of Frankenstein’s Creature (or “Monster,” if you’re feeling pejorative).  Are you ready to face the horror?


Now that you’ve recovered from the shock, you’ll be interested to know that this image is of the actor Richard John O. Smith portraying the Creature in an 1826 stage adaptation of Shelley’s novel by Henry Milner.  The Hinton Collection also contains a prompt book for Milner’s play as produced at the Theatre Royal in Birmingham, England, probably in the 1830s. The image below shows the page of the prompt book for the Creature’s awakening, with the inserted dialogue “He lives / He lives”:

This echoes the line “It lives! It lives!” from the first stage adaptation of Frankenstein, R. B. Peake’s wildly successful 1823 play Presumption (you can find an edition of this in the Hinton Collection, as well), and prefigures perhaps the most famous scene in horror cinema.

Adaptations and reimaginings of the story of Frankenstein continue to proliferate today.  See these and many more chilling items, including an issue of Frankenstein Comics from the 1940s, at the Haunted Library Screamfest from 11am-1pm today!

Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections.