Category Archives: Audiovisual Materials

A Journey’s End

A couple of weeks ago the finding aid for the Doris Duke Audiovisual Collection was posted on the Rubenstein Library website. The audiovisual collection, which is now opened for research, has a fascinating variety of materials, including film reels, vinyl records, and audio cassettes reflecting Doris’ interests in travel, music, the performing arts, and historical events. It’s chock-full of surprises for those willing to delve into the detailed and intricate collection. Homemade recordings of Doris practicing the piano and singing, four original nitrate film reels of the Nazi Supreme Court Trial of the Anti-Hitler Plot from 1944-45 (which we’re presuming Doris obtained while working for the Office of Strategic Services [OSS] during World War II), and a somewhat sketchy telephone interview with Howard Hughes from the 1970s are just a few of the treasures awaiting discovery in this collection.

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The Doris Duke Audiovisual Collection also marks a significant milestone for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives. It is the final collection in the historical archives to be processed, described, and opened for research, thus ending my three year processing journey.

Working so intimately with the materials has been quite a remarkable experience, and not surprisingly I’ve grown quite attached to both Doris Duke and the materials over the past three years! The nineteen collections comprising the historical archives are filled with artifacts and clues that leave evidence of a woman who did big things, yet they also give insight to unexpected and hidden facets of Doris’ life. Collectively they paint a picture of Doris that challenges the general perception of her as an eccentric and tragic figure.

While I am sincerely grateful for having had the opportunity to process and promote the materials in the historical archives, I am equally thankful for having had the chance to meet researchers and patrons interested in both Doris Duke and the historical archives. Their enthusiasm for learning more about her spurred several of the events, exhibits, and digital initiatives developed during the course of the processing project.

And so a journey for me ends, but the journey for the materials in the historical archives continues!

Post contributed by Mary Samouelian, the former Doris Duke Collection Archivist. Mary will continue in the Technical Services Dept. as the Processing Archivist for the Abraham Joshua Heschel Papers.

Wense Grabarek in the First Person

The 50th anniversary of a key moment in the desegregation of Durham, North Carolina came and went largely without fanfare last month.  It was in May 1963 that, amid growing racial discord in the city, Mayor Wense Grabarek prevailed upon business and community leaders, black and white alike, to cooperate in desegregating the city. The mayor was in an unusual position: having held office for less than a day when a series of sit-ins around Durham resulted in 130 arrests, Grabarek’s first task upon being sworn in was to stop a riot at the jail. Achieving this by letting supporters deliver sandwiches and cigarettes to the jailed protesters, he then turned his attention to the NAACP and CORE, who promised mass demonstrations in the wake of the arrests. Jean Anderson, in Durham County: A History of Durham County, North Carolina, tells the story this way:

He went in person, a slight, dapper man, always with a red carnation in his lapel, to a meeting of protesters, one thousand strong, held at Saint Joseph’s A.M.E. Church.  Habitually soft-spoken and immensely polite, he asked permission to enter and address them.  Then, pointing out that by their demonstrations they had informed the community of their deeply felt grievances, he spoke about the danger of racial tension and division and promised to take positive steps to respond to their complaints.  Finally, he asked for their support and understanding.  Impressed by his coming, his tone, his words, they accepted his sincerity and promised to halt demonstrations and give the mayor time to act on his promises.

Mayor Grabarek formed the Durham Interim Committee to reconcile the community’s opposing groups, in so doing acknowledging the damage of segregation and the real possibility that Jim Crow could prevent Durham from realizing its potential, particularly given the economic promise of the newly formed Research Triangle Park. The efforts of Grabarek and of the leaders appointed to the Committee allowed Durham a degree of progress that eluded many other southern cities.

Wense Grabarek addressing the congregation at St. Joseph's AME Church, May 1963.
Wense Grabarek addressing the congregation at St. Joseph’s AME Church, May 1963.

A modest man and a successful accountant who continues to work full time six days a week, Wense Grabarek is now 93 years old and eager to add his perspective to the history of Durham, the adopted hometown that called him mayor from 1963 to 1971. To this end he has donated to the Rubenstein Library a number of recorded interviews he has given since the early 2000s, as part of a larger collection of papers that he is gathering for donation later this summer. You can check out the finding aid for the interviews here.

Wense Grabarek in conversation with Tim Tyson, Sept. 2011
Wense Grabarek in conversation with Tim Tyson, Sept. 2011

The recordings include an interview with Steven Channing for his documentary Durham: A Self Portrait, an 8-hour conversation with author and scholar Tim Tyson detailing his work as mayor, and, presented here, with the permission of WTVD, an interview with Angela Hampton on the events of May 1963:

An oral history has been scheduled with Mr. Grabarek in July, and this time the interviewer will be the Rubenstein Library. We hope to learn more about the mayor’s life before and after the 1960s, including his experiences as a soldier in World War II and the philanthropic work he and his wife have done over the years in education.

Post contributed by Craig Breaden, Audiovisual Materials Archivist in the Technical Services Dept.