Category Archives: Economists’ Papers Archive

Welcome Zachary Tumlin!

White man in early 30s with brown hair, beard, and black framed glasses wearing bright blue suit with white shirt and yellow tie stands against brick wall.
Zachary Tumlin

We recently welcomed Zachary Tumlin as a new staff member in the Rubenstein Library’s Technical Services department! We asked Zachary a few questions to help us—and you—get to know him a little better.

Tell us a little bit about your new job at the Rubenstein Library.
I am the Project Archivist for the Economists’ Papers Archive, which is a collaboration between the Center for the History of Political Economy and the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. It contains the papers of over 70 economists (mostly from the 20th century), including several Nobel prize winners. It is also the official repository for the records of the American Economic Association and History of Political Economy (which was founded at Duke in 1969 and is published by Duke University Press).

I am currently processing the papers of Dr. Marc Nerlove, who concentrated on agricultural economics and econometrics. His collection was originally 206 boxes because he was active for 60 years before retiring from the University of Maryland, which is where I earned my graduate degree from. It was not until after I started this job that I learned that he lives in the same neighborhood that I just left, literally only a few minutes’ walk from door to door.

What did your path to becoming an archivist look like?
I am originally from West Virginia and earned my Bachelor of Music in Music Education from West Virginia University (WVU). I was a middle school band director in the state for three years but had a poor experience, and that combined with an autism diagnosis led me to reconsider my career goal to be a high school or college director of bands. I came across librarianship and specifically music librarianship online while exploring my options, and this reminded me of times when I managed sheet music collections for performing ensembles that I was a member or leader of (something I had done since high school).

I have been fortunate to have a large personal library since childhood, and I have always naturally been drawn towards preservation and systemization (I can access born-digital files dating back to elementary school assignments). How autism manifests itself in me combined with my personal characteristics make me well-suited for this field and there are others like me, whether they are out and proud all the way to not even suspecting that they might meet the diagnostic criteria.

Lastly, I have conducted geological research on my family and am a member of the National Society Sons of the American Revolution under two ancestors with others possible. I understand the importance of being able to document and share your story through records.

Tell us about the advocacy work that you do.
My self-advocacy is grounded in the fact that I am an adult diagnosed Autistic, but I also identify as neurodivergent and Disabled because of the need to not silo myself among others who have received the exact same diagnosis. My areas of emphasis include employment, policy and law, history and culture, education, and representation in media.

I specify that I am a formal Disability self-advocate to indicate that I do this both personally and professionally. For example, as a founding Steering Committee member of the Society of American Archivists Accessibility and Disability Section, I have published on inclusive hiring, retention, and advancement, and as a member of the Music Library Association Diversity Committee, I have presented on accommodations for Autistics and training for both allies and other self-advocates.

My initial goal was to connect with anyone and everyone on campus who is doing anything significant related to accessibility and Disability and get involved, so if I have not met you yet, please reach out!

What are you most looking forward to in your new job and in Durham?
First, my most recent job search lasted from January 2019 to December 2022 and totaled 645 applications, 84 screening calls or first round interviews, and six offers, so while my current position is only grant-funded for one year, it is still nice to be able to rest, even if only temporarily.

Second, I eventually narrowed my search to the Washington, DC metropolitan area (where I was still living) and North Carolina (where someone very important to me had relocated to). I needed to secure full-time employment and move closer, so I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to prove myself and the Triangle feels like the best place for me in NC if I had to leave DC. I am looking forward to seeing Australian, Autistic comedian Hannah Gadsby at the Performing Arts Center in April.

Tell us something unique about yourself.
My primary instrument is trombone and at WVU I studied under professor Dr. H. Keith Jackson (now Dean of the College of Creative Arts). In my first semester, I saw (and recorded) him perform a theatre piece (a piece of music that includes directions more commonly seen in theatre—for staging, costuming, lighting, dialogue, movement, etc.). A couple years later, a doctoral student performed a different one (this one included prerecorded audio). Both instances motivated me to ask Dr. Jackson if I could continue this pattern and we agreed on “General Speech” (watch my performance on my YouTube channel). Afterwards, I gave a companion lecture on theatre pieces to the trombone studio, which is a kind of public speaking/presenting I do much more often now.

Thanks Zachary, and welcome to the Rubenstein Library! We’re glad to have you here.

The Last Chapters of Kenneth Arrow’s Work

Post contributed by Jonathan Cogliano, Assistant Professor for the Department of Economics at Dickinson College. 

A few of Kenneth Arrow’s medals, including the John von Neumann Theory Prize, the National Medal of Science, and the John Bates Clark Medal.

The Economists’ Papers Archive features collections from some of most influential economists of the post-war era, and among this impressive group are the recently re-processed papers of Kenneth J. Arrow (look for the new finding guide soon!). Arrow’s contributions to the field of economics are wide-ranging, notable among them are: his contributions to social choice theory—with the eponymous Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem—and welfare economics; his work with Gérard Debreu on the development of general equilibrium theory; the idea of learning-by-doing as a driver of economic growth and innovation; and the problems posed by asymmetries in information available to people when making economic decisions. Over his lifetime he received numerous awards for his work, including the John Bates Clark Medal (at the time, awarded biennially by the American Economic Association to the economist under the age of 40 who has made “the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge”), the John von Neumann Theory Prize in operations research, the National Medal of Science, and the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel (shared with John R. Hicks), as well as numerous others and honorary degrees. Arrow’s, perhaps, lesser known contributions outside of economic theory include work on the abatement of acid rain with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), efforts to build a program to provide affordable malaria medications with the Institute of Medicine (IOM), and political advocacy on behalf of persecuted scholars under repressive regimes throughout the world, among many others.

Arrow passed away in February, 2017 and this meant that new additions were made to his collection at the Economists’ Papers Archive. With a substantial amount of his papers already at the Rubenstein Library, the arrival of new materials required careful incorporation into the existing collection and management of a large quantity of physical materials (over 90 boxes in total!). This large and complicated re-processing project took several months and entailed  significant  re-organization, including the incorporation of his numerous prizes and the last chapters of his life; Arrow kept working until shortly before his death. How does one go about keeping track of such a large project with a number of boxes stored offsite at any one time? Well, a couple of Excel spreadsheets and a few lines of code can help to sort things out (an example is pictured below).

An example of how computer code helped sort and keep track of Arrow’s large collection during re-processing.

 

Using computing power to help overcome the challenges of sorting and tracking boxes in an archival collection may seem unrelated to the work of Kenneth Arrow, but his contributions to information economics and the economics of complex systems (via the Santa Fe Institute) helped pave the way for a burgeoning body of work applying computational modeling to economics. (They have, at least, been influential for the computational work done by the economist writing this post.)

The impact of Arrow’s work is too expansive to fully capture here, but having his papers available again in the Economists’ Papers Archive will prove an invaluable resource for those interested in one of the most influential economists of the post-war era.

Young Researcher Prefers Game Theory to Video Games

Post contributed by Elizabeth Dunn, Research Services Librarian

The Rubenstein Library’s Economists’ Papers Archive attracts numerous scholars from around the globe. This summer, it has also attracted one very special scholar: rising eighth grader Benjamin Knight. Nearly every day, he has been a quiet presence in our reading room, working his way diligently through boxes of our Oskar Morgenstern Papers.

Although we often welcome even very small children whose families make a pilgrimage to see our first edition Book of Mormon, Benjamin is the youngest serious researcher anyone can remember. Those of us on the Research Services staff found his interest in this important Austrian American economist intriguing. He was kind enough to take time out of his work to grant me an interview.

Photo of Benjamin Knight working with a box from the Oscar Morgenstern papers in the Rubenstein Library reading room.
Benjamin Knight in the Rubenstein Library reading room.
Photo by Elizabeth Dunn.

Asked how he became interested in Morgenstern, Benjamin replied that he had read an article about Von Neumann and Morgenstern. (The two economists overlapped at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton from 1938 until 1954. Morgenstern, an economist trained at the University of Vienna and influenced by Carl Menger, was grappling with the challenges of economic prediction. He knew John Von Neumann’s 1928 paper on the theory of games and the two collaborated on their influential 1944 book, Theory of Games and Economic Behavior.1) Benjamin was pleased to discover that we hold the Morgenstern Papers, and is using them to tease out the sources of Morgenstern’s key ideas: the University of Vienna or Princeton. More generally, he is interested in the application of game theory to the analysis of social interactions and political decision-making. Some of the Morgenstern documents are hand-written in German. Asked whether those were challenging, Benjamin replied that the handwriting is a little problematic, but translating the German, which he has never studied, is more difficult.

Benjamin has many other interests besides game theory. He represented Brazil (and, with partner Claire Thananopavarn, won Best Delegation) in the Eighth Annual Chapel Hill-Carrboro Middle School Model United Nations Conference in April. He was part of the Smith team at this year’s Middle School National Academic Quiz Championship Tournament and placed among the top twenty-five competitors in the 2017 Wake Technical Community College Regional State Math Contest. When not competing, Benjamin enjoys reading fiction, history, and politics.

Benjamin comes by his interest in social and political analysis naturally. His mother, cultural anthropologist Margaret “Lou” Brown, is Senior Research Scholar and Director of Programs at Duke University’s Forum for Scholars and Publics. His father Jack Knight is Frederic Cleaveland Professor of Law and Political Science and holds a joint appointment in Duke’s School of Law and Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. Benjamin has not yet decided on a particular career path, but all of us in the Rubenstein are happy that he found us and look forward to following his continued successes.

Notes:

  1. New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

In Memoriam – Professor Kenneth Arrow

Post contributed by Sara Seten Berghausen, Associate Curator of Collections

1972 telegram from Stockholm notifying Arrow that he’d been awarded the Nobel Prize.

Kenneth J. Arrow, Nobel-winning economist and professor emeritus at Stanford University, passed away last week at the age of 95. Arrow’s work had an impact not only in economics, but was influential in fields across the social sciences.

His extensive research, teaching and activism are documented in the Economists’ Papers Archive in Rubenstein Library, where Arrow’s professional papers are preserved and made available to researchers. His papers are some of the Archive’s most heavily used, and Arrow was always very responsive to researchers’ questions and supportive of their work.

 

 

An assignment completed by Arrow in fall 1939 in his Philosophy of Mathematics course

 

The Arrow papers document his work from his years as an undergraduate at City College of New York in late 1930s, through his graduate work at Columbia and the publication of his landmark book Social Choice and Individual Values in 1951, and includes research notes and extensive correspondence with other scholars from his later work in equilibrium theory, welfare theory, and as an advocate for addressing the hazards of global warming.