Category Archives: Just for Fun

Testing, Testing, Turkey

Post contributed by Brooke Guthrie, Research Services Librarian.

A few days ago, I went searching (in the catalog) for the perfect Thanksgiving-related item and came across a folder titled “Turkey Test, 1951-1952”  in the papers of Theodore “Ted” Minah. What kind of test could Minah, the Director of Duke University Dining Halls from 1946 to 1974, be conducting on turkeys? Was it a taste test or some sort of “mystery meat” challenge? Was he investigating the sleep-inducing properties of turkey meat?  Was he out to prove that turkeys really are as dumb as they are rumored to be?

Sadly (for us), Minah was a practical fellow and it was none of those things. Minah, who worked hard to provide quality food at the lowest price to the university, wanted to know if turkey could be a cost effective meat option for campus dining halls. The test was part of an effort by the National Turkey Federation (NTF), an organization representing turkey farmers and processors, to better market the turkey and get more turkey on more American tables. (The NTF is also the organization that provides turkeys for the annual White House turkey pardon.)

Chart showing the results of the Duke turkey test.
Chart showing the results of the Duke turkey test.

Duke, along with dining offices at other schools, participated in a 1951 study to determine how much edible meat a cooked turkey yielded and how much a single serving of turkey would cost. Led by Food Production Manager Majorie Knapp, Duke cooked several whole turkeys and took detailed measurements before and after cooking. Duke’s test used Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys from Sampson County, North Carolina which, according to Minah, “is a delicious eating turkey.”

According to the results of the Duke test, turkey would cost around $1.50 per pound of cooked meat and around $0.20 per serving. In her summary, Knapp noted that the price for chicken was cheaper at $1.37 per pound. A serving of chicken would be a few cents cheaper than turkey.

Marjorie Knapp’s turkey test report.

The test results were submitted and later included in NTF marketing materials designed to get turkey on the menu at places like schools, hotels, and hospitals. In addition to the study results and Ted Minah’s correspondence about the study, the “Turkey Test” folder also includes a few of these industry publications.

Turkey marketing materials from the Ted Minah papers.

The booklets and brochures, with catchy titles like “Carving the Turkey for Portion Control and Greater Profit” and “Pre-Cut Turkeys for Institutional Use,” mostly contain recipes and instructions for properly cooking a turkey. The recipes were certainly creative.  Creamed Turkey in Pastry Tart, Turkey Salad Roll, and Turkey Chow Mein on Chinese Noodles (to name just a few) were suggested as “profit-making turkey dishes.”

 

 

list of turkey recipes
“Profit-making” recipe ideas from the National Turkey Federation.

If you are desperately seeking things to do with all of those turkey leftovers, the NTF has your back. You could make a Jellied Turkey Salad, put some gibblets on toast, or impress your guests with jellied turkey feet. They even provide tips on what to do with the carcass!

Turkey recipes including jellied turkey and turkey feet.
More turkey recipes including 33 ways to serve turkey and how to best use that turkey carcass.

The Ted Minah materials include one more turkey item worth mentioning. He was sent a booklet of photos showing turkeys frolicking on a farm. It includes a photo of a turkey that doesn’t seem particularly pleased to have his photo taken for the purposes of marketing his own deliciousness as food.

Turkey snapshot featuring turkey that’s not having a good time.

If your uncle brings up politics at Thanksgiving dinner, just turn the conversation toward the fun facts you learned in this blog post and then you can all bond over your love of jellied turkey feet.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy 200th Birthday, Walt!

Post contributed by Kate Collins, Research Services Librarian

Today marks the 200th anniversary of Walt Whitman’s birth.  Whitman did “celebrate myself” and perhaps you want to celebrate him too. What could you get America’s Bard? Based on our extensive collection of Whitman’s Papers we’ve got a couple of gift ideas we think the Good Gray Poet would have appreciated.

Slouch Hat

Samuel Hollyer engraving of a daguerreotype by Gabriel Harrison,  frontispiece of 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass.

A wide-brimmed hat at a jaunty angle was part of Whitman’s signature look, starting with the portrait of him included in the first edition of Leaves of Grass. His hat even made it in to later editions of Leaves of Grass, where he wrote, “I wear my hat as I please, indoors or out.”

Gift Certificate for a Phrenological Reading

“Phrenological Description of W. (Age 29 Occupation Printer) Whitman by L. N. Fowler N,” 1849, Volume 148, Walt Whitman Papers. Rubenstein Library.

While phrenology is now regarded as pseudoscience, in the nineteenth century Whitman and many others believed that the elements of a person’s character were located in specific parts of the brain that manifested as bumps on one’s skull, which a skilled reader could interpret. In 1849, Whitman had a phrenological reading conducted by Lorenzo Fowler, one of the leading proponents of phrenology in America. Fowler noted, among other things, “You are no hypocrite but are plain spoken and are what you appear to be at all times. You are in fact most too open at times and have not always enough restraint in speech.”

Notebook

Lists of Various Parts of the Body,  verso, circa 1856. Volume 13, Walt Whitman Papers. Rubenstein Library.

Whitman wrote in 1881, “Wherever I go yet, winter or summer, city or down in the country, or alone at home, or traveling, I must take notes,” and throughout his career as a writer he used any scrap of paper he had at hand to jot down his thoughts. Our collection include ideas for poems, notes on reading material, and drafts for stories, sometimes even on the same loose piece of paper.  Whitman definitely doesn’t seem like the bullet journaling type, but maybe a nice Moleskine notebook could keep his notes together in a slightly more orderly manner?

Photo shoot

W. Curtis Taylor, “Whitman with Butterfly,” 1883, photograph, published in Specimen Days, 1882.

Whitman was the most photographed poet of his time, and sat for portraits with noted photographers such as Mathew Brady, as well as many others. Whitman came of age with the developing technology and art of photography, and used it throughout his life as a way to explore different ways of representing himself.

Throw a Party

From program and menu for Walt Whitman’s Seventieth Birthday, May 31, 1889. Shelved with Horace L. Traubel (ed.) “Camden’s compliment to Walt Whitman, May 31, 1889; notes, addresses, letters, telegrams,” Philadelphia: D. McKay, 1889.

Think a physical gift is not enough and want to throw Whitman a birthday bash but wondering what should you serve? Perhaps the menu from  a party held in honor of Whitman’s seventieth birthday can provide some inspiration. “The Feast of Reason” featured clams, fish, lamb, beef, as well as strawberries with cream and ice cream for dessert. 

Public Domain Showcase 2019!

Guest Post by Arnetta Girardeau, Duke University Libraries, Copyright & Information Policy Consultant

As you may have already heard, January 1, 2019 marked a very, very special “Public Domain Day.” When Congress extended the term of copyright in 1998 through the Copyright Term Extension Act, it set off a long, cold public-domain winter. For twenty years, no work first published in the United States entered the public domain. But now, spring is here! On January 1, 2019, works first published in 1923 became free to use. And in 2020, works first published in 1924 will enter the public domain, and so on and so on! It’s exciting stuff.  What does that mean to us as creators, makers, teachers, or writers?  It means that we suddenly have access to more materials to rework, reuse, and remix!  Works such as Charlie Chaplain’s The Pilgrim, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Links, and “The Charleston.”

At Duke, we’re celebrating this introduction of new materials into the Public Domain with a competition to showcase what our community can do with the public domain.  We want to see how Duke faculty, staff, and students can use items from 1923 and earlier, all of which are now in the Public Domain!   We have provided a few images below, but feel free to create with any works that you find that are in the public domain (if you have questions about what is and isn’t in the public domain, you can contact us and we’d be happy to talk!) Looking for some more inspiration? Browse our digitized collections for thousands of works published before 1923.

What can you do?

  • Write new lyrics to a song
  • Create a wallpaper for your mobile phone
  • Make a work of art
  • Create a score for a silent movie made in 1923.

What else do you need to know?

  • Any member of the Duke community may enter.  Faculty, staff, students, and retirees are all welcome. Selected entries will be posted on the blog and on Library social media. We have a small number of giveaways to thank you for participating.
  • Multiple entries are allowed;
  • Send in entries between January 9 and January 31 at midnight;
  • Use public domain content;
  • Submit your entries here 

You can read more about the Public Domain in this article by the Duke Law Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

If you have any questions about entering the showcase, or how to incorporate other people’s work into your own, consult the Arnetta Girardeau, Copyright and Information Policy Consultant, at arnetta.girardeau@duke.edu.

From Edward Topsell, The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents. 1658.

 

Trinity College Basketball Team, 1920-1921. University Archives Photograph Collection. Duke University Archives.

 

Cover of pamphlet advertising The Bryant and Stratton Commercial School. John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History

 

Chas. Johnson, “A New Rag, Dill Pickles.” 1906-07.

Movember Adventures in the Archive

Post contributed by Zoë Eckman, PhD Candidate in English and Research Services Intern.

At the beginning of this month, I became intrigued by the event called “Movember” or “no-shave November.”  It’s an awareness-raising charitable event in which mustaches are grown over the month to spark conversations about men’s health and encourage donations.  Inspired by this event, I decided to delve into the resources of the Rubenstein to research the simple topic of facial hair.  What I discovered spanned centuries, genres, materials, and occasionally conflicting opinions about beard and mustaches.

Because the Rubenstein’s collections are so expansive, it may seem intimidating to begin a research project – but experience in libraries will hone your research skills and introduce you to new tools which are advantageous no matter what subjects you’re fascinated by.  The most important thing to bring with you are questions – what could I discover about the way facial hair has been viewed over time?  What importance (if any) did facial hair have in the past?  There was a lot of material to wade through, but I chose things which seemed interesting to me and might help me answer my questions.

The first was a play written in 1707, Colley Cibber’s “The Double Gallant”. While the play itself isn’t about facial hair, it contains the brilliant quote:  “Modesty’s a starving virtue, madam, an old threadbare fashion of the last age, and would sit as oddly upon a lover now as a picked beard and mustachios” (p. 30).  Clearly, in the eighteenth-century in Britain, growing facial hair was not the route to choose when attempting to choose a paramour.

Scan of "The Double Gallant" open to the title page. Opposit the title page is an engraved illustration of a man and woman in aristocratic 18th century dress. The woman is looking a way from the man who is bowing close to her.

Not so in France in 1842, when Eugène Dulac’s “Physiologie et Hygiène de la Barbe et des Moustaches” [image 2] encouraged young men to grow beards and mustaches because they were a visual symbol of male dominance – something women, in the author’s opinion at least, found extremely attractive.

Title page of "Physiologie et Hygiene" It includes an illustration showing three men seated on low chairs, with two women kneeling on the floor before them.

After this, I discovered a comedic song from 1931 called “Put Away the Moustache Cup” in a book of music called “Soft boiled ballads : a collection of heart-wrecking songs.”

Scan of sheet music for "Put Away the Moustache Cup." The music is decorated around the edges with images of cupid and devils.

Wanting to know what a “mustache cup” was, I searched the library and found a physical example of one in the Richard Pollay ACME Advertising Collection  which advertised hair dye (so if you think branded giveaways like coffee mugs or water bottles are a modern trend, think again).

Photograph of a mustache cup. It is a mug with a semicircular ledge inside. The ledge has a half moon-shaped opening to allow the passage of liquids and serves as a guard to keep moustaches dry. The side of the mug features an advertisement for Acme Hair Dye.

Also not a modern trend, I discovered, was the removal of beards and mustaches considered unattractive.  A book from 1906 encourages the removal of “unwanted facial hair” on women through the hot, new medical procedure of electrolysis!  One hundred years later, the feminist magazine “Bitch” included an article in their essay collection titled, “Beyond the Bearded Lady:  Outgrowing the Shame of Female Facial Hair.”

Perhaps one of the most famous mustaches in the world belonged to the artist Salvador Dalí, whose facial hair was so iconic that it was given its own book, “Dalí’s Mustache.”  The book is a “photographic interview” in which short questions are posed to the artist, he responds in his iconoclastic style, and a picture is featured in which his mustache is styled to match his answer.  When the question, “What do you see when you look at Mona Lisa?” is asked, he responds like this:

Facial hair also has local historical significance:  in 1953, to celebrate Durham’s centennial, a group of 3,093 men paid a $1 membership fee, got a button, and pledged to maintain facial hair of some sort (you can learn more about that here, in a previous intern’s blog post).  “Grow a ‘Mo, Save a Bro” is one of Movember’s mottos – the Durham men called themselves “The Brothers of the Brush.”  On the opposite end of the spectrum, a Winston-Salem man was, in 1974, required by his employer to shave off his mustache and remain clean-shaven.  He filed a lawsuit with the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and we have the records of his struggle to maintain his personal facial hair and insure the rights of others to do the same (he was going to lose his case, unfortunately, so settled out of court).

So, researching something as simple as facial hair has lead us from the 18th century through the 19th, 20th, and into the 21st.  We’ve encountered fictional texts, medical treatises, musical ballads, advertisements, surreal art, historical events and lawsuits, and feminist journalism.  The Rubenstein is a research tool which contains a wealth of items touching diverse and seemingly disparate subjects.  All you have to do, no matter what you’re interested in, is dive in.

 

Eclipse Chasers of the Rubenstein

Post contributed by Noah Huffman, Archivist for Metadata, Systems, and Digital Records

Darkness is Coming.  I don’t know about you, but on Monday, August 21, I’m heading to Greenville, S.C., inside the path of totality for the Great American Eclipse of 2017.  It’s my first eclipse chase, but I was curious if there was evidence of any earlier eclipse chasers in our Rubenstein collections.  Here’s what I found:

Eclipse of November 30, 1834 – Washington, D.C. – Charles Wilkes

In 1833, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes (1798-1877) assumed command of the Navy’s Depot of Charts and Instruments, what would later become the Naval Observatory.  When a partial eclipse cast its shadow over D.C. the following year, Wilkes carried out a series of observations and measurements on a hill “directly north of the Capital, distant from it 1300 feet, and about 80 feet to the West of its center.”  Wilkes relayed his observations (in excruciating detail) to Secretary of the Navy Mahlon Dickerson in a letter dated December 13, 1834, found in the Rubenstein’s Charles Wilkes Papers:

Portrait of Lieutenant Charles Wilkes (1840) by Thomas Sully, U.S. Naval Academy Museum

Sir, Agreeably to your desire, I have the honor to report the following results of the observations made at this Depot on the Eclipse… The instruments employed in the observation were a three foot reflecting telescope by Troughton, a 42 inch refraction by Harris, and a 30 inch refraction by Gilbert, the former with a magnifying power of 175, the two latter with ones of 40… The times of beginning (meantime) 0.49.40, ending 3.30.01 afternoon…

I’ll spare you the rest of the details, which include temperature measurements (it dropped 24 degrees during the eclipse), notes on how he synchronized three clocks (very carefully), and nearly two-pages on his method for determining the precise latitude of his observatory. Compared to modern eclipse chasers, Wilkes’ comments are strictly scientific. There is no self-reflection in his account, no mention of prostrating and weeping in ecstasy, only an apology for his tardiness in sending his observations:  “…they would have been sent to you sooner but owing to a severe sickness I was unable to attend to them.”

Eclipse of July 18, 1860 – Cumberland House, Saskatchewan, Canada – William Ferrel

William Ferrel (1817-1891), the meteorologist not the comedian, spent most of his career studying “mid-latitude atmospheric circulation,” but as the total eclipse of 1860 approached he headed for more northern latitudes in the path of totality–all the way to Cumberland House, a remote outpost of the Hudson’s Bay Company in what is now Northern Saskatchewan.

Eclipse of July 18, 1860, Saskatchewan. William Ferrel Papers, Rubenstein Library.

Ferrel was dispatched from Boston north to Saskatchewan by Charles Henry Davis, the superintendent of the American Nautical Almanac Office. In a letter dated June 11, 1860, Davis wrote to Ferrel with instructions:

Eclipse, Cumberland House, Saskatchewan, July 18, 1860. William Ferrel Papers, Rubenstein Library.

I hereby instruct you to proceed to Cumberland House … for the purpose of making, in its vicinity and on the central line of shadow, observations upon the eclipse of the Sun of the 18th of July of this year…I have called your special attention, first, to the bulging protuberances, or rose colored prominences, seen at the time of total obscuration, in order that you may assist if possible in determining the question of their origin. Second, to the use of the polariscope, in the manner recommended by Arago; and, third, to the careful examination during the period of darkness, of the regions bordering on the Sun, for the possible discovery of inter-Mercurial planets…

While Ferrel’s papers don’t include any written record of his observations, we do have two photos he snapped during the period of totality. Don’t look directly at them, but if you squint you can maybe see some…bulging protuberances?

 

Eclipse of May 28, 1900 – North Carolina – Edward Featherston Small

Portrait of Edward Featherston Small, Rubenstein Library

Edward Featherston Small (1844-1924) was a photographer, salesman for the Duke tobacco company, owner of a popular roller-skating team in Durham (it’s true!), and, in 1900, an amateur astronomer. When the path of totality crossed through central North Carolina on May 28, 1900, Small aimed his (large) telescope and camera to the heavens to capture the event. We can only hope he was wearing proper eye protection.

Edward Featherston Small with telescope, May 28, 1900. Rubenstein Library
Eclipse, May 28, 1900, North Carolina. Edward Featherston Small Papers, Rubenstein Library

Kerry Cake and Sadie Seal (1971) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

Post contributed by Erin RyanDrill Intern for the Duke University Archives. 

When I first signed up to do a Rubenstein Test Kitchen blog post, my plan was to do something from an early-to-mid 20th-century vegetarian cookbook in our collections. I’ve been a vegetarian since the mid-’90s.

Photograph of the cover ofr "401 Party and Holiday Ideas for ALCOA"But then, as I was browsing our library catalog, I came across 401 Party and Holiday Ideas from ALCOA (Aluminum Company of America, 1971) in our Nicole Di Bona Peterson Collection of Advertising Cookbooks. I was intrigued; my grandfather—my dad’s father—worked for ALCOA for about 35 years, until his retirement in the early ’80s.

Pretty soon, I was hooked.

This amazing book features the creations of one Conny von Hagen, who worked as a designer for ALCOA, still one of the largest producers of aluminum.

Conny was also behind 1959’s Alcoa’s Book Of Decorations: A Year-Round Treasury of Easy-to-do Decorations for Holidays and Special Occasions. According to the timeline on their website, ALCOA introduced aluminum foil to the U.S. in 1910—you can see some “Alcoa Wrap” next to Conny in the picture below. This introductory page also explains that her designs appeared on TV, in newspapers and in magazines.

Photograph of page from "401 Party and Holiday Ideas" showing the author Connie Van Hagen  showing off the aluminum foil crafts she has created

401 Party and Holiday Ideas from ALCOA has ideas for 24 separate occasions, from Christmas and Hanukkah to “Teen-Age Party” and Election Day.

Photograph of page from book showing Election Day craft. Features four young women wearing dresses made of aluminum foil over red, white, and blue shirts and tights.  They area lso wearing hats made of aluminum foil and appear to be handing out campaign literature or other election material.

For this post, I decided to make (1) a food recipe; (2) a foil creation.

The food: Kerry Cake

I made Irish Apple Cake, or Kerry Cake, from the “Saint Patrick’s Day” chapter of 401 Party and Holiday Ideas. Criteria: It had to be vegetarian, and it had to be easy (I was pressed for time). I also wanted to serve it at my Easter family gathering. I didn’t like any of the Easter recipes, though. So a quick look through the rest of the book, and I settled on this:

Photograph of original "Kerry Cake" recipe

My ancestry is mostly Irish, but I did not know anything about Kerry Cake until I read here that it is a traditional Irish apple bread that was baked in an iron cooking pot called a bastible, hung over the fire.

Photograph of ingredients for Kerry Cake recipeBut this 1971 recipe just called for an 8-inch cake pan in a regular oven, and that’s what I used. I was making this in my mom’s kitchen, so I got to use the sifter that had belonged to her mom. Mom told me we had relatives from County Kerry, too.

I’m a pretty laissez-faire cook, in general. So I didn’t mind that the recipe didn’t specify what kind of apples to use, how big to cut the pieces, etc. I went for Granny Smith. They were pretty huge apples, so Mom and I decided I should just use two, to equal the “three medium” the recipe called for.

In all, it took me about 50 minutes to grate the lemon rind, cut up the apple, and put the batter together. I greased the pan with butter, baked it exactly according to instructions (30 minutes at 375), and it came out perfectly.

Photograph of finished Kerry Cake in pan on countertop

I whipped some heavy cream and served this cake at our Easter dinner. I was afraid it would be bland without spices, or that the lemon would taste strange. But it was delicious. Moist, not too sweet, and the lemon was exactly the right amount to accentuate the apples and butter. There were six adults at dinner, including a guest from Colombia, and everybody loved the Kerry Cake. Almost the whole cake was gone by the end of the night.

The foil creation: Sadie Seal

So many ideas here! It was tough to choose, but I settled on Sadie Seal, one of the circus animals on offer in the Kids’ Korner section.

Photograph of page in book giving directions for making a variety of animal out of aluminum foil, including "Sadie Seal"

In her introduction, Conny said to use things that were lying around the house to construct our decorations, so I rounded up a bunch of felt, foam balls, pompoms, and other supplies I had left over from a Halloween costume I never made. I already had a roll of heavy-duty foil in my cabinet. The instructions were not very detailed, as you can see from the photos below, but I did my best.

Two photographs of "Sadie Seal" in progress. The first shows a pom pom and foam ball on aluminum foil. The second shows the foil wrapped around the pom pom and foam ball but not yet looking like a seal.
Making the “mouth” was not easy. Once I cut off the extra foil, I was left with a hard, solid lump of metal that was sharp and nearly impossible to shape.

No guidance either on how to make the flippers. My first attempt gave her absurdly long arms; then I shortened them so much they didn’t touch the floor; and then went with my imperfect third try. I pinned the flippers on the body, cut some eyes out of black felt and pinned those on too. I couldn’t find any ribbon for her neck …  so … voila!

Photo of finished Sadie Seal which looks a little like a bird.

I was disappointed at first. It took me about 40 minutes to make this odd little bird-like creature and she didn’t look like the picture at all. But … I took her home on Easter weekend to show her to my gathered family. Once she had ridden with me in the car for 2.5 hours, looking at me with her little felt eyes, I felt like we’d bonded. Plus, everybody thought she was cute. (Mom thought she looked like a turtle.)

*I promise: all extra foil scraps from this project were duly recycled! But I’m not recycling Sadie any time soon. I’m pretty fond of her now. She’s staying on my desk.

Meet the Staff: Megan Lewis, Processing Archivist for the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture

Megan Lewis joined the Rubenstein staff in 2002 as a rare book cataloger. In 2009, she became the Technical Services Archivist for the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.

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Tell us about your academic background and interests.

My B.A. is in English, so I’m particularly interested in our literature collections. It’s fascinating to make connections between the materiality of what we collect with the published product. I’m also interested in popular culture. Show me your popular culture, and I’ll show you who you are. Since I started working at the Bingham Center, I’ve become interested in the ways we as archivists can serve various activist communities by documenting their work.

What led you to working in libraries? How did you know you wanted to be an archivist?

I was genetically destined to work in libraries, since my mom was a librarian and I loved to shadow her at work when I was a kid. After working at my college library as an undergrad, I was lucky to get my first job in special collections at the Library Company of Philadelphia. Once I started learning about rare books there, there was no turning back.

I never actually planned to become an archivist, but fell into it at Duke after working as a rare book cataloger. A position opened at the Bingham Center, and I applied for it. I’d first heard about the Bingham Center when its director visited my class in library school. She gave an inspiring talk about how the Bingham Center “saves women’s lives,” and as a lifelong feminist, I thought it would be a dream job to work there. I was right.

What are the main projects you work on at the Rubenstein and Bingham Center?

I process and catalog manuscript collections. That means that I arrange them in a coherent fashion and create collection guides, as well as a catalog record, so people can find what we have. I’ve worked almost exclusively with large modern collections, but lately I’ve also been cataloging small, older manuscripts from the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection. As a Bingham Center staff member, I also participate in events, outreach, and donor relations.

How do you describe what you do to people you meet at a party?  To fellow librarians and library staff?

I tell laypeople that I’m a women’s history archivist. Usually, they say “cool!” and that’s it, but sometimes they want to know details.

To fellow library folks, I say that I’m a technical services archivist at the Rubenstein, because that gives them an idea of where I fit into Duke Libraries’ organizational structure.

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What does an average day look like for you?

On an average day, I might check in with my library school intern and my undergraduate student assistant. I’m lucky to have an intern who also processes collections.  My student assistant helps me rebox and folder incoming new materials, and creates boxlists that are part of the collection guide. Much of my job entails moving materials along so we don’t get backed up. Right now my shelves are almost full, which means that it’s time to send as many boxes as possible to our Library Service Center. I also meet weekly with my Bingham Center cohorts so we can discuss our work with each other.

What do you like best about your job? What excites you most?

I love that I get to help document women’s history. It’s a privilege to work with our donors, many of whom are tremendously accomplished women whose work has changed the world for the better in palpable ways.

I get excited when I see young women, who might not consider themselves feminists, use our collections and be able to connect their present-day struggles with the work done by activists who came before them.

What might people find surprising about your job?

It’s not always quiet, and it’s not without stress. When I tell people I work in a library, they often say, “Oh, that must be nice and quiet and calm.”

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Trying to keep up with new acquisitions and increase our processing capacity. Some donors like to send us things on a frequent basis, which has a mushroom effect.  Sometimes I feel like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice trying to beat back the water.

Do you have a favorite piece or collection at The Rubenstein? Why?

Right now, I’d have to say the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, which has been transformative for the Rubenstein. It’s an amazingly rich and deep collection based around the theme of working women. Each small manuscript collection I catalog is a mini history lesson.

Where can you be found when you’re not working?

Walking my dog and consuming culture in and around Durham.

What book is on your nightstand/in your carryall right now?

Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues (1993). Leslie was a transgender activist ahead of her time, and was also the partner of writer/activist Minnie Bruce Pratt, whose papers are held by the Bingham Center.

Screamfest IV: Stranger Things at the Rubenstein

0001Date: Monday, October 31, 2016
Time: 2:00-4:00 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room
Facebook Event Page

What things hide behind the Rubenstein Library’s walls?

This Halloween explore the library’s creepiest and most macabre items during our special open house. We’ll display tales of witchcraft, monsters, investigations of the paranormal, and more terrors from the Rubenstein Library’s collections.

This event is free and open to the living, the dead, and visitors from parallel dimensions.  There will be candy. Lots and lots of candy.

From far away: The Lucy Monroe Calhoun Family Photographs of China

I wanted to showcase some of my favorite photographs from the Lucy Monroe Calhoun family photographs and papers, a collection we are currently processing. Lucy Monroe Calhoun was born in 1865; she was the sister of poet and editor Harriet (Stone) Monroe. She became a freelance art critic for Chicago and national newspapers, and served as an editorial reader for the Herbert S. Stone publishing company.

calhoun001
Lucy Monroe Calhoun and her husband, William J. Calhoun, in front of the American Legation residence in Beijing.

In 1904, she married William James Calhoun, known as “Cal,” who was appointed ambassador to China by President Taft. They reached Beijing in 1910, and look particularly regal in this 1911 photograph.

In her memoir (contained in the collection), Lucy detailed all the political upheaval of the period. In addition, she outlined all the various activities and entertainments that accompany the work of an ambassador, among them dinner parties, plays, music and musicals, tiffin (a light, midday meal), and excursions. Whenever possible, Lucy toted her camera along to take photographs. One of the groups she, Cal, and their niece, Polly, joined was the “Purple Cows,” a foreign legation dinner club whose members dressed in purple and met once a week to discuss a current reading.

calhoun002
The members of the “Purple Cows.” Why “cows?”

The couple left Beijing at the end of Cal’s term in 1913. They returned to Chicago. After Cal suffered a stroke and died in 1916, Lucy had difficulty establishing a home, for various reasons. For a period she even worked for the Red Cross in France. So when friends asked her to accompany them on a trip to Japan and China, she joyfully accepted and returned to Beijing in 1921.  She stayed until 1937, establishing her home in a former temple that had been built in 1789, using the ample space there for entertaining. She became the unofficial “First Lady” of the diplomatic corps. She even wrote about her house in her memoir: “Here we came to be at home; though it seemed far north at first and was called “Outer Mongolia,” friends of many nationalities found the way to our doors…. Wars and revolutions have raged around it, foreign planes have zoomed overhead, but my shaded courts are tranquil and I live in peace.” She took many photographs of her expansive living quarters, and the pieces of Chinese furniture she used for decoration.

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The living room of Lucy’s house in a former temple. High ceilings with three main sitting areas.
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The Calhouns’ Beijing home from another angle.

So now for two photographs I found interesting. The first is a photograph of Tien an men Gate, which I didn’t recognize as something familiar until someone mentioned Tiananmen…. <<click!>>.

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Familiar, yet not like this: Tien An Men gate.

The second is perhaps my favorite photograph; I find its arrangement attractive. It was taken during a funeral procession, and features paper figures as effigies that will be burned following the funeral.

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Paper effigies to be burned following the funeral procession.

 

The photographs in this collection feature scenes inside and outside Beijing, in addition to Lucy’s residences there. They complement our holdings of Chinese photographs from the early twentieth century, including the Sidney D. Gamble Photographs and the William Hillman Shockley Photographs, which will soon be digitized.

Post contributed by Alice Poffinberger, Original cataloger and archivist.

“Daisy, Daisy…”

Spring, and a woman’s thoughts turn to…bicycles? Apart from sudden showers and the onslaught of inchworms and allergens, spring is perhaps the finest season to ride. Trees are filling out, flowers are a’bloom and the birds are a’tweet: in short the whole planet has its hormones on fine display. What’s a girl not to like—especially on a bicycle built for her, equal in every way to a man’s?

1900 Columbia bicycle from Baden
Ad from the Gary and Sandra Baden Collection of Print Advertisements

This 1900 ad for Columbia’s chainless bicycle makes the progressive argument that women are entitled to the same quality bike as a man. The copy goes on to show how the bike’s frame accommodates the latest in women’s biking fashions, and how the chainless design facilitates mounting and dismounting while eliminating the possibility of one’s skirt getting caught in a chain—or soiled by it, a concern that persists among our current-day urbanites rolling along with the right pant-leg rolled-up out of harm’s way. Actually, this basic frame design is still with us, in unisex “Dutch” and townie bike styles like the Breezers that Zagster provides for rent. Not only that, but the “bevel gear” drive system was the precursor to today’s eclectic shaft-driven bicycles (still trumpeted as “innovative.” Hah!). All in all, the Columbia was a triumph of engineering in its day, especially with the available option of a coaster brake, which is also still in use in kids’ bikes and beach cruisers.

Columbia additionally had the marketing vision to realize that the bike and rider formed a single ensemble, where the lines of the frame “Contribute to the Graceful Appearance of the Rider…”  That came at a price, though. $75 in 1900 roughly equates to around $2000 today, which would put a modern woman in the market for a top-of-the-line bike from today’s major manufacturers. On the other hand, grace is priceless, and the freedom and autonomy provided by the bicycle was likely well worth the investment. In fact, the bicycle has occasionally been praised as an instrument of liberation, and early feminists such as Susan B. Anthony were also advocates for cycling, as much for gender-political as for its health benefits. Liberate the body and the mind will follow!

Post contributed by Rick Collier, Hartman Center