Category Archives: News and Features

Eleanor C. Pressly: A Duke Alumna at NASA

Post contributed by Val Gillispie, University Archivist.

With the 50th anniversary of the moon landing right around the corner, I’ve been researching Duke’s history with NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. I’ve found a number of interesting stories, but I’ve been struck by the work of one Duke alumna whom I had not known about previously—and she’s a woman who deserves our recognition and thanks.

Eleanor C. Pressly, originally from the Charlotte area, received a master’s degree in mathematics at Duke in 1944. After working at Harvard, she served as an aeronautical research engineer at the United States Naval Research Library. She quickly became a specialist in rockets, particularly sounding rockets, which are unpiloted rockets that collect atmospheric data. Responsible for more than two dozen launches at the White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico, she was thought to have been the first woman to fire a rocket.

Her work was highly technical and time-sensitive. A 1956 article syndicated by the Newspaper Enterprise Association described her at White Sands: “With one eye on an anemometer, the other on wind reports coming in from balloons and on a crew of computers, she keeps a constant watch six hours previous to firing.” She was responsible for ensuring that the angle of the launch was appropriately calibrated to the weather, and if anything were to go wrong when it was in the air, she would pull the switch that would cause the rocket to self-destruct. Despite her serious scientific bona fides, the reporter could not resist describing her appearance in the article, too, referring to “… this youthful looking woman who gives the appearance of a happy housewife set for a round of afternoon bridge. She has bright blue eyes, blonde hair, and an infectious laugh.”

A 1957 article in the Washington Post and Times Herald claimed she was called “Uncle Sam’s Blonde Rocketeer.” It also connected Pressly to future developments in the space program: “Later this year, if the earth satellite is launched as planned and the world applauds the first ‘man-made’ moon, remember that a woman had a finger in it too. Eleanor helped on the original research to determine how long the satellite could be expected to remain aloft.”

When the Goddard Space Flight Center opened in 1958, Pressley became the head of the Vehicles Section of the Spacecraft Integration and Sounding Rocket Division. She continued to make improvements to the sounding rockets, developing several models of Aerobee rockets, and collecting atmospheric data.

President John F. Kennedy with the recipients of the 1963 Federal Woman’s Award for outstanding contributions to government. Eleanor Pressly is second from the right. Photo from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
The recipients of the 1963 Federal Woman’s Award for outstanding contributions to government with President John F. Kennedy. Eleanor Pressly is second from the right. Photo from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

In 1963, Pressly was one of six women, selected from nearly 600,000 female federal workers, whose “high achievement, outstanding contributions, and influence on major programs” deserved special recognition. The award was presented by President John F. Kennedy at the White House. Duke President Deryl Hart sent a letter of congratulations, to which Pressly sent a handwritten note. “Of course it was exciting, personally, to win such an award. But my big hope is that more girls in schools such as Duke can be made aware of the tremendous opportunities open to them. We need them.”

Text of letter from J. Deryl Hart: "Dear Miss Pressly: In this morning's mail I received a letter from Mr. Mike Harloff, of the Office of Public Information, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, informing me that you are soon to receive a Federal Woman's Award for your pioneering work in the field of rocketry. I was pleased to have this information and wish to extend to you my sincere congratulations. You have brought distinction not only to yourself but to Duke University. More and more women are assuming roles of leadership in scientific endeavors and your accomplishments will serve as an incentive to others. My best wishes for your continued success and happiness. Sincerely yours, Deryl Hart"
Letter from Duke President J. Deryl Hart to Eleanor Pressly, April 22, 1963. From the J. Deryl Hart records. The text of this letter is readable in the image’s alt text.
Text of letter: "Dear President Hart, Thank you for your congratulatory letter of April 22. Of course it was exciting, personally, to win such an award. But my big hope is that more girls in schools such as Duke can be made aware of the tremendous opportunities open to them--We need them. Sincerely, Eleanor Pressly"
Letter from Eleanor Pressly to Duke President J. Deryl Hart, May 12, 1963. From the J. Deryl Hart records. The text of this letter is readable in the image’s alt text.

Pressly remained connected to Duke through giving, and even served as a class agent for the 1971-1972 Loyalty Fund. Pressly continued her work at Goddard, eventually retired from NASA, and she passed away in 2003. As we reflect on the fifty years since the moon landing, it is humbling to think about the massive amounts of research and testing that led to the fateful moonwalk—and the work that a woman educated at Duke contributed to that effort.

Locus Archives Document the History of Sci-Fi

Post contributed by Laurin Penland, Library Assistant for Manuscript Processing in Technical Services

Locus, the Magazine of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Field, was started in 1968 by Charles N. Brown, Ed Meskys, and Dave Vanderwerf as a science-fiction news and fan zine, and it’s still going! For all of the years that the staff have been creating the magazine, they’ve also been saving and collecting correspondence, clippings, and books by and about science-fiction, fantasy, and horror writers.  In 2018 the Rubenstein Library acquired this massive collection (almost 1,000 boxes).  It will be a while before we finish processing and cataloging all the books and papers, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t share a sneak peek of the project mid-process.

A Few Highlights

Correspondence

I recently finished processing the manuscript portion of the collection, which includes seven boxes of files relating to more than 800 authors. My favorite part of these files is the correspondence, the bulk of which was written between 1960 and 2009. Many writers wrote to Locus to share news that could be included in the magazine or to quibble about inaccuracies and to suggest corrections. Overall, the correspondence creates a sense of community among a very diverse and spread-out group of writers; people wanted to know who was publishing what, who changed agents, who was involved with such-and-such scandal or lawsuit, who died, who got re-married, etc. Fans may swoon over the signatures of Octavia E. Butler, Arthur C. Clarke, Issac Asimov, and Ursula K. Le Guin (to name a few).  Many of the letters are amicable, some are irate, and some are sassy and humorous. Here, one of my favorite writers, Octavia E. Butler, writes to make an important and sErious correction:

Humorous, typed postcard.
Postcard from Octavia E. Butler

Researchers will find evidence in these letters of a thriving community of writers, publishers, and editors all working to create relatively new and modern genres of fiction.

International Connections

Perhaps of special interest to fans and scholars will be the international ties of the collection, especially to Eastern Europe, the U.S.S.R., China, and Japan. Below, Alexander Korzhenevski provides a report about a science-fiction conference in Sverdlovsk (U.S.S.R.). He writes that the 1989 convention “was the biggest (so far) SF convention in the Soviet Union.” Later in the report he alludes to publishing organizations in the U.S.S.R. by describing how two books arrived at the convention: “Both books were published through (not by, because cooperative organizations here still have no publishing rights) new publishing cooperative organizations (one of them “Text” is headed by Vitaly Babenko), and both of them were delivered to the convention by fans by train (no help from state book-trading organizations).” Korzhenevski’s file also includes a flyer for his business, which is described as “the very first independent literary agency in Russia, operating since 1991.”

Envelope with a lot of space-themed stamps from USSR.
Report on the Aelita-89 Science Fiction convention in the U.S.S.R., written by Alexander Korzhenevski. Check out those stamps!

Stationery

This collection has the best stationery by far of any manuscript collection that I have processed. I wonder what researchers in the distant future will think about these creative designs? Here are 14 of my favorites:

Winged horse with a flaming mane printed on stationary.

Round space ship illustration on stationary.

Fantastical dragon with many arms like a centipede.

Wedding invitation featuring a drawing of a viking woman.  Continue reading Locus Archives Document the History of Sci-Fi

Exhibit Talk and Tour, 11/6: “If We Must Die”: African Americans and the War for Democracy

Date: Tuesday, November 6, 2018
Time: 12:00-1:00 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library 153
Contact: Elizabeth Dunn, elizabeth.dunn@duke.edu
Register here!

Join the Duke University Libraries for a lunchtime talk with Professor Adriane Lentz-Smith and take a tour of the new exhibit marking the centennial of the end of World War I, “Views of the Great War: Highlights from the Duke University Libraries.” A light lunch will be provided.

Adriane Lentz-Smith is Associate Professor of History, African & African-American Studies, and Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies at Duke. Her book, “Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I” (Harvard, 2009), won the Honor Book Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Her current book project, “The Slow Death of Sagon Penn,” examines state violence and the remaking of white supremacy in Reagan-Era southern California. A Ford Foundation fellow, Professor Lentz-Smith holds a B.A. in History from Harvard-Radcliffe and a Ph.D. in History from Yale University.

Following the talk, attendees will be invited to enjoy the exhibit in the Mary Duke Biddle Room.

Color photo of Adriane Lentz-Smith. Photo by Rahoul Ghose/PBS.
Photo by Rahoul Ghose/PBS

 

Changes in the Gothic Reading Room

Post contributed by Val Gillispie, University Archivist.

Color photo showing four men hanging the portrait of President A. Hollis Edens in the Gothic Reading Room.
Hanging portraits in the Gothic Reading Room following the Rubenstein Library renovation, 2015

The air is finally crisp in Durham, and we are all enjoying the cool weather and colorful leaves. We are changing inside the library, too, with a major shift for the portraits in the Gothic Reading Room. That’s right, the beloved and historic Gothic is getting an art update!

So what’s moving?

  • The three men responsible for the initial construction of Duke’s campus, Horace Trumbauer, Julian Abele, and Arthur C. Lee, will be moving across the room, next to the John Hope Franklin portrait.
  • The presidents will all be moved down to make room for future presidential portraits, including a portrait of past president Richard Brodhead, which will be hung in early November.
  • Founding Duke Endowment trustees will be moving in to archival storage, providing more room for additional portraits.

What’s not moving? James, Washington, and Ben Duke will remain where they are, as will Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans and John Hope Franklin.

The change means that the room now has space for new portraits to be added. So we ask you, dear reader: who would you honor with a portrait in the Gothic Reading Room?

Understanding the Eye through Pictures

Post contributed by Wenrui Zhao, a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at Columbia University and a History of Medicine Collections travel grant recipient

What did people know about the anatomy of our eyes and the causes of eye diseases in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? How did they understand vision and think about the sense of sight? My dissertation “Dissecting Sight: Eye Surgery and Vision in Early Modern Europe” tries to answer these questions. Thanks to a generous History of Medicine travel grant, I could consult the wonderful collections at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to support my project.

The absolute highlight of my visit is the book Ophthalmodouleia, das ist Augendienst by the German surgeon Georg Bartisch, published in 1583 in Dresden. It is one of the earliest publications on eye diseases and eye surgery, and is written in vernacular German. Bartisch was a man of modest upbringing who never received university medical training, yet he was appointed oculist to the Elector of Saxony late in his life.

Bartisch’s treatise is about the mechanism of seeing, but also enacts an experience of seeing. The most striking feature of this book is the great number of finely-executed illustrations alongside the texts. These woodcuts depict various subjects related to ocular disorders and surgical techniques. The Rubenstein Library has one of the very few hand-colored copies of this treatise. While I have already seen this edition in black and white elsewhere, examining this beautiful hand-colored copy was a very different experience and brought new insights.

Color photo of movable flap illustration from Ophthalmodouleia, das ist Augendienst showing the interior of the head.

Two sets of the illustrations are movable flaps, representing the internal structure of the head and the anatomy of the eye respectively. The red blood vessels, light brown iris, and the meticulous shading and cross-hatching help distinguish different parts of the eye. They evoke the ocular surgical procedure, and prompt the readers to ponder their own faculty of vision when they lift these sheets layer by layer.

Color photo of movable flap illustration from Ophthalmodouleia, das ist Augendienst showing the anatomy of the eye.

Color photo of illustration from Ophthalmodouleia, das ist Augendienst showing a pair of scissors highlighted in gold and silver.Some of the images representing surgical tools were even heightened by gold and silver, such as this pair of scissors, thereby accentuating their intricate and elegant design.

Bartisch’s Ophthalmodouleia represents an emergent interest in the anatomy and physiology of the eye from the late sixteenth century. It also serves as a great example of how medical knowledge could be visualized and communicated at that time.

“Why Are You Constantly Harassing Us on the Street?”

Post contributed by Molly Brookfield, a Ph.D. candidate in the departments of History and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. She is writing a dissertation about the history of sexual harassment in public places in the United States. Her research at the Sallie Bingham Center was generously funded with a Mary Lily Research Grant.

Imagine you are a young woman walking down the street on a sunny summer day in New York City. The sidewalk is crowded with people and you are thinking about the day ahead. You’re so absorbed in your thoughts that the shouted remark from a fellow passer-by jolts you unpleasantly back to your surroundings. The remark comes from a man who is also hurrying down the sidewalk. Maybe he shouts, “Looking good, honey!” or “How’s it going, sweetheart?” The specifics of the remark aren’t what’s important; it’s enough to know that he’s tried to grab your attention in a loud and public way that has startled you and forced you to acknowledge his presence. Annoyed, you turn to face the man, reach into your bag, and grab hold of a stack of cards you’ve had made for this occasion. You hand a card to the catcaller, and his eyebrows arch as he reads the first lines: “Brother, I feel insulted and oppressed by your comment. You and men like you make it unpleasant and difficult for all of us women, including your mothers, sisters and daughters, to leave our houses alone. Why are you constantly harassing us on the street?”

This was the tactic taken by New York feminist Marigold Arnold in 1971. That summer, Arnold handed mimeographed cards to men who harassed her in the street and the Women’s Health and Abortion Project published the full text in their newsletter—which is where I found it, while visiting the Sallie Bingham Center on a Mary Lily Research Grant. According to her mimeographed card, Arnold wanted men who catcalled to know that they “interrupt … [women’s] train of thought when we are walking alone, acting as though simply because you are a male we will be honored by your talking to us.” But Arnold was adamant, “We don’t feel honored.” In distinctly 1970s-flavored rhetoric, Arnold’s card declares, “The road of true liberation for all people is for each of us to struggle against oppressing our brothers and sisters. No more oppressive comments to women on the street.”

Arnold’s mimeographed statement was just one way that New York women resisted sexual harassment on the street in the 1970s. The New York Radical Feminists (NYRF) had a Street Harassment Committee that held self-defense workshops. Women raised awareness of street harassment with poems, stories, and cartoons in the group’s newsletter (see image). In 1976, members organized a Women’s Walk Against Rape, similar to the more recent Take Back the Night marches. When one of their members was harassed in Zabar’s, a deli on Broadway, the NYRF even started a blacklist of New York businesses where male employees harassed women.

These documents illustrate that women have experienced sexual harassment in public places since at least the 1970s (and my dissertation will show it has been a problem for much longer). While the New York Radical Feminists did not completely succeed in eradicating street harassment, their work can be viewed as a precursor and inspiration to groups like Hollaback! or Stop Street Harassment, work that is increasingly relevant as we continue to grapple with the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in American society.

All materials cited here can be found in the New York Radical Feminists Records, Box 1 at the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.

Scanning the History of Medicine: Manikin Style

Post contributed by Rachel Ingold, Curator of the History of Medicine Collections

Human anatomical maniken showing internal organs
Ivory maniken in the History of Medicine Collection.

An engineer, conservator, and curator walk into a small space; a small space with a micro CT chamber surrounded by rooms that glow red with biohazards signs. What are they doing? Where could they be?

First a bit of background. The History of Medicine Collections here in the Rubenstein Library has a large collection of ivory anatomical manikins. In total, we have 22 ivory manikins, part of the Josiah Charles Trent Collection that was gifted to the University in 1956.

Scan of ivory maniken produced by Duke’s Micro CT scanner.

To say these ivory anatomical manikins are cool is an understatement. They are truly fascinating and beautiful. And a bit mysterious. Scholars are not entirely clear on why they were created or their intent, which likely evolved over time. The delicate figures in our holdings average about eight inches in length and were probably initially used for instructional purposes, to help medical students learn human anatomy. But how easy were they to use? Did the didactic intent fall by the wayside as these turned into collectibles? We speculate these were carved in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries, but we’re not entirely sure.

With so much interest in the ivory anatomical manikins and so much to learn, we considered what it would take to digitize these to share with a wider audience. Last April, we began to scan these items using Micro CT scanning in Duke’s Shared Materials Instrumentation Facility (SMiF) – a magical space with lots of heavy equipment (and some rooms that glow red – although not the room where these are scanned).

Scanning the ivory manikins has been a true team effort with much assistance from our friends in Conservation and Justin Gladman, an engineer working in SMiF.  We hope to complete scanning by the summer and turn to focusing on processing and uploading files to a site for the world to see. And yes, once this is done, they can be 3D printed. !!!! Stay tuned as we continue to move forward with our project. You can read more on Duke Today and the Preservation Underground Blog.

Computer image of the front of the maniken.
Scan of ivory maniken.

New J. Walter Thompson Co. Digital Database

Post contributed by Josh Larkin Rowley, Reference Archivist for the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History.

In 2016, a small group of researchers and project managers descended upon the Rubenstein Library reading room.  They were from the company Adam Matthew Digital, a U.K.-based builder of primary source digital databases for use in teaching and research.  Over six weeks and three trips, they were firmly ensconced in research in our reading room from when we opened at 9AM—pausing only for meals—until we closed.

They perused hundreds of boxes from the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History’s archives of the J. Walter Thompson Co., an advertising agency founded in New York City in 1864.  Considered the most complete record of any existing advertising agency, the archives documents 150 years of the agency’s work with hundreds of business clients, corporate culture, personnel, marketing research, and contributions to the advertising industry.  The goal of Adam Matthew’s research was to build a digital database that captured the essence of the agency and its contributions to American consumer culture.

Homepage for J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America database featuring 1972 Kodak ad from the JWT Advertisements Collection.
Homepage for J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America research database featuring 1972 Kodak ad from the JWT Advertisements Collection.

Thanks to the work of Adam Matthew Digital, Backstage Library Works, our own Digital Collections & Curation Services, and several Duke student assistants, the database is now complete and available to institutions for purchase.  Titled J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America, the database includes print advertisements, writings and speeches by JWT staff, company publications, account materials, company newsletters, market research and reports, meeting minutes and much, much more.  Together, these materials not only document the story of one of America’s oldest and most enduring advertising agencies, but they also reveal many aspects of 20th century history.  Researchers interested in facets of business, social, economic, and cultural history are sure to find the database a rich resource.

"Browse by Collection" page for J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America research database.
“Browse by Collection” page for J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America research database.

If you are interested in purchasing the database for your own institution, inquiries can be sent to Adam Matthew Digital website hereThe database is free to Duke students, faculty, and staff in the Libraries’ collection of resource databases here.

May 23rd: The Menopause Monologues

Color illustration of the anatomy of the uterus and ovaries. From The Viavi Gynecological Plates: Designed to Educate Mothers and Daughters Concerning Diseases of the Uterine Organs by Hartland Law. The Viavi Press, 1891.
Plate II, “Structure of Womb and Ovaries” from The Viavi Gynecological Plates: Designed to Educate Mothers and Daughters Concerning Diseases of the Uterine Organs by Hartland Law. The Viavi Press, 1891.

Date: Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Time: 3:00pm to 4:30pm
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library 153
Contact: Rachel Ingold, rachel.ingold@duke.edu,
RSVP or share via Facebook (optional)

You are cordially invited to a dramatic reading of excerpts from pertinent texts that will bring to life the voices of women and men, past and present, whose perspectives on menopause range from “the historical to the hysterical.” In addition to the readings, individuals are also encouraged to share their own stories and experiences of “the change.”

The reading complements an exhibit, The Change of Life: Menopause and Our Changing Perspectives, on display through July 14 in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room.

Co-sponsored by the History of Medicine Collections and the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.

Emma Goldman Papers – Newly Available

Post contributed by Mary Kallem, field experience student in the Bingham Center and master’s student at UNC’s School of Information and Library Science.

A white woman, Emma Goldman, is phtographed from the waist up, leaning against the back of a chair. She is wearing pince-nez glasses and looking away from the camera to the right.Few anarchists have gained as much mainstream recognition as Emma Goldman, an iconic figure in labor organizing, feminist history, and prison abolition. The Bingham Center acquired a sizable collection of Goldman’s papers as part of the larger Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, a transformative collection documenting the history of women at work.

Dating from 1909 to 1940, the Emma Goldman Papers reflect radical community labor amidst state repression, the financial instability of writers and activists, and a tumultuous political landscape. Goldman’s prescience remains apparent today.

These papers illuminate a historical understanding that reaches beyond her as an individual. In addition to providing an intimate picture of her financial, political, and social lives, this collection also reveals the relational network that  constituted anarchist organizing and publishing of her time.

Letter from Goldman to unnamed comrade, 1909. Click for full letter

With over 300 letters, the collection includes both the revolutionary and quotidian aspects of the relationships between Goldman and her comrades, including Alexander “Sascha” Berkman, Eugene Debs, Alexander Schapiro, and Thomas Keell. The collection also features published material, handwritten articles from Errico Malatesta and Emma Goldman, photographs, ephemera, and more.

This collection of Goldman papers has been in the hands of a private collector until recently, and it is now being opened to the public for the first time. The day-to-day correspondence may be the most striking element of the collection, given its familiar nature: whether asking to borrow money, lamenting poor book sales, or mutually gathering hope, these letters reflect struggle. For those who continue to fight for social change, there is a solidarity to be found in these shared material and emotional conditions.

The Emma Goldman Papers are available for on-site use in Rubenstein’s reading room and online within the Duke Libraries’ Digital Collections.

Ticket to lecture by Goldman, 1933.