Category Archives: News and Features

Try Our New Chat Widget!

Are you confounded by collection guides? Can you not find your way through a finding aid? Do descriptive inventories make you dizzy? Do we have the solution for you!

Today, the RBMSCL’s Research Services department is flipping the switch on a new widget that will allow you to chat with one of the RBMSCL’s reference librarians as you pore over box lists and biographical notes. The icon above will now be located at the top of the left-hand menu column for each of our finding aids. During RBMSCL hours, click it and you’ll instantly be connected with a reference librarian ready to help you with your questions.

Browsing through finding aids at 2 AM? The “online” icon will be replaced with the icon on the right, which will take you to our “Ask a Question” e-mail form, so you’ll never be more than a click away from getting the reference help you need.

In the Lab: The Theatrum Orbis Terrarum

We’re going to be teaming up with our friends in the Verne and Tanya Roberts Conservation Lab here at the Duke University Libraries for a regular series of posts on RBMSCL materials in the lab for conservation treatment. We’ll start with a look at the Dutch-language edition of the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum.

A Little History

This six-volume world atlas was created and published between 1648 and 1655 by Willem Janszoon Blaeu and his son, Joan Blaeu, two of the finest map makers of the 17th century.

Dutch cartographer and publisher Willem Blaeu (1571-1638) studied astronomy and cartography under the well-known astronomer and alchemist Tycho Brahe. In 1633, he was appointed the official cartographer of the Dutch East India Company. Joan Blaeu (1596-1673), himself an accomplished cartographer, took over the press after his father’s death in 1638. Under his supervision, they became the largest publisher of their kind in 17th century Europe.

These folio volumes are full of engraved maps and vignettes that were hand-colored with a strikingly vibrant palette. They are bound in gold-tooled stiff-board vellum bindings.

Conservation Work

The atlases arrived in the lab in fairly good condition considering their age. Still, due to their size, it will take Erin Hammeke, Special Collections Conservator, many hours to complete the necessary repairs.

The texts and maps are printed on a good quality rag paper that is still quite strong. There are minor paper tears, badly folded maps, and some insect holes in all of the volumes which make safe handling difficult. The vellum bindings also exhibit small tears that need to be mended.

Each atlas requires surface cleaning to remove dirt and debris from the covers and individual pages. Erin will use soft brushes, special erasers, and a museum vacuum, all of which are designed to remove debris while reducing potential damage to the paper’s surface. Wheat starch paste and strong but thin Japanese and Korean tissues are used for the paper repairs. When the conservation is complete, Erin will construct a custom fitted enclosure for each volume.

Post contributed by Beth Doyle, Collections Conservator, and Erin Hammeke, Conservator for Special Collections

Want to know more about the Conservation Lab? Friend them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter!

North Carolina Mutual Transfers Collections to Duke and NCCU

Duke University’s John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture and North Carolina Central University’s University Archives, Records and History Department are the joint recipients of the historical archives of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, the nation’s largest and oldest African American life insurance company.

North Carolina Mutual founders John Merrick, C.C. Spaulding, and Aaron Moore
North Carolina Mutual past presidents (l to r) John Merrick, C.C. Spaulding, and Aaron Moore

 

The company’s archives includes thousands of business documents, newsletters, commercials, photography and books which chronicle the vitality of Durham’s “Black Wall Street” in the early 20th century. During the Jim Crow era, North Carolina Mutual allowed the black middle class access to home mortgages, small business loans, and insurance. The archives may be the largest assemblage of African American corporate material in the nation.

 

For more information on using this collection, contact the Franklin Research Center staff at franklin-collection(at)duke.edu.

Franklin Research Center Acquires John Wesley Blassingame Papers

The John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture is pleased to announce its recent acquisition of the papers of John Wesley Blassingame, the nationally-renowned scholar of American history and author of such influential works as The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South and Frederick Douglass: The Clarion Voice.

Blassingame’s path-breaking scholarship has had a profound impact on the American understanding of slavery and the African American experience. The collection includes correspondence, personal manuscripts and research files from Blassingame’s long academic career, and is particularly rich in materials drawn from his work on the Frederick Douglass Papers.

For more information on using this collection, contact the Franklin Research Center staff at franklin-collection(at)duke.edu.

Congratulations to the 2009 Middlesworth Award Winners

The RBMSCL welcomed the start of Parents’ Weekend with a Friday afternoon reception honoring the winners of the 2009 Chester P. Middlesworth Awards. Given annually, the awards recognize the authors of the best undergraduate and graduate student papers based on research in the collections of the RBMSCL. Funding for the awards is provided by Chester P. Middlesworth (A.B., 1949) of Statesville, NC.

2009 Middlesworth Award winners Samuel Lee Iglesias and Martin Park Hunter
Undergraduate student winner Catherine L. Daniel delved into the papers of well-known Durhamites, including those of James and Benjamin Duke (collection guides here and here), for her study, “Black Hospitals as an Avenue for Social Change: A Narrative of the Life of a Segregated Institution in the New South: Lincoln Hospital, Durham, North Carolina.”

Undergraduate student winner Samuel Lee Iglesias studied the papers of Vanderbilt economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (collection guide here) for his paper, “The Miscommunications and Misunderstandings of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen.”

Graduate student winner Martin Park Hunter drew from a number of primary sources, including the United Methodist Church Records (collection guide here), for his paper, “The Names Have Not Changed: The Story of Caswell County Methodism.”

Just a reminder to all you Duke students busily scribbling away on term papers: you could be the next Middlesworth Award winner! Details about submitting your paper can be found here.

Now Accepting Travel Grant Applications

The RBMSCL is now accepting applications for our 2010-2011 travel grants. The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, and the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History will award up to $1,000 per recipient to fund travel and other expenses related to visiting the RBMSCL to use their collections. The grants are open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and independent scholars living outside a 50-mile radius from Durham, NC.

More details—and the grant application—may be found here. Applications must be postmarked no later than January 29, 2010. Recipients will be announced in March 2010.

Happy Archives Week!

This week, the RBMSCL, along with hundreds of other statewide participating archives, will celebrate the Society of North Carolina Archivists’ fifth annual Archives Week!

Archives are the foundations through which society maintains its continuity with the past and preserves the present for future generations. Archivists are trained professionals who select, maintain, describe, and assist the public in locating archival records in their care.

Please join us in this celebration of the North Carolina record by telling us about your own experiences visiting this state’s many wonderful archives!

Doris Duke Collection Comes “Home” to Duke

The press dubbed Doris Duke “the richest girl in the world” when she inherited a fortune from her father, Duke University founder James B. Duke, in 1925 at the age of twelve. Upon her death in 1993, Duke left the majority of her estate to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The Foundation recently gave its historical archives to the RBMSCL. The Foundation’s historical archives, 800 linear feet of materials (an amount that, stacked vertically, would be four times taller than the Duke Chapel), includes photographs, architectural drawings, and motion picture footage of Doris Duke and the Duke family.

Artist’s rendering of a proposed Duke mansion.
Artist’s rendering of a proposed Duke mansion.

Records of Duke’s Foundation for Southeast Asian Art and Culture, the Newport Restoration Foundation, and the Duke Gardens Foundation are in the archives as are documents related to the operation of her properties: Duke Farms, a 2,700-acre estate in Hillsborough, New Jersey, that her father created at the turn of the 20th century; Rough Point, the Duke family mansion in Newport, Rhode Island; and Shangri La, her home in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she exhibited her extensive collection of Islamic art.

All of the materials in the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation historical archives will be open for research in about two years when processing of the materials has been completed.

More information about the collection may be found here. Or, contact the RBMSCL at special-collections(at)duke.edu.

Post contributed by Tim Pyatt, University Archivist and Associate Director of the RBMSCL.

Welcome to The Devil’s Tale!

When the first shipment of U.S. Senator Willis Smith’s papers arrived at Duke University in 1954, it numbered some 50,000 items—all paper documents. A photograph of that collection’s arrival has been kept in the collections of the University Archives. It shows Mattie Russell, then curator of manuscripts, and Jay Luvaas, then the director of the George Washington Flowers Collection of Southern Americana, sorting through reams upon reams of papers in the Library’s vault—which we still have, incidentally. It looks like something that Al Capone might have used.

Today, the staff of the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library (RBMSCL) still arranges and describes reams of paper documents, although we are honing our computer deconstruction skills as more of those documents are born digital. We also curate collections of rare printed materials, teach classes and organize events, and help people with a broad range of research and information needs. We want to use this blog to inform you about what we do: about our events and exhibits and projects, about our newly-acquired collections and our favorite treasures, and about the many reasons the RBMSCL is such an exciting place. So come visit us often!

And, by the way, the Willis Smith Papers have grown: the collection now contains 97,813 items. That’s over 130 linear feet of archival records. You can check out the collection inventory here.