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.
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.
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.
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University