Category Archives: Renovation

The British Are Coming! The Printer is Leaving!

Among the many treasures of the Rubenstein Library is an impressive collection of nearly 3,000 historic American newspapers. As part of our major renovation project, these items along with all our collections are being physically prepared for their impending move. In the case of the newspapers, this is a particularly daunting task. Large in scale, centuries old, sometimes folded, and typically preceded, superseded, and sometimes paralleled with alternative titles, it is often difficult to know what goes together and in what order. While such changes in title and places of publication can befuddle those of us working on rehousing the collection in appropriate order, they sometimes offer remarkable clues about America’s history.

Take, for instance, the Massachusetts Spy. Begun by Isaiah Thomas in 1770, it was the first American newspaper geared toward the middle class.  While an average newspaper of the time might have 400 subscribers, Thomas grew the circulation of his paper to more than 3,500. An adamant patriot with close connections to John Hancock, Paul Revere, and other Sons of Liberty, Thomas used his paper to broadcast anti-British views and inflame the colonists to action. The British considered Thomas so dangerous that his name was on the list of twelve people to be summarily executed if captured.

The last edition we have of the Mass Spy published in Boston is issue number 217 published on March 30, 1775, less than a month before the Battle of Lexington.  Subtitled Thomas’s Boston Journal, Thomas included a version of Benjamin Franklin’s “Join or Die” cartoon in the paper’s masthead.

The paper next appears in Worchester, under a new title—The Massachusetts Spy, Or, American Oracle of Liberty—and with a new masthead—this one proclaiming in large letters “Americans!—Liberty or Death!—Join or Die!”

While changes in newspaper titles and places of publication are common, the significance of this one cannot be overstated.  With tensions rapidly escalating in Boston, and with Thomas on the British’s most wanted list, the printer waited until the last possible moment to smuggle his press and himself out of heart of the controversy and to the relative safety of Worchester, some forty miles west of Boston.  And, when he printed his first issue of the newly reconstituted paper on May 3, 1775 he deliberately changed the subtitle and masthead to reflect the nature and urgency of his message.

On the paper’s front page, Thomas gave his own account of the dramatic events that unfolded in prior weeks: “I accordingly removed my Printing Materials from Boston to this Place, and escaped myself from Boston on the memorable 19th of April, 1775, which will be remembered in future as the Anniversary of the Battle of Lexington!” He devotes much of the issue to firsthand accounts of the battle, the first published: “Americans!  Forever bear in mind the Battle of Lexington!—where British Troops, unmolested and unprovoked, wantonly, and in a most inhuman manner fired upon and killed a number of our countrymen, then robbed them of their provisions, ransacked, plundered and burnt their houses!  nor could the tears of defenceless women, some of whom were in the pains of childbirth, the cries of helpless babes, nor the prayers of old age, confined to beds of sickness, appease their thirst for blood!—or divert them from their DESIGN of MURDER and ROBBERY!”

Given the rarity of this issue with its firsthand accounts of the very first battle of the American Revolution, I was surprised to discover that there are two copies in the Rubenstein Library’s newspaper collection.  A further curiosity is that each is signed by Thomas in the lower left-hand corner.

Closer inspection reveals that the signature is photo-mechanically reproduced, a technology not available in 1775. Both our copies are in fact facsimiles reproduced from Thomas’s own copy which resides at the American Antiquarian Society in Worchester, the nation’s third oldest historical society which Thomas founded after he retired as a printer and editor. The facsimiles were most likely produced in 1876 in celebration of the country’s centennial.

The fact that our copies are facsimiles produced more than 125 years ago is fascinating in its own right, and tells us something about the history of how this country has celebrated anniversaries. I do not know yet how these two copies will be boxed and foldered with other original issues from the Mass Spy; but, I do know that our newspapers will be ready to move out of Perkins in time for the renovation — just like Thomas was ready to move out of Boston in time for the Revolution.

Post contributed by Kat Stefko, Head of the Technical Services Dept. in the Rubenstein Library.

Fascinating Finds in the Stacks: Oversize Gems

Preparing our oversize manuscripts for the upcoming renovation means spending lots of time in a corner of the stacks, pulling folder after folder out of our oversize cabinets and trying to prepare these giant documents and photographs to be moved in a few months. “Oversize” is a term that archivists use to refer to things that are bigger than legal- or letter-sized paper. At Duke, our oversize documents range in dimensions from 11×14 all the way up to 40×50 inches in width and height. (We have things in our collections that are even bigger, but their move prep is a different process.)

The oversize cabinets have been used to house collections for decades, and there are hundreds of folders in each cabinet. It’s challenging work, but also fascinating to spend time with manuscripts and photographs that we’ve never had a chance to see in our years of working at Duke. (Usually, as Technical Services archivists, we work with new or unprocessed collections; most of the oversize cabinet collections are very old and were processed a long time ago.) There are so many wonderful collections in the Rubenstein, there’s no way that we would normally have the time to poke through them all — except now we get to, because we have to check them over for the renovation. Here are our favorite “new to us” discoveries from our oversize stack work. This project will be ongoing for the next several months, so more photos to come as we keep digging!

J.B. Duke and Directors of the Aluminum Company of America, 1925
This huge panoramic photo features J.B. Duke and his fellow directors of the Aluminum Company of America in July 1925. From the George Garland Allen Papers.
Here's a close-up of J.B. Duke, with his trademark cigar. This photograph was taken shortly before his death in October 1925.
Civil War vetaran Randall B. Williams poses with his memorabilia in 1924.
Civil War veteran Randall B. Williams, from Maine, poses with all his Civil War memorabilia for a 1924 reunion photograph. He was 80 years old at the time. From the John Mead Gould Papers.
Fred Chappell acrostic poem
Not everything we find is old: Students presented poet and author Fred Chappell with this acrostic poem after his visit to their classroom. From the Fred Chappell Papers.
There is a penciled caption at the top that reads, "This was dropped from an Airplane in Durham N.C. about June 11, 1919. The plane passed over my home, and it was the first one I ever saw! -- Mrs. Angier." From the John Cicero Angier Papers.

Post contributed by Mary Samouelian and Meghan Lyon, archivists in Rubenstein Technical Services.

Tools for the Rubenstein Move: An Ode to Post-It Notes

Preparing the Rubenstein Library holdings for the move requires the coordination of different departments completing different sets of tasks, sometimes in a specific sequence.  For example, first our conservation team will go through a range of books and check their condition to see if they need any extra attention before moving. Next, our holdings management team comes through and looks for missing barcodes and checks the records of our titles.  Lastly, students and staff come through and load volumes into trays that are moving offsite. So, how do we coordinate and communicate the efforts of all these different groups?

Three words:  color-coded post-it notes.

Conservation has tended to flag their efforts with yellow notes, holdings management uses blue, and everyone uses hot pink as signal that something is 100% “ready to move.” In some parts of the stacks, yellow post-its are also used to signal a manuscript box that needs to be reviewed for padding. Also, book-traying teams use post-it notes to signal where they have left off on sealing Tyvek envelopes or duplicating barcodes in preparation for loading books into trays.

We have other tools for tracking more preparation efforts, such as spreadsheets and access databases. The post-it note system is just as effective as these more sophisticated tools. Post-it notes are easy to understand, easy to update, do not require the use of technology, and are easy to access by people in different departments. Although we really rely on technology to make this move happen, it is nice to know that we can also rely on good old-fashioned paper tools.

Plus our stacks are now very colorful, which makes for some lovely photos. Check out lots of pictures of the renovation on Flickr!

Post contributed by Molly Bragg, Collections Move Coordinator in Rubenstein Technical Services.

Fascinating Finds in the Stacks: Social Rules for Proper Ladies

While working on preparing print materials for the Rubenstein Library’s upcoming move, I came across a few books on American women’s etiquette. I glanced inside and found rules, rules, and more rules! Although the publication dates range from 1873-1924, the authors seemed to agree on specific social laws of conduct. For instance, one must never shout hello to an acquaintance across the street (“a certain sign of vulgarity”), and a lady should never have a man on each arm or vice versa (apparently, this is only done in Ireland). One of the books decreed never to join in a dance unless you skillfully know the steps. Otherwise, one will “bring disorder into the midst of pleasure!”

Books on etiquette for American women
Books on etiquette for American women
Decorum : a practical treatise on etiquette and dress of the best American society
Decorum: a practical treatise on etiquette and dress of the best American society, written in 1881 by John Ruth.
"A lady should never take the arms of two men, one being upon either side, nor should a man carry a woman upon each arm. The latter of these iniquities is practiced only in Ireland; the former perhaps in Kamtskatcha.
"A lady should never take the arms of two men, one being upon either side, nor should a man carry a woman upon each arm. The latter of these iniquities is practiced only in Ireland; the former perhaps in Kamtskatcha."
"Never hazard taking part in a quadrille, unless you know how to dance tolerably; for if you are a novice, or but little skilled, you would bring disorder into the midst of pleasure."
"Never hazard taking part in a quadrille, unless you know how to dance tolerably; for if you are a novice, or but little skilled, you would bring disorder into the midst of pleasure."

These social rules were listed under headings describing every instance of everyday life imaginable- dressing, eating, visiting relatives or friends, attending church, weddings, traveling, even how to not hurt a person’s feelings. It was very interesting to see how vastly different American society and culture were 100 years ago. We have our rules as well (whether followed or not), but nothing like these prim guidelines.

Cullen Cornett is a Holdings Management Assistant in Rubenstein Technical Services.

So, how do you move over 150,000 rare books?

The Rubenstein Renovation team has been spending a lot of time thinking about, planning for, and generally fretting over how we are going to move portions of our priceless collection of rare books to the Library Service Center (LSC) in preparation for the renovation. Right now we are estimating that between 150,000 and 200,000 print items will be sent to LSC.  Books at the LSC are stored in book trays, which are made of cardboard and resemble a box that is open on two sides.  We will be taking some of our books into our new enabling space as well, but these will not be packed into trays.

In late 2011, we decided that we would load the books into book trays ourselves for two key reasons. First, loading the books ourselves will make processing the books into the LSC a much faster process, because our staff at LSC will not have to load the books.  This means the books will be available to the public sooner. Secondly, we believe it will be safer for the books to travel off campus already loaded into trays as opposed to traveling on rolling book trucks.

Empty book trays in various stages of assembly.
Empty book trays in various stages of assembly.

This whole project was a very abstract plan floating out on the move horizon until the last few weeks, when we have started traying books in earnest. First, we had to find a place to store hundreds (eventually thousands) of flat and assembled book trays in the library. Second, loading books into trays is not nearly as simple as it sounds. The trays come in 5 sizes and each size has a high and low sub-size to account for book height. It is essential to match the books to the correct tray size for safe storage (books of varying sizes should not be loaded into the same tray). However there are many nuances to this process. For example, some of our books fit one size in width, but another in height and so on and so forth. Additionally the trays need to be full, but not over or under filled.

Measuring template to help us figure out what size tray is best for each book.
LSC measuring block, to help us figure out what tray size is best for each book.

There are also a number of our books have been placed in Tyvek envelopes by our conservation team for safe keeping.  As these books are trayed, we have to transfer call numbers and barcodes from the book flags to the envelope.  Finally, we are also tracking the barcodes of each volume and tray for record keeping and easy retrieval after the move.  All in all, this is a very involved process.

Books that are trayed and ready to move.
Books that are trayed and ready to move.

Currently the books are not scheduled to move to LSC until next winter, but we are starting now because as you can guess, book traying can be a time consuming process. Unfortunately, the downside of being so pro-active is that it will take us longer to retrieve our books when patrons request them. We do have strategies in place to minimize retrieval time, and we are extremely thankful for our patrons’ patience. This is a lot of work for everyone in the Rubenstein, but we believe this is the best way to move our books. The end result will be a collection that is safe, ready to move, and quite impressive-looking as well! For more pictures of the Rubenstein move, check out our Rubenstein Renovation set on Flickr.

Post contributed by Molly Bragg, Collections Move Coordinator.


Renovation Prep: Fascinating Finds in the Stacks

My part in the preparation for the Rubenstein’s upcoming renovation is to assist in making sure that all of our beloved materials have accurate records before the move. Imagine when you have moved to a new house or dorm room and realized you just can’t find that book from that library that’s overdue. Now multiply that scenario by thousands of volumes and the importance of our task becomes clear!

Rows of books checked by the Holdings Mgmt Team
Rows of books checked by the Holdings Management Team

Our Holdings Management Team members are going through the stacks systematically, checking records and barcodes on periodicals, reference items, pamphlets, and many, many sets of books. Out of the 13,000 volumes I personally have checked, over 2,000 needed to be fixed in some way. Our way of keeping track of various interdepartmental progress? Multi-colored post-it notes line the ends of shelf rows (ours are blue).

Roald Dahl's signature inside one of our books
Roald Dahl's signature inside one of our books

It is always interesting to open a book and see the owner’s signature or personal bookplate. Today, I found a Roald Dahl book that was signed by the author in 1988. Once, I found a book on proper housekeeping that was signed to a friend on my birthday (except 200 years before I was born).  I’m excited for the next 13,000 volumes!

Cullen Cornett is a Holdings Management Assistant in the Rubenstein Technical Services Dept.

Rubenstein Move Supplies

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Move and Obsess About Book Trucks.

When I started as Collections Move Coordinator, I knew it would be a challenging task involving inventories, spreadsheets, and endless logistics, as well as coordinating the work of students, colleagues, and staff in other departments. What I had not counted on was the number of supplies we would need to gather to complete the move. I spent my first two months on the job compiling opinions on carts, boxes, barcode scanners, shipping bins, and even post-it note color preferences (this was a particularly long discussion and search). I have become particularly obsessed with carts. There are so many different designs — so many ways to get your rare and unique materials from here to there and back again. But of course it takes more than just carts to move the Rubenstein Library. Below, please find a gallery of some of my favorite move supplies.

Code Name: “The Biscuit.” (Seriously, that’s what the manufacturer calls it.)

This height-adjustable table is truly the caddy of carts.  It is ideal for reviewing collections in the stacks:  narrow enough to fit between ranges of material and big enough to fit a laptop, barcode scanner, dust mask and measuring tape (I carry these with me at all times).  The height-adjustable feature is amazing and keeps my colleagues and me from getting sore necks as a result of bending over our laptops.

Code Name:  “Bubbles.”

It’s bubble wrap, people: lots and lots of bubble wrap.

Code Name:  “Ol’ Reliable.”

These sturdy wooden carts are the friends of everyone in the library, and we treat them sort of like cattle. Each department brands them, protects them fiercely, and works hard to rustle them up when one gets separated from the herd.  Also, it’s fun to think about librarians and archivists as cowboys and girls on the frontier, wrangling up books and historical materials.

Code Name: “Fuchsia.”

Stacks prepped to moveWhen a manuscript box has been checked and is ready to move, we put a pink post-it note on it. This way everyone easily knows what collections have already been prepped and which need work. Plus, who doesn’t love a little extra color in the stacks!



Post contributed by Molly Bragg, Collections Move Coordinator.

What’s in a Name?

It’s official! Yesterday, Duke University’s Board of Trustees approved our name change. The Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library is now the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. We’re so excited!

Appleton Oaksmith, ca. 1865. From the Oaksmith Family Photograph Album.
Appleton Oaksmith, ca. 1865. From the Oaksmith Family Photograph Album.

Over the course of the day, we’ll be rolling out changes to our website, finding aids, library catalog records, and, of course, The Devil’s Tale. Look at our new banner! (Incidentally, The Devil’s Tale has a new URL——so you may need to update your feed readers.)

Since we’re reflecting on names, we thought it might be fun to share some of the cool names we’ve come across in our collections. Believe us, this is nowhere near an exhaustive list:

So now we want to ask you: which name is your favorite? Or, if your favorite name isn’t represented here, share it with us in a comment. Or, even better, come visit and help us find some more cool names!

Big News!

We have a new name!

David M. RubensteinDavid M. Rubenstein (T ’70) has pledged $13.6 million to the Duke Libraries in support of the RBMSCL—the largest gift in the Duke Libraries’ history. In recognition of this historic commitment, we are pleased to announce that we will become the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, following approval by the Board of Trustees. (Here’s the official press release.)

Our director, Naomi Nelson, is excited about what this gift means for Duke. “David Rubenstein’s generous gift gives this world-class library a very distinguished name. We couldn’t be more thrilled. His support will allow us to move forward rapidly with renovation plans to transform Duke’s historic library buildings into a proper home for the Rubenstein Library. We will be able to welcome more classes, better serve local and international researchers, and host a greater number and variety of public programs. What makes this gift particularly special is that David Rubenstein once worked as a student in the very stacks we will be renovating. We are extremely grateful for his vision and for his continued commitment to Duke.”

David Rubenstein is the co-founder and managing director of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm with 36 offices around the world. A native of Baltimore, he graduated magna cum laude from Duke and was elected Phi Beta Kappa. In 2003, he was elected to the Duke Board of Trustees, and he currently serves as the Board’s vice-chair. His gift to the Duke Libraries is part of his larger commitment to philanthropy. He serves on many boards, including those of the Lincoln Center, the Smithsonian, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. His largest previous gifts to Duke supported the growth of the Sanford School of Public Policy. Rubenstein and his wife, Alice Rogoff Rubenstein, have three grown children.

You may have seen the news stories covering Rubenstein’s purchase of the Magna Carta and his decision to loan this historic document to the National Archives so that it could be shared with the public. This was one of several seminal historical documents that he has purchased over the years to share with the American people. (See, for example, this profile in Duke Magazine. ).

Architect's Sketch of the Rubenstein Library Reading Room
Architect's Sketch of the Rubenstein Library Reading Room.

We look forward to welcoming you to the new David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. We’ll post updates about the renovation plans here on The Devil’s Tale, so watch this space. We have already started planning for the grand reopening in early 2015!