Category Archives: Instruction

A Bitter Look at the Sweet History of Brown Sugar

Amari Victoria Stokes was a student in Kelly Alexander’s Our Culinary Cultures course offered in the Fall 2015 semester in the Center for Documentary Studies. Utilizing Rubenstein Library resources, students in the class were asked to explore the history of a culinary ingredient of their choice, find a recipe that exemplified their chosen ingredient, and prepare it for the class. The following is Amari’s research paper submitted for the class.

Ginger DropsTwo eggs well beaten, one-cup brown sugar, two teaspoons ginger, one-cup N.O. molasses (boiled), one-teaspoon baking soda, flour to roll out. Mix in the order given. I poured the molasses into a pot and watched small bubbles form and subsequently burst as the dark liquid began to heat. As the molasses boiled on the stove, I started mixing the ingredients in the order specified in the recipe. After the eggs had been beaten furiously with my new silver whisk, I began to measure the brown sugar for what I hoped would be a delicious dessert.

Sticky and compact, I remember struggling to handle this strange sugar during family barbeques as we seasoned our meat. As I thought about it, I realized besides an occasional pineapple upside down cake, outside of barbeque, I couldn’t recall ever having used brown sugar. Why was that, I asked?

The story of brown sugar begins, unsurprisingly, with the story of sugar. Sugars are natural ingredients found in most plants but what we have come to known as sugar is often extracted from sugarcane and sugar beets. Sugar cane, from the genus Saccharum, was originally cultivated in tropical climates in South and Southeast Asia.1 Neither should it be a surprise that the road from brown sugar to white sugar looks very much like the roads taken to get to white bread, white flour, and white cotton. All have similar histories where the unnatural but white version is preferred or is seen as a higher quality than the browner, natural varieties.2

Three hundred years after being introduced to Europeans by Christopher Columbus in 1492,3 by the 19th Century, sugar was considered a necessity.4 This evolution of taste and demand for sugar had major economic and social implications for the entire world. As a result of this demand, tropical islands were colonized and sugarcane plantations began ‘cropping up’ in record numbers. Consequently, the demand for cheap labor to assist in the labor-intensive cultivation and processing of sugarcane contributed greatly to the transatlantic slave trade, which displaced many African peoples.5

As I turned down the heat on the molasses to allow it simmer, I carefully added ground ginger. Watching the ginger disappear into the creamy brown concoction, I thought back to my ancestors. It wouldn’t surprise me if at some point in history one of them had made the same treat for her master’s children while her own children toiled in the hot sun picking cotton or harvesting sugarcane.

Continue reading A Bitter Look at the Sweet History of Brown Sugar

Fall 2015 Archives Alive Courses

6258172244_c31f8f5955_oWe’re excited to announce the first series of Archives Alive courses for Duke Undergraduates. These courses will enable students to develop innovative and significant projects based on original materials held in the Rubenstein Library. These courses are open to first-year and upper-class undergraduate students and range from the arts and humanities to the socials sciences. Scholar-teachers guide students’ explorations, providing first-hand exposure to advanced research practices and immersive learning that goes beyond traditional coursework. Students produce signature products that demonstrate their capabilities for in-depth investigation, team collaboration and communicating the significance of their work to others.

Classes for the Fall 2015 semester are:

Modern & Contemporary African American Art
ARTHIST 283/AAAS 227.  Curriculum Codes: CCI, EI, ALP, CZ
WF 10:05-11:20
Instructor: Richard J. Powell

Gender and Philosophy
PHIL 222/WOMENST 222.  Curriculum codes: CZ, EI
Monday 3:20-5:50PM
Instructor: Andrew Janiak

Topics in Digital History & Humanities: NC Jukebox
HISTORY 390S-1/ISIS 390S/MUSIC 290S-1. Curriculum Codes: ALP, CZ,
Thursday 10:05-12:30
Instructors: Trudi Abel/Victoria Szabo

Read the full course descriptions at Trinity College Arts & Sciences

Video Killed the Research Woes

With the Fall Semester well underway, we wanted to let you know about a couple of videos that can make your research at the Rubenstein Library even easier.  For example, not sure where to find us since we moved?

Know that you know where we are and you want to come do research, check out our other videos:

Dwayne Dixon Zine Collection Expands

Cover of Smash Action, no. 3Dwayne Dixon, a graduate student in cultural anthropology at Duke,  recently donated a treasure trove of new titles to the his zine collection, part of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.

Dixon wrote in an email to Bingham Center archivists:

While DJing a party last night at a professor’s house, I was told by a faculty member in the Music Dept that my zine collection was being used by a grad instructor teaching a course on punk history. I was so thrilled, as you can imagine, and it inspired me to unbox the last treasured horde of zines. I must confess I held the best in reserve in my initial donation. I have approx. 68 zines that are aesthetically, politically, and creatively rich.  Hand-screened covers, some of the best zine writing ever, and incendiary politics that changed my life.  I want others to be moved, too—by Mimi Nguyen’s Slander zine, by [anonymous’] Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars zine, by the dense tangle of punk and race and gender and a changing America of the last 2 decades.

As Dixon mentions in his note, classes frequently use zines as a resource for learning. As with any other historical manuscript or artifact, zines help illuminate specific aspects of culture through their method of creation and their content. Zine authors use the freedom of the medium to confront important cultural issues as well as to divulge their own reflections and emotions. The handmade nature of zines also allows for more artistic presentations of information, creating visually engaging objects that also serve as reading material.

Cover of A Renegade's Handbook to Love & Sabotage, issue 1While zine culture still exists in a variety of vibrant formats, the movement was at its most powerful from the late 1980’s to the mid-1990’s. During that time, Dixon snapped up a great number of these publications and eventually gifted them to the Bingham Center in 2001 with an initial donation of over a hundred zines. Including the latest addition, the Dixon collection now contains almost two hundred zines chronicling topics such as body image, depression, politics, racial inequality, history, and personal exploration.

The new addition has been added to the finding aid and is now available for research.  Come take a look!

Post contributed by Rosemary K. J. Davis,  Bingham Center volunteer.

The Anatomy of Anatomy Day

Monday was the annual Anatomy Day visit to the History of Medicine Collections. This is one of my favorite times of the year!

In the fall, all of the first year medical students here at Duke—about one hundred of them—visit the History of Medicine Collections to view historical anatomical atlases. This is a chance for them to see how anatomy has been represented over hundreds of years, and also provides stimulating and interesting texts that they can compare to what they are seeing in the dissection lab.

Curator Rachel Ingold talks with medical students at Anatomy Day.
Curator Rachel Ingold talks with medical students at Anatomy Day. Photo by Angela Mace.

Faculty and staff contribute to Anatomy Day by engaging with students and asking questions about the texts on display. This year, participants included the main coordinator of the event, Dr. Jeff Baker, along with Dr. Ara Tourian, Dr. Rick Madden, Professor Valeria Finucci, Professor Shannon Withycombe, and Rubenstein Library staff members Laura Micham, Kate Collins, Andy Armacost, and Jessica Janecki. Materials on display ranged from a 17th century copy of a 14th century illuminated Islamic medical manuscript to the controversial Pernkopf atlases from the mid-twentieth century.

The comments I heard this year were “awesome,” “I love anatomy so I loved everything,” and “overall, this experience was great and I liked to see the progression of anatomical representations.” I overheard students have serious ethical discussions about dissection and talk about the variety of ways they learn about the human body. I also talked to a student who told me that the greatest tool out of all the tools a student could have in the anatomy lab is the hand.

Dr. Rick Madden talks with medical students at Anatomy Day.
Dr. Rick Madden talks with medical students at Anatomy Day. Photo by Mark Zupan.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s Anatomy Day and talking with students about the array of anatomical texts here at the History of Medicine Collections!

For more photos, visit the “Anatomy Day 2011” set on our Flickr photostream!

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

My RBMSCL: Screen Printed Mural in Perkins

When most people think of screen printing they usually visualize Warhol’s “Marilyn” or an indie rock gig poster or a pastel colored beachscape print, but not many folks know that screen prints can also be found printed directly on walls. This summer I had the opportunity to make a mural on a wall in Perkins library (in a hallway leading to the Gothic Reading Room) using a vertical screen printing technique that I’ve been researching. The project is the culmination of a Collaboration Development Grant from the Duke Council for the Arts. The grant also involved bringing Dutch artist Stefan Hoffmann to Duke to share his highly-developed vertical screen printing methods with me; students; staff; and Duke Art, Art History and Visual Studies professor Merrill Shatzman.

Bill Fick's Screen Printed Mural
Close-Up of Bill Fick's Mural

Beyond applying newly developed vertical screen printing techniques, the mural also gave me the opportunity to take advantage, and bring attention, to the RBMSCL’s Edwin and Terry Murray Comic Book Collection. In the past four years I’ve been using the Murray Collection as a teaching tool and resource for my Art of the Comic Book and Zines class. The mural design used appropriated images taken from an assortment of comics found in the collection. These included Marge’s Little Lulu and Tubby, Classics Illustrated – The Black Tulip, The Mark of Zorro and Walt Disney’s Donald Duck. I also used images taken from books found in the Lilly Library comics and graphic novels section (A Steve Ditko monograph and Love and Rockets, New Stories No. 1 by the Hernandez brothers). The images ranged from faces/heads to a standing figure to a tulip flower. I really wasn’t thinking about content but more about interesting shapes and forms—although I did use some text that related to the location of the piece.

The concept for the mural was to make a colorful and active design that used pop culture and street art/graffiti strategies (practiced by contemporary artists like Shepard Fairey, Faile, and Bäst and pioneered by artists like Polke, Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, and Warhol). This included layering, repetition, and patterning, which can be easily implemented using the vertical screen printing method—one image per screen applied to the wall over and over again. This method also yields unexpected relationships between content and shapes that I find very exciting. The viewer can make their own narrative or allow it to be purely decorative. For this reason, the mural is untitled.

For more information about this project and other vertical screen printing information go to

Post contributed by Bill Fick, Visiting Assistant Professor of the Practice of Visual Arts. Thanks to Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections, for coordinating this post.

Today is Zine Library Day!

Making Zines at Girls Rock CampAnd we’ve been celebrating by making zines!

Future rock stars at NC Girls Rock Camp made zine pages in a workshops led by Kelly Wooten, Tali Beesley, and Alex Krensky of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture; Erin Hammeke, conservator for Special Collections; and Rosemary Davis of the Duke University Archives. This is the fifth year our librarians have led zine workshops for NC Girls Rock Camp!

A Completed Zine PageYou can celebrate our anniversary and Zine Library Day by downloading the Bingham Center’s fun new mini-zine and making your own!

You’ll find more pictures from this year’s workshops—and past ones, too—at the Bingham Center’s Flickr photostream.

Learn more about Zine Library Day on this wiki.

Post contributed by Kelly Wooten, Research Services and Collection Development Librarian for the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.

Instruction is Sweet!

Bill Fick's "Art of the Comic Book and Zines" Class
Photo by Bill Fick.

85 classes! The RBMSCL had another packed semester of instruction, as our librarians welcomed a group of fledgling Walt Whitman scholars from North Carolina State University, two classes from the Trinity School, and even a local Girl Scout troop—in addition to scores of Duke undergraduate and graduate students. We couldn’t have been more pleased when a student from Bill Fick’s “Art of the Comic Book and Zines” class (pictured at right) observed, “this place is like a candy shop—only it’s free!”

Here’s a goodie grab bag of some of the classes we taught this past semester:

  • Architectural Theory from Antiquity to the Renaissance
  • Art of the Comic Book and Zines
  • Cannibalism to Anorexia:  Embodying Social Meaning (Writing 20)
  • Digital Durham
  • Documenting the South
  • The Family in Documentary Photography
  • From Huck Finn to Miley Cyrus: Children’s History Through Popular Culture (Writing 20)
  • History of Punk
  • Introduction to Contemporary Latin America
  • Introduction to Oral History
  • Language in Immigrant America
  • Legal Documents: Yesterday & Today (Writing 20)
  • Looking In, Looking Out: The Language of Photographic Texts (Writing 20)
  • Major Italian Authors
  • Maps, Exploration, and Empire
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Photographing South Africa
  • Play, Games, and Culture (Writing 20)
  • Reading the Qur’an
  • Religion and Politics
  • Russian Art and Politics
  • Staging Sexualities
  • Suburbs, Malls, Office Buildings
  • Weimar and Nazi Germany
  • Women as Leaders

Wondering if the RBMSCL could support your Fall 2011 course? Send us an e-mail at special-collections(at)!

Spying on Galileo

Professor Begali's class in the Rare Book RoomOn Friday, April 8th, Professor Matteo Gilebbi’s Italian 22 course, offered by the Romance Studies Department, held a special lesson at the RBMSCL. The class was led by guest speaker Professor Mattia Begali. While Professor Begali’s expertise centers on the Baroque period, Professor Gilebbi’s research focuses on the use of new technologies in the fields of literature and pedagogy. This unique collaboration sought to facilitate student learning processes through the merger of old and new media.

This particular lesson aimed to utilize the RBMSCL as a pedagogic and engaging space for students interested in Italian culture and language. The class focused on the intellectual network of scholars who were active in Rome during Galileo’s affair. By using both ancient editions available in the RBSMCL’s collections and online sources, students were able to explore the visual rhetoric presented in works of authors such as Roberto Bellarmino and Tommaso Campanella, while endeavoring to understand their role and position in Galileo’s entourage.


Instruction Session in the Rare Book RoomThis past semester, RBMSCL librarians led over 90 instruction sessions with students from Duke University and beyond—including students taking courses on advertising history at Elon University and Johnson & Wales University. We’ve pulled together a mere sampling of the courses we’ve supported over the past few months. We think you’ll see that the RBMSCL has something for every research interest!

  • Advertising in Society
  • The Age of Jim Crow: Racial Segregation from Plessy to Brown
  • African American Women and History
  • American Business History
  • Animals and Ethics: Welfare, Rights, Utilitarianism, and Beyond
  • Book Art: Text as Image (videos produced by students in the class)
  • Citizen Organizing, 1776-Present
  • Classics of American Literature, 1860 to1915
  • Consumerism in Great Britain and the U.S.
  • Documenting Race, Class, and Gender (Writing 20)
  • Enlightenment Orientalism
  • Globalization in Writing (Writing 20)
  • Hidden Children: Children and Childhood in U.S. History and Across Cultures Cultures (Writing 20)
  • History of Photography, 1839 to the Present
  • Human Rights Activism
  • Intermediate German Conversation
  • Introduction to German Literature
  • Introduction to Old English
  • Methods of Social Research
  • Native American History through Autobiography
  • New Media, Memory, and the Visual Archive
  • New Testament Greek Reading
  • Photography in Context: Photographic Meaning and the Archive of Documentary Arts
  • The Politics and Obligations of Memory
  • Reading Gender, Writing Technoscience (Writing 20)
  • Southern History
  • Witchcraft in Comparative Perspective
  • Writing Sound and Sound Writing: Hearing Race (Writing 20)
  • Writing the Self (Writing 20)

Wondering if the RBMSCL could support your Spring 2011 course? Send us an e-mail at special-collections(at)!