Post contributed by Rachael Brittain, Harry H. Harkins, Jr. Intern for the Duke Centennial at the Duke University Archives.
As the Harry Harkins Intern, I have been working with the Duke Photography collection to rehouse materials; assist on reference questions; create timestamps for archival films; and help identify collections at Duke related to its early history. My primary focus has been the Duke Photography Job Numbers Collection. which contains original photographs taken by Duke Photography from 1960 until 2018.
Capturing unique images and perspectives of Duke University as well as operating as a hired service to photograph faculty, staff, and student headshots, Duke Photography was present at many major university events, including basketball, lacrosse, football, and other athletics; visiting lecturers and guest speakers; building construction and grand openings; campus scenes, and other aspects of campus life at Duke. The time frame that Duke Photography was active means that there is a mix of analog and digital files, switching to primarily digital in the early 2000s.
As the University prepares for the 2024 Duke Centennial, we wanted to make sure our photograph collections were as accessible as possible. The years between 1988 and 1994 have presented a unique challenge as many of the images are stored in old manila envelopes, some of which are missing. The manila envelopes are a less than ideal way of storing photographs and negatives due to the amount of acid present in the envelopes. Eventually, this would cause the images to yellow. The items stored in these envelopes must be rehoused into safer, archival materials. Across 28 boxes and over 11,000 manila envelopes, I have found 35 mm, 120 mm, 4 x 5″ negatives, contact sheets, prints, and occasionally slide film.
The variety of materials used by the photographers largely depended on the purpose and printing needs of the subjects. 35 mm film, both black and white and color, was standard for most events due to its ease of use and availability. 120 mm film, also in black and white and color, produced a larger negative allowing the photographers to print larger, with greater detail, and with less film grain (a granular texture that is left on film when over enlarged). 4 x 5” negatives created an even larger negative and were frequently used to make copies of images. Once an image was printed from 35- or 120-mm film and corrected properly, it was faster for photographers to photograph the final image and print from the new negative, creating a copy negative, these make it faster and easier for an image to be reprinted at different sizes and at a consistent quality.
Negatives need to be stored in specialized plastic sleeves to keep them organized, protect them from fingerprints, dust, and getting scratched, all of which would permanently damage the images and make future use more difficult. Contact sheets—which were created by laying an entire roll of film across a page and helped the photographers to get a quick glance at what photos were on the roll of film and determine which they wanted to print—are being transferred to acid free folders. When more than one page or print is in an envelope, plastic sleeves are used to keep them separated and prevent scratches. This will also make it easier for future researchers and library staff to use the folders without having to use gloves to handle the materials. The Duke University photographers would make contact prints and send them to the different Duke departments so the subjects themselves could select which images they wanted printed.
As I’ve processed the collection, I’ve noted that not every envelope contains prints, as the prints were usually sent off to whichever department requested them. However, there are occasionally black and white prints, done in-house by Duke as well as envelopes full of 3.5 x 5” color prints that came from specialized color printing labs. Occasionally, there are notes left in with the photos, stating who is in each frame, what the event was for, letters requesting images, and notes scribbled on the back of event programs. By capturing events, staff, and students, this collection provides visual documentation of Duke’s recent history and will be made accessible through improved storage and descriptions.
The “Duke University Libraries Statement of Our Commitment” (issued in June 2020) commits Duke Libraries to expanding cultural competence and combatting racism. One of the statement’s five goals is to “Practice more inclusive metadata creation, with the goal of harm reduction from biased and alienating description and classification.”
Creating “Guiding Principles” for RL Technical Services
The Rubenstein Library Technical Services Department (RLTS) has been seeking to create “inclusive metadata” for much longer than the summer of 2020. But we were inspired by Duke Libraries’ “Statement of Our Commitment” to more formally and concretely define what “inclusive metadata” means. We began this process by collecting and reading library and community literature, listening to panels and presentations on these topics, and researching what our peers and role models are doing. Our staff met and workshopped a draft of new “Guiding Principles for Description,” which was subsequently edited and adopted by the department and is now available here (along with links to further reading).
Developing these guiding principles is only one part of our ongoing commitment to create inclusive description for Rubenstein Library materials. RLTS processes and catalogs a wide range of special collection formats (printed books, serials, ephemera, zines, archival papers, institutional records, film, video, born digital files, objects, and more) and creates description that is shared across a variety of platforms, such as the library catalog, finding aid database, and Duke’s institutional repository. Going forward, we hope the “Guiding Principles for Description” will serve as the foundation for any type of description created or managed by Rubenstein’s catalogers and archivists.
Current and Future Inclusive Description Projects
There is much work already underway across Duke Libraries, and much more planned as Rubenstein Technical Services continues to prioritize the creation of inclusive description. Some of these projects pre-date the coining of our “Guiding Principles” — for example, we are proud of the ongoing cataloging of the thousands of items in the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, where catalogers are creating name authority records and detailed provenance notes tracing the often hidden role of women in printing, publishing, and book-binding. When developing ArcLight, our finding aid interface (launched in July), an important feature was the addition of a feedback button to encourage suggestions, particularly if a user spots harmful or incorrect descriptive language in our metadata. With the recent addition of a new Filmfabriek HDS+ film scanner, RLTS has launched a new film preservation program. One of the first projects on the scanner was the Civil Rights-era film Ivanhoe Donaldson, digitized in support of the SNCC Digital Gateway project. You can read more about the preservation of this important film here.
Our projects have continued this fall despite the COVID-19 pandemic. While working remotely, the Rare Materials Section has prioritized creating new manuscript catalog records for the Rubenstein’s American Slavery Documents, which will mean better discovery and access to the names and histories of Black people who were enslaved and emancipated in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Our Archival Processing Section has begun reviewing manuscript collections with outdated, inadequate, or offensive description, and they will be reprocessing, re-describing, and exploring how to be transparent about any changes or updates they make through development of a new style guide for finding aids. This includes finding and correcting our library’s past descriptive decisions or mistakes. This is a long-term commitment—we have tens of thousands of collections!—but we have already gotten started. One example is described here, where a diary recently added to the Appleton Oaksmith Papers led to new subject headings in the collection’s description, plus an edited biographical note clarifying Oaksmith’s occupation as a slave trader. Across the department, we intend to ramp up reparative description projects, particularly for our nineteenth-century Southern white family papers, because we know that the records of enslavers may be the only remaining documentation of those who were enslaved. We are seeking marginalized, hidden, and silenced voices. Even in their silences, our collections have much to say. Please stay tuned, and stay in touch, as we pursue this important work.
Post contributed by Jessica Janecki, Rare Materials Cataloger
Over 200 items—bills of sale, rental agreements, “free papers,” and even one arrest warrant—make up the American Slavery Documents collection held in the Rubenstein. In Technical Services, rare materials catalogers are in the process of individually cataloging the documents in the collection.
An important part of the cataloging process involves researching the names we find in the documents so that we can correctly identify people and either associate them with their Library of Congress Name Authority File heading or create an authorized heading for them. In attempting to describe enslaved or formerly enslaved persons, the majority of whom did not have last names, we tried to do as much research as possible (is the Sue mentioned in one document the same Sue mentioned in another document? If not, how can we distinguish them?) Our hope is that by identifying and describing these individuals researchers may be able to connect them to other parts of their stories that may be contained in other repositories.
However, even with the addition of subject headings, authorized name headings, genre/form terms, and other helpful metadata, there are just some things that cannot be easily encapsulated in a catalog record. One example is the story of Lott and Frankey.
Lott and Frankey
To begin this project of individually cataloging the American Slavery Documents collection, I deliberately chose one of the happier document types: this deed of manumission freeing an enslaved woman named Frankey. It is dated June 25, 1801 and was recorded at the court of Albemarle County, Virginia by clerk of court John Nicholas.
In it, William Champe Carter, Frankey’s enslaver, declares:
…in consideration of the sum of forty two pounds to me in hand paid by Lott (the waggoner) who was liberated by my deceased father Edward Carter, esq., as well as in consideration of the meritorious services of she, the wife of the said Lott, named Frankey, I have emancipated and set at liberty, and by these presents do emancipate and set at liberty my said negro slave Frankey…
In other words, Frankey’s husband Lott purchased her freedom for 42 pounds.
From this deed we know nothing else about Frankey other than her name, the name of her husband, and that in June 1801 she lived in Albemarle County, Virginia. In my research I have not been able to discover how she came to be enslaved by William Champe Carter, which of the many Carter family plantations she might have lived at, or even her approximate age.
The deed actually tells us more about Lott than Frankey. We learn that Lott had been enslaved by William Champe Carter’s father Edward Carter, who also emancipated him. When Edward Carter died in 1792, he left instructions in his will to emancipate Lott, one of the few enslaved persons he mentioned by name in his will. We also learn Lott’s profession as William Champe Carter refers to Lott as “the waggoner,” which means wagon driver.
If Lott was a free man by 1792, what might he have been doing between his emancipation and when he purchased Frankey’s freedom in 1801? In the deed he is referred to as Lott “the waggoner,” suggesting that he found employment after his emancipation. I searched early Virginia property tax records (available here) and found 2 promising entries in Albemarle County. The first from 1795 reads: Negro Lott emancipated by Edwd Carter decd [ie deceased] 1 tithe 2 horses and the second from 1797 reads: Wagoner Lott free negro 1 tithe 1 horse. These entries show that the commonwealth of Virginia recognized Lott as a free man, and one who owned enough personal property to owe property taxes. The 1797 entry helpfully confirms that he worked as a wagon driver. That these tax records are from Albemarle County also shows that Lott stayed close to Frankey during the 9 years he worked to earn the 42 pounds to buy her freedom.
What happened to Frankey and Lott after 1801? In the tax records for 1803, 1805, 1806, and 1807 there are references to Lott Saunders, a “free negro.” Is this the same Lott? Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing for certain and after that the trail grows cold. Searching for any traces of Frankey are especially difficult as court documents from a lawsuit in 1821 between members of the Carter family show that at least two women still enslaved on Carter plantations were named Frankey.
If Frankey and Lott remained in Virginia after Frankey’s emancipation they would have faced challenges. William Champe Carter refers to the “privileges” to which “emancipated slaves are entitled under the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” One of those “privileges” was constantly having to prove their freedom. The 1793 state law An Act for Regulating the Police of Towns in this Commonwealth, and to Restrain the Practice of Negroes Going at Large required free people of color to register with the towns where they worked or lived and pay a fee for a copy of their certificate of registration. This registration had to be renewed every year. If they could not produce their certificate they could be jailed indefinitely.
The story of Frankey and Lott is one of many glimpses of humanity and struggle (as well as oppression and cruelty) that can be found in the American Slavery documents collection. It is our hope that our efforts to individually catalog the documents will improve access and allow users to discover materials (and the lives that they reveal) by searching names, places, subjects, and document types in addition to browsing the digital collection. And in this process of discovery, connections will continue to be made, so that the humanity of lives lived, such as Frankey’s and Lott’s, will continue to be revealed and remembered.
Full transcription of Deed of Manumission
Transcript of recto:
To all whom these presents shall come, know ye that for divers good causes and considerations me hereunto moving, but more especially in consideration of the sum of forty two pounds to me in hand paid by Lott (the waggoner) who was liberated by my deceased father Edward Carter, esq., as well as in consideration of the meritorious services of she, the wife of the said Lott, named Frankey, I have emancipated and set at liberty, and by these presents do emancipate and set at liberty my said negro slave Frankey, giving her all the privileges and [?] to which emancipated slaves are entitled under the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, given under my hand and seal, at the county of Albemarle, in the state of Virginia, this 25th day of June in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and one.
Signed, sealed, and delivered in the presence of [blanks for witnesses]
William Champe Carter
Transcript of verso:
At a court held for Albemarle County the 6th day of July 1801 this deed of manumission from Wm Champe Carter to Negroe Frankey was produced into court and acknowledged by Wm Champe Carter party thereto and ordered to be recorded
 The Carters of Blenheim: a genealogy of Edward and Sarah Champe Carter of “Blenheim” Albemarle County, Virginia. [Richmond, Va. : Garrett & Massie], 1955.
Post contributed by Liz Adams, Rare Materials Cataloger
“I don’t know when I’ve ever been so flattered to see so many people getting up this early in the morning.”
Lady Bird Johnson wasn’t exaggerating when she stumped for her husband’s presidential campaign in front of a crowd of 12,000 Durhamites on Wednesday, October 7th, 1964. It was 6:45 AM when a group of “early birds for Lady Bird” congregated to meet her at the Durham Parking Lot, brandishing free coffee and donuts. It was 7:04 AM when North Carolina politicians—including Terry Sanford (the governor and future president of Duke)—began their remarks. And it was 7:11 AM when the woman of the hour spoke behind Thalhimer’s department store in downtown Durham, highlighting the “present prosperity” of North Carolina, Lyndon B. Johnson’s familial connections to the state, and the Great Society he planned for the country.
To understand why Lady Bird Johnson stopped in Durham 56 years ago, we need to frame our story: It was 1964, and the Civil Rights Act (CRA) had just gone into effect on July 2nd. According to Hersch & Shinall (2014), the CRA “sought to improve access to voting, public accommodations, and employment as well as improve the overall status of individuals discriminated against on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin” (p. 425). At its heart, the CRA sought to create equalities where none existed, especially for Black Americans. It was and is an important, imperfect piece of legislation, one that only passed after years of tragedy and occasional triumph, including the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, the March on Washington, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Jr. Relying on an uneasy coalition of Republican and Democrat votes, Lyndon B. Johnson plowed the CRA through Congress. Southern Democrats and the Republican nominee for president, Barry Goldwater, stood in opposition (Hersch & Shinall, 2014).
Lady Bird Johnson believed in the CRA and her husband. Just as relevant to our story, she was also a native Texan and is quoted saying—in a piece for PBS NewsHour by Judy Woodruff—that she was “proud of the South” and “proud that [she was] part of the South” (2014). Lady Bird Johnson thus knew she needed to act. And so as Meredith Hindley documents in “Lady Bird Special,” on October 6th, she climbed aboard a train named the Lady Bird Special and embarked on a Whistle Stop Tour, a four-day trip winding through eight Southern states. Liaising with local politicians and their partners, she shored up support for the CRA, defended her husband’s past decisions, and fought for his future plans. In total, she gave 47 speeches and traveled over 1600 miles. Occasionally her path intersected with Lyndon B. Johnson’s campaign trail, but for the most part, she travelled alone or with her daughters. Finally, on October 9th, 1964, the Lady Bird Special arrived in New Orleans, La., and the President and First Lady of the United States reunited (Hindley, 2013).
28 days later, on Tuesday, November 3rd, 1964, Americans went to the polls. In a landslide victory, Lyndon B. Johnson won 44 states (and Washington, D.C.), 15 million more votes than Barry Goldwater, and 486 Electoral College votes (Levy, 2019). And although five of the six states he lost were in the South, there was a southern state he didn’t lose: North Carolina (Levy, 2019).
Lady Bird’s Whistle Stop: Durham, NC: 10/7/64, 7:04 AM, Sound Recordings of Lady Bird Johnson’s Whistle Stop Campaign Tour, 10/6/1964-10/9/1965, Records of the White House Communications Agency, LBJ Presidential Library, viewed via YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fyDOFkmGg8
Dismantle white privilege in collections and services.
Diversify our staff.
Develop better relationships with community organizations and groups.
Document and share Duke’s complex institutional history.
And finally, “practice more inclusive metadata creation, with the goal of harm reduction from biased and alienating description and classification.”
Creating “Guiding Principles” for RL Technical Services
The Rubenstein Library Technical Services Department has been seeking to create “inclusive metadata” for much longer than the summer of 2020, but we have recently been inspired by Duke Libraries’ “Statement of Our Commitment” to more formally and concretely define what “inclusive metadata” means. We began this process by collecting and reading library and community literature, listening to panels and presentations on these topics, and researching what our peers and role models are doing. Our staff met and workshopped a draft of new “Guiding Principles for Description,” which was subsequently edited and adopted by the department and is now available here (along with links to some further reading and references):
The Rubenstein Library Technical Services Department acknowledges the historical role of libraries and archives, including our own institution, in amplifying the voices of those with political, social, and economic power, while omitting and erasing the voices of the oppressed. We have developed these Guiding Principles for Description as the first step in our ongoing commitment to respond to this injustice.
We will use inclusive and accessible language when describing the people represented by or documented in our materials. We commit to continually educate ourselves on evolving language and practices of inclusivity and accessibility.
We will prioritize facts and accuracy, and resist editorializing, valorizing, or euphemistic narratives or phrases in our description. This includes a commitment to revisit and revise our past description.
When describing our collections, we will purposefully seek and document the presence and activities of marginalized communities and voices.
We welcome and will seek to incorporate input and feedback on our descriptive choices from the communities and people represented by and in our materials.
We will be transparent about the origin of our description, and our role in adding or replacing description. We will also commit to increased transparency about our own institution’s past descriptive practices.
We will advocate for and celebrate library description, and the essential labor and expertise of the library practitioners who create and maintain that description, as crucial for any ongoing preservation of, access to, and research within library collections.
Developing this list of guiding principles is only one part of our ongoing commitment to create inclusive description of Rubenstein Library materials. Our department processes and catalogs a wide range of special collection formats (printed books, serials, ephemera, zines, archival papers, institutional records, film, video, born digital files, objects, and more) and creates description that is shared across a variety of platforms like the library catalog, finding aid database, and Duke’s institutional repository. Going forward, we hope the “Guiding Principles” will serve as the foundation for any type of description created or managed by Rubenstein’s catalogers and archivists.
Current and Future Inclusive Description Projects
There is much work already underway, and much more planned as Rubenstein Technical Services continues to prioritize the creation of inclusive description. Some of these projects pre-date the coining of our “Guiding Principles” — for example, we are proud of the ongoing cataloging of the thousands of items in the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, where catalogers are creating name authority records and detailed provenance notes tracing the often hidden role of women in printing, publishing, and book-binding. Our work to preserve and digitize film, including creating detailed description for collections like the H. Lee Waters’ Movies of Local People, have ensured the preservation and availability of community histories. When developing ArcLight, our finding aid interface (just launched in July), an important feature was the addition of a feedback button to encourage suggestions, particularly if a user spots harmful or incorrect descriptive language in our metadata.
Our projects continue this fall despite the COVID-19 pandemic. While working remotely, the Rare Materials Section has prioritized creating new manuscript catalog records for the Rubenstein’s American Slavery Documents, which will center the names and lives of Black people who were enslaved. We will share more about this project as the records are published in our catalog later this year.
Our Archival Processing Section has begun reviewing manuscript collections with outdated, inadequate, or offensive description, and they will be reprocessing, re-describing, and exploring how to be transparent about any changes or updates they make through development of a new style guide for finding aids. This includes acknowledging our library’s past decisions or mistakes, which may mean more blog posts like this one that question and critique our institution’s collecting and descriptive choices. Across the department, we intend to ramp up reparative description projects, particularly for our nineteenth-century Southern white family papers, because we know that the records of enslavers may be the only remaining documentation of those who were enslaved. We are seeking marginalized, hidden, and silenced voices. Even in their silences, our collections have much to say. Please stay tuned, and stay in touch, as we pursue this important work.
Post contributed by Noah Huffman, Archivist for Metadata, Systems, and Digital Records
On July 1, 2020 the Rubenstein Library will launch a new and completely redesigned discovery and access interface for our collection guides (a.k.a. finding aids). The new site, soon-to-be available at archives.lib.duke.edu, will replace our current finding aid platform and is the result of over a year of planning and six months of local development work. Duke staff can access a demo app (VPN required) for a sneak peak of the interface before it launches.
Built on the open-source ArcLight software, the site will offer researchers new ways to search, browse, and explore nearly 4,000 detailed inventories of collections held in the Rubenstein Library, including the Duke University Archives. In total, the site will contain information about the contents of nearly 80,000 boxes of material held in the Rubenstein, including manuscripts, letters, diaries, organizational records, photographs, audio visual recordings, oral histories, objects, zines, digital materials, and much more.
What to expect from the new finding aid site:
While the new site will contain the same data available on the old finding aid site, you will notice many differences in the way information is structured and presented. Listed below are just some of the new features along with a few screenshots of the new interface. We’ll provide more details about the new interface after the July 1st launch. In the meantime, you can read about some of our design and development work in a blog post from Sean Aery, the primary developer for ArcLight at Duke.
Advanced searching by name, place, subject, format, and title
Filter search results by name, place, date, format, subject, and several other facets
Limit search results to only materials available online
Browse Duke-focused collections by University Archives Record Group (for university offices, schools, former presidents/provosts, athletics, student/campus life, etc.)
Easily navigate large finding aids and complex collection hierarchies (by series, sub-series, etc.)
View digital objects in the context of their collections: More seamless integration with the Duke Digital Repository
Bookmark collections, boxes, or folders of interest; save the bookmarks; and email them to yourself or others
View a rotating gallery of featured items on the homepage (with citations and links to collections)
Mobile-friendly display, but also optimized for wide displays
Improved visibility of restriction information: Know when materials are restricted or require certain conditions for access
WCAG2.0 AA compliant: works well with screen readers and other assistive technologies; easily navigable by keyboard
Faster page-load times for large finding aids and for researchers with low-bandwidth connections
We welcome your feedback!
We’re proud of the new site and we hope it empowers researchers to discover and interact with our collections in new ways. Still, we know that there is more work to do and we welcome your feedback. If you have questions, find a bug, or want to suggest a new feature, please let us know!
Post contributed by Laurin Penland, Library Assistant for Rubenstein Technical Services
For someone like me who studied Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness in school, the Congo River can play an outsized role in my imagination as a place of brutal Western imperialism. So, you can imagine, how, when I was carefully paging through a diary from 1852 for a ship named the Mary Adeline, I froze in a moment of recognition upon seeing the words, “I was in the Congo River 12 days, during which time got ashore Shark’s Point. Was attacked by the savages, defended the vessel successfully and was eventually got off by … [the] steamer ‘Firefly’ and schooner ‘Dolphin.’”
This ship’s diary was written almost forty years before Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, during a time when enslavers were still abducting people from Africa and selling them if not legally, then illegally, especially to countries in South America (by that time many countries, including the US, had outlawed the transatlantic slave trade). The diary was kept by a man named Appleton Oaksmith—captain of the Mary Adeline—and though he does not mention enslaving people in the diary, I was suspicious. I wanted to know what he was doing in the Congo River and why he was “attacked.” So, I began to do more research.
First, I should provide a little more context. This diary was donated to the library as an addition to the Appleton Oaksmith papers, which the Rubenstein has held since 1937. The library had previously borrowed the diary in the 1950s so that it could be microfilmed. And now, decades later, the owners of the physical diary decided to donate it to the Rubenstein. It’s part of my job in the library to process new additions to collections, and this addition of the diary led me to try and discover what exactly the diary was about and how I might add it to the existing collection.
I did not know much about Oaksmith. In our online catalog, the description of Oaksmith stated merely that he was an “adventurer, author, ship owner, and industrial promoter of Hollywood, N.C.” A quick Google search for Oaksmith led me to think that “adventurer” was at best a polite euphemism and at worst a papering-over of the history of illegal slave trading. Here is one of the first entries I found about Oaksmith and his ship, the Mary Adeline:
“The U.S. brig Mary Adeline departed from Rio de Janeiro in April 1852 destined for the coast of Angola. After having been visited by the British steamship Fire Fly investigating evidence of slave trading, the Mary Adeline ran aground on a sandbar at Shark’s Point near the mouth of the Congo River. Within hours an estimated fifteen hundred to three thousand Africans attacked the boat. They used muskets, spears, oars, and cutlasses as weapons, along with hooks and poles to climb the side of the ship. The small crew of the Mary Adeline fought back by shooting a six-pound cannon that killed several of the Africans…. News of the battle spread quickly. Couriers capable of running fifty to sixty miles a day surely carried this information along the African coast. Inhabitants of Salvador learned of the attack after the return of the Mary Adeline to Salvador in late July. A planned attack by Africans of a slaving vessel helped to convince Bahians and foreigners resident in Salvador that a resumption of the slave trade would pose significant and unwanted risks.”
This passage is from Dale Torston Graden’s monograph, From Slavery to Freedom in Brazil, Bahia, 1835-1900. Graden’s description of the battle in the Congo River suggests two important points: 1) It is likely that Oaksmith was attempting to enslave West Africans, and 2) the attack played a significant role in limiting or ending the slave trade in Brazil. If these things were true, why did previous archivists describe Oaksmith as an “adventurer” and not as an enslaver?
This question sent me searching our digitized collection of the Rubenstein’s old card catalog. This is often the first place I look when trying to find more information about collections that the library has held for a long time, given that sometimes, descriptions in the old card catalog were never migrated to the online catalog due to length, complexity, or outdated language. The old card files on Oaksmith included a long biographical sketch. The writer of the description chose to describe the battle on the Congo River through the lens of the crew members of the Dolphin who helped Oaksmith escape. According to the Dolphin, Oaksmith fought “gallantly” against “3000 natives who had assembled for the purpose of plundering [the Mary Adeline’s] valuable cargo.” Later, the card file mentions that Oaksmith was indicted for slave trading, that he escaped from jail, and that he was eventually pardoned by President Grant. I was confused by the card file and by our online description, especially in juxtaposition to other scholarship that I found online. Was Oaksmith on the Congo River to enslave people? What was his valuable cargo? Why was he attacked? If he was eventually indicted, when was he convicted? How should I change the description of Oaksmith in the online catalog?
“[In 1852] the British Prime Minister to Brazil, Henry Southern, wrote to the foreign office about indications that the US vessels Mary Adeline and Camargo were being prepared to engage in the slave trade. ‘Mr. Marsden, a broker in Rio, a citizen of the United States,’ continued Southern, ‘is the party who is actively interested in getting up and aiding these speculations.’”
Later in 1852, the Camargo “disembarked 500 slaves at Bracuhy, south of Rio de Janeiro.” Marsden was jailed but was eventually freed. The captain of the Camargo, Nathaniel Gordon, escaped from Brazil, but was hung ten years later in the United States for slave trading. (Gordon is the only person in US history to have been executed for the crime of slave trading; his conviction and hanging are largely credited to the politics of that moment with the start of the Civil War and the beginning of Lincoln’s presidency.) The last place that Gordon abducted West Africans was at Shark’s Point on the Congo River, the same place that Oaksmith had run aground years earlier. And as for Marsden, after he was released from jail, he went on to be involved with a New York shipping company that was caught trafficking enslaved people to Cuba. Oaksmith also had significant ties to Cuba: his brother Sidney lived there, and Oaksmith himself was perhaps best known by historians as an ardent supporter of William Walker who “planned to establish a Central American empire that would ultimately include Spanish Cuba.”
It turns out that there is a copious amount of scholarship on Oaksmith and the illegal slave traders of his time. While I have not yet determined with certainty the purpose of Oaksmith’s journey to the Congo River in 1852 aboard the Mary Adeline and the reasons for the battle that ensued, I found historical evidence for his later attempts at slave trading, thus justifying two changes in the collection description: mentioning in the online catalog that Oaksmith was indicted for outfitting the slave ship Augusta in 1861 and finally convicted for outfitting the slave ship Margaret Scott in 1862, and adding “Slave trade – United States – 19th century” as a subject heading. I also decided to remove the word “adventurer” from his biographical description, lest it glorify the horrors of the slave trade and chattel slavery. The Appleton Oaksmith papers have also been added to a list of collections to which Rubenstein archivists hope to return, down the road, so that we can provide more detailed and just description. This is one of many legacy collections at the Rubenstein that deserve to be reprocessed and re-described so that we can better document the history of slavery and redress archival errors, silences, omissions, and erasures.
As for the ship’s diary that inspired this blog post, it has finally joined the rest of Oaksmith’s papers at the Rubenstein Library and will be requestable in the reading room once the library has reopened.
 Dale Torston Graden, From Slavery to Freedom in Brazil, Bahia, 1835-1900 (Albuquerque: University of Mexico Press, 2006), 8.
 Card catalog entry for the Appleton Oaksmith Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
Blog Post Contributed by Liz Adams, Rare Materials Cataloger
The Rubenstein Library has 2,142 individually cataloged printed maps, collectively covering nearly the entire world. There are aerial views of Alexandria, Egypt and Venice, Italy; fire insurance maps of our own North Carolina and ones of nearby Tennessee and Virginia; and pre-1800 (or what we call “early”) maps of what is now the United States. We have maps charting rivers in Southeast Asia and thematic ones related to public health and nuclear proliferation. Our maps perform dual functions: they orient users to particular places and ideas in particular times and reveal the beliefs of the map creators about those places and the wider world.
It’s a truism that early printed maps look a little different to modern eyes. This is partly the result of imprecise mathematical knowledge prior to the 18th century. According to David Woodward in The history of cartography, “before careful measurement, distances from place to place could be roughly paced” (13). “Roughly” is the key word. These differences are also bound up in the original goals of the maps, which in the case of Western European countries, often included economic, religious, and political expansion nearby and into faraway places (that is, colonialism) (Woodward 19). And finally, and very much related to the first two points, the world has never been static. For example, there was once a province called Carolina that included North Carolina and South Carolina as well as parts of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Things change.
I’m a cataloger, and catalogers want to describe those early maps accurately. But how do we do that when distance was “roughly” measured, or when place names and boundaries have changed? For example, how do we document a map showing that Texas once “included much of what later became Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Oklahoma” (Lepore 222)? Subject headings do some of that work in a catalog record, but geographic headings specifically relate to modern boundaries, not historic. The real heavy lifting comes from including bounding coordinates, the easternmost and westernmost longitudes and northernmost and southernmost latitudes seen on a map. We provide those coordinates in two places in the record, one more visible than the other. If you look at one of our catalog records online, you’ll see the coordinates under “Scale.” We also include those same coordinates as coded data in a separate area in the MARC record (see row below beginning with “=034”). This coded data is very precisely structured data. You can’t see it in our online catalog, but if you ever need access to it, let us know! We’re here and happy to help.
Adding coordinates to map records is a relatively new practice, and not all Rubenstein Library maps include that data. We’re trying to change that. Using a combination of data editing software, and digitized versions of maps, we’ve begun adding that data point to our early printed map records. Doing this work today has an immediate impact for researchers. In our online records, you can see the coordinates and use that data to make research decisions. It also serves an important task for the future. Coordinate data is easily accessible to librarians and can be changed into other data standards for use in digital humanities projects (Kiser & Smeltekop). Without coordinates, this work may be at a standstill.
Since we began this project a few weeks ago, we’ve made changes to over 100 hundred records, with no plans to stop. We still have several hundred to go!
Want to know more about maps? We don’t blame you! In 2013, Duke students in Borderworks Lab curated “Mapping the City: a stranger’s guide,” an exhibit featuring maps and atlases held by the Rubenstein Library. The exhibit is online and is very cool.
Kiser, Tim, and Nicole Smeltekop. “A Method for Creating Scanned Map Metadata for Geoportals, Library Catalogs, and Digital Repositories: Reworking Existing MARC Records of Paper Maps to Create New Records for Their Scanned Counterparts.” Journal of Map & Geography Libraries, vol. 14, no. 2-3, Feb. 2018, pp. 109–131. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text, doi:10.1080/15420353.2019.1640166.
Lepore, Jill. These Truths: a History of the United States. W.W. Norton & Company, 2019.
Woodward, David. “Cartography and the Renaissance: Continuity and Change.” History of Cartography, vol. 3:1, University of Chicago Press, 2007, pp. 3–24.
Post contributed by Craig Breaden (Audiovisual Archivist for the Rubenstein Library) and Liz Adams (Rare Materials Cataloger for the Rubenstein Library)
Harold Becker’s film, Ivanhoe Donaldson (1964), which was filmed during August, September, and October 1963, follows the titular Ivanhoe Donaldson, a 21-year-old Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) field secretary as he travels from his home in East Lansing (Michigan), to Danville (Virginia), Selma (Alabama), and Greenwood (Mississippi), organizing demonstrations and voter drives. This rare 16mm film was recently acquired by the Rubenstein Library and is one of the first films we have digitized using our newly-purchased motion picture film scanner (a Filmfabriek HDS+). The film scanner, beyond offering impressive technical capabilities (we can scan each image up to 4k!), allows us to further our commitment to the preservation and discoverability of our moving image resources in the interest of the histories they generate and illuminate. In this case, footage shows Donaldson and other SNCC staffers, including Cordell Reagon and Avon Rollins, running workshops to show civil rights activists how to protect their bodies from high pressure water hoses and riot sticks; it shows canvassers urging citizens to exercise their right to vote; and it shows SNCC staffers invoking the name of Medgar Evers and discussing the efficacies of indirect and direct action in the wake of the 16th Street Bombing in Selma, Alabama.
Ivanhoe Donaldson not only documents the work of Donaldson and SNCC, but it also captures the joy with which they work. Between footage of workshops and peaceful demonstrations, the camera follows staffers as they clap their hands and sing civil rights staples like “We shall overcome.” Donaldson is frequently shown singing boisterously, even if in the words of Dorothy Moore, “he can’t sing too well.” But more than anything else, it’s incredibly clear that Donaldson loves to sing, and when he does, there’s nowhere he’d rather be. And as audience members, we’re right there with him.
With the courage of his namesake, Ivanhoe Donaldson both shaped and survived a crucible moment in American history as a field secretary for the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, organizing and training young people to put themselves in harm’s way, challenging white supremacy and asserting the right to vote. Becker’s emotionally-charged cinema vérité, the product of following Donaldson and his foot soldiers through the South in the summer and fall of 1963, provides an immediacy that is unique to film and, as SNCC’s members age and pass, a meaningful perspective to supplement memory. Also, having a resource created with documentary and poetic intention at the time the events occurred — much like James Karales’ photographs from an earlier period of SNCC’s existence — enlivens the dialogue of past and present immeasurably.
The digitization and preservation of the Ivanhoe Donaldson film is part of a larger effort made by the Rubenstein Library over the last decade to ensure that SNCC’s legacy is captured in documents, photographs, oral histories, and conferences, and made available on websites such as the SNCC Digital Gateway (https://snccdigital.org/). To learn more about Ivanhoe Donaldson, you can view a biographical entry and listen to an interview at https://snccdigital.org/people/ivanhoe-donaldson/.
So, you might be wondering, when can I see the whole Ivanhoe Donaldson film? Since the film is still under copyright, we cannot post it to the web. But, you can view the newly digitized preservation copy by requesting the film in the online catalog and then visiting the reading room at the Rubenstein Library.
At Smith Warehouse, the Technical Services archival processing area of Bay 11 is quiet. But not because the librarians working there have shushed everyone. Rather, the archivists, catalogers, interns and student workers perform many tasks by themselves. And most of us are wearing headphones or earbuds. Undoubtedly we are listening to music, podcasts, sports events, and whatever else we can stream. As a self-proclaimed news junkie, I often listen to live broadcasts.
As an archivist of University Archives records, my worlds collided in a “deja vu all over again” manner. At the end of January and beginning of February I was listening to the impeachment hearings and trial of President Donald J. Trump as I was processing the John S. Bradway Correspondence with Richard M. Nixon records. The collection is comprised of letters written between the Duke law professor, and his former student from 1959-1978. Nixon graduated from Duke Law in 1937, and the two men stayed in touch. These letters were recently gifted to Duke from a historical society in New Jersey.
The correspondence covers the time periods that Nixon worked as an attorney at a law firm, a United States Vice President, a newly-elected United States President, an embattled impeachment defendant, and finally, a former President looking back at his legacy. But the bulk of the letters fall between 1973 and 1974, when President Nixon was first tied to, then accused of, and later resigned due to the Watergate break-in and scandal and subsequent White House cover-up.
Bradway and Nixon’s correspondence show the respect each had for the other. They often mention their spouses, Mary Bradway and Pat Nixon, offering their greetings to them in each letter. The men also write glowingly of each other, and Bradway offered his suggestions to “stay with it” and his view that neither the Republican party nor the country would have anything to gain by Nixon resigning. When Nixon finally did resign and leave Washington, the correspondence continued, and Bradway urged him to write “a book or a series of articles” giving his side of the Watergate story.
Processing this collection with impeachment trial streaming through my earbuds led to an unusual echo chamber. The same phrases that I saw in the documents were being repeated on the floors of the House and the Senate. For example, liberal media was mentioned in both the recent impeachment hearings and the correspondence. The phrase “Impeachment is a political process” and concerns about the health and future of the Republican party were discussed in the letters I read, and in the very recent commentaries I heard. For me it was a startling reminder of how primary source documents very clearly connect to our present-day lives and current affairs.
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University