Category Archives: New Finding Aids

A Family with a Mission: The McGee Family Papers

We just wrapped up processing an exciting new addition to the McGee Family Papers. John S. and Doris McGee were Baptist missionaries to Nigeria in 1945, where they served until their retirement in 1977. Their two sons, John David and Sidney, joined them in Africa for their formative years before finishing their education in America. During the McGee family’s time in Nigeria, they served at the Baptist College of Iwo and the Baptist Mission in Igede-Ekiti and Ikogosi, and they helped found the sixth Baptist high school in Nigeria–the Ekiti Baptist High School in Igede. They were made “Chief Gbaiyegun of Igede” by the Onigede and Chiefs of Igede-Ekiti, the paramount chief by the Ewi of Ado, and “Chief Akorewolu of Ikogosi” by Loja and Chiefs of Ikogosi-Ekiti.

McGees and chiefs, Gbaiyegun event, 1957
McGees and Nigerian chiefs, Gbaiyegun event, 1957

Some of the items in the new accession include correspondence (as well as reel-to-reel “audio letters”) between the family members while they were separated  during their various Nigerian tours; Doris’ many prayer diaries; and seven beautiful 16×20 color prints documenting life in various Nigerian missionary camps.

John S. McGee baptizing believers in Nigeria
John S. McGee baptizing believers in Nigeria

The collection offers fascinating insight into the lives and histories of a family on a Baptist Mission to Nigeria in the mid-twentieth century.

A Journey’s End

A couple of weeks ago the finding aid for the Doris Duke Audiovisual Collection was posted on the Rubenstein Library website. The audiovisual collection, which is now opened for research, has a fascinating variety of materials, including film reels, vinyl records, and audio cassettes reflecting Doris’ interests in travel, music, the performing arts, and historical events. It’s chock-full of surprises for those willing to delve into the detailed and intricate collection. Homemade recordings of Doris practicing the piano and singing, four original nitrate film reels of the Nazi Supreme Court Trial of the Anti-Hitler Plot from 1944-45 (which we’re presuming Doris obtained while working for the Office of Strategic Services [OSS] during World War II), and a somewhat sketchy telephone interview with Howard Hughes from the 1970s are just a few of the treasures awaiting discovery in this collection.


The Doris Duke Audiovisual Collection also marks a significant milestone for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives. It is the final collection in the historical archives to be processed, described, and opened for research, thus ending my three year processing journey.

Working so intimately with the materials has been quite a remarkable experience, and not surprisingly I’ve grown quite attached to both Doris Duke and the materials over the past three years! The nineteen collections comprising the historical archives are filled with artifacts and clues that leave evidence of a woman who did big things, yet they also give insight to unexpected and hidden facets of Doris’ life. Collectively they paint a picture of Doris that challenges the general perception of her as an eccentric and tragic figure.

While I am sincerely grateful for having had the opportunity to process and promote the materials in the historical archives, I am equally thankful for having had the chance to meet researchers and patrons interested in both Doris Duke and the historical archives. Their enthusiasm for learning more about her spurred several of the events, exhibits, and digital initiatives developed during the course of the processing project.

And so a journey for me ends, but the journey for the materials in the historical archives continues!

Post contributed by Mary Samouelian, the former Doris Duke Collection Archivist. Mary will continue in the Technical Services Dept. as the Processing Archivist for the Abraham Joshua Heschel Papers.

Wense Grabarek in the First Person

The 50th anniversary of a key moment in the desegregation of Durham, North Carolina came and went largely without fanfare last month.  It was in May 1963 that, amid growing racial discord in the city, Mayor Wense Grabarek prevailed upon business and community leaders, black and white alike, to cooperate in desegregating the city. The mayor was in an unusual position: having held office for less than a day when a series of sit-ins around Durham resulted in 130 arrests, Grabarek’s first task upon being sworn in was to stop a riot at the jail. Achieving this by letting supporters deliver sandwiches and cigarettes to the jailed protesters, he then turned his attention to the NAACP and CORE, who promised mass demonstrations in the wake of the arrests. Jean Anderson, in Durham County: A History of Durham County, North Carolina, tells the story this way:

He went in person, a slight, dapper man, always with a red carnation in his lapel, to a meeting of protesters, one thousand strong, held at Saint Joseph’s A.M.E. Church.  Habitually soft-spoken and immensely polite, he asked permission to enter and address them.  Then, pointing out that by their demonstrations they had informed the community of their deeply felt grievances, he spoke about the danger of racial tension and division and promised to take positive steps to respond to their complaints.  Finally, he asked for their support and understanding.  Impressed by his coming, his tone, his words, they accepted his sincerity and promised to halt demonstrations and give the mayor time to act on his promises.

Mayor Grabarek formed the Durham Interim Committee to reconcile the community’s opposing groups, in so doing acknowledging the damage of segregation and the real possibility that Jim Crow could prevent Durham from realizing its potential, particularly given the economic promise of the newly formed Research Triangle Park. The efforts of Grabarek and of the leaders appointed to the Committee allowed Durham a degree of progress that eluded many other southern cities.

Wense Grabarek addressing the congregation at St. Joseph's AME Church, May 1963.
Wense Grabarek addressing the congregation at St. Joseph’s AME Church, May 1963.

A modest man and a successful accountant who continues to work full time six days a week, Wense Grabarek is now 93 years old and eager to add his perspective to the history of Durham, the adopted hometown that called him mayor from 1963 to 1971. To this end he has donated to the Rubenstein Library a number of recorded interviews he has given since the early 2000s, as part of a larger collection of papers that he is gathering for donation later this summer. You can check out the finding aid for the interviews here.

Wense Grabarek in conversation with Tim Tyson, Sept. 2011
Wense Grabarek in conversation with Tim Tyson, Sept. 2011

The recordings include an interview with Steven Channing for his documentary Durham: A Self Portrait, an 8-hour conversation with author and scholar Tim Tyson detailing his work as mayor, and, presented here, with the permission of WTVD, an interview with Angela Hampton on the events of May 1963:

An oral history has been scheduled with Mr. Grabarek in July, and this time the interviewer will be the Rubenstein Library. We hope to learn more about the mayor’s life before and after the 1960s, including his experiences as a soldier in World War II and the philanthropic work he and his wife have done over the years in education.

Post contributed by Craig Breaden, Audiovisual Materials Archivist in the Technical Services Dept.

Flags are flying for the 2000th online finding aid!

ship with sails

Any day now, the ticker at the top of the Rubenstein’s finding aids page will turn over and mark a milestone 2000th online finding aid. Doesn’t sound like much, especially when you consider that the Rubenstein Library holds more than 6,000 manuscript collections. But those 2,000 finding aids – narrative maps that guide a researcher through the contents of a manuscript collection’s boxes and folders – also represent thousands of hours of interpretive labor supplied by library staff. The first of these online collection guides debuted around 1996. They are encoded with an XML-derivative called EAD, and are now discoverable to a worldwide audience through any online keyword search. But finding aids – or inventories – or collection guides – go back a lot further than their online counterparts.

The winner of the 2,000th finding aid spot belongs to the Purviance Family Papers. Acquired as either a purchase or a gift by the Duke University Manuscripts Department in 1943 from an S. S. Barnes in Baltimore, the collection offers over 2300 manuscripts and 10 photographs, 4 maps, and 21 volumes (including an anonymous Civil War diary) belonging to a prominent Revolutionary-era Baltimore family with a compelling history. Shortly after it was received, a Manuscript Department archivist researched the collection and typed up a set of catalog cards: the Purviance Papers “finding aid.”

Defined most broadly, archivists consider a finding aid to be any document that assists in charting a path through the contents and topics of an archival collection – a big help when you’re dealing with a very large collection! In the 1940s at Duke, this was the role of the card catalog. Of course, you could only consult the cards if you traveled to the library, or if you could ask a reference archivist to help. Some collections were represented by three or four cards; some had close to a hundred. In 2012 – to the shock of older librarians who never thought they’d see the day – the entire card catalog was digitized and is currently being used as a resource for the reference archivists. Here is a sample of the 92 Purviance cards:  purviance cardsCollections were typically a lot smaller back then.  As collections grew larger, a new generation of archivists started using more productive strategies for describing thousands of folders of manuscript items, and as part of this effort, they turned to creating more-portable paper inventories (but still on typewriters). Here’s an example of one, with a post-it note that marks a turning point in library history:   PicMonkey Collage

Enter the computer and Microsoft Word. When I started working in the library in 1992, the staff was thinking big about the power of computing. Gopher and Mosaic and were on the horizon. More prosaically, electronic-format finding aids could be corrected and added to, and printed out anytime (no more liquid white-out) or viewed online – goodbye, paper (well, sort of). The description for the Purviance Family Papers were still described on cards in the card catalog and in a paper box list until a few months ago. As part of a project to make all of our longer legacy descriptions available online, a library intern, Bob Malme, encoded the Purviance Family Papers collection guide – the Rubenstein Library’s 2,000th finding aid. And it is especially fitting that this inventory was the work of one of our interns: an integral part of our library practically since our founding, they have provided a huge amount of support for our collections and their finding aids – in every format.

As a member of the Technical Services Department, whose job it is to crank out all these finding aids, I was – and still am, I guess – an EAD Warrior. That moniker comes from a Duke Special Collections Library group whose early work on standards for Duke online finding aids would shape our goal for total online access for all of our finding aids – cards and paper. How many finding aids will that eventually be? Oh, another 4,000 at least. We’re working on it already!

Post contributed by Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, Senior Processing Archivist.

The Accidental Archivist

Issues involved with the handling and preservation of ephemera—campaign buttons, stickers, scrapbooks, photo albums, brochures and pamphlets and such—have been an ongoing concern among curators and archivists, as many of our procedures and best practices concern materials commonly recognized as “important artifacts” such as art, works of prominent photographers, rare manuscripts and books. Many modern manuscript collections pose an additional challenge when they include files of clippings, the two-sided nature of which inadvertently creates an “accidental archive” of items of potential research interest. Many of the Hartman Center’s advertising collections suffer from this wealth of excess. Magazine and newspaper pages containing ads for one product frequently have an equally (if not more) useful ad on the reverse, or a provocative news article. In the example here, taken from the Doris Bryn Papers, the reverse side of a department store ad contains an article “Are Women Persons? Educators Disagree” that appeared in the Oct. 15, 1950 edition of the Sunday Herald.

The backside of a 1950 advertisement for a department store wonders, “Are Women Persons?”

As indicative of the kinds of debates taking place during the postwar re-integration of women into domestic life and the slow march toward women’s rights and gender equality, the article poses potential research utility; at the least, great fodder for an undergraduate paper. The big challenge is: how to remember where to find these little gems the second time around?

Post contributed by Rick Collier, Technical Services Archivist for the John W. Hartman Center.

A Candid Doris Duke

Post contributed by Mary Samouelian, Doris Duke Collection Archivist

Cecil Beaton's portrait of Doris Duke
Cecil Beaton’s portrait of Doris Duke

One of the most well-known photographs in the Doris Duke Photograph Collection is a very glamorous Doris Duke draped in a floral gown and pearls, standing against an ornate backdrop. The photograph was taken in the early 1930s by Cecil Beaton, a fashion photographer known primarily for his portraits of celebrated persons. For most people this image is Doris Duke.

Doris Duke’s class portrait, probably from kindergarten
Doris Duke’s class portrait, probably from kindergarten

However, the recently published Doris Duke Photograph Collection finding aid sets out to introduce you to a Doris Duke who is very different from her public persona. Approximately 3,500 photographs out of 12,000 photographs in the collection have been digitized and are viewable from within the finding aid. Amongst these digitized items you can scroll through images of Doris as a young girl, Doris’ volunteer work for the United States Government during World War II, images of her travel, various estates,and an assortment of pictures of her dogs, cats, cows, and camels!

If you are interested in seeing the actual photographs, you can hover the cursor over any of the images and information about the physical location of the photograph within the collection is displayed. You can then request the box(es) you are interested in using through Duke University’s library catalogue.

Finding aid how to
Hover over digitized photographs to find out which box it’s stored in

The finding aid also describes photographs that have not been digitized but are available for use in the Rubenstein Library. Some of the more fascinating images in the collection are tinted photographs of Duke Farms (Somerville, New Jersey) from the 1900s, autographed pictures of a sultry Rudolph Valentino (Doris’ school girl crush), and color glass mounted slides of Doris Duke’s trip to the Middle East in 1938.


The Martin Shubik Papers: From Early Game Theory to the Strategic Analysis of War

Martin Shubik, from the Yale Dept. of Economics webpage.

As research fellows at Duke’s Center for the History of Political Economy, this summer we processed the papers of Martin Shubik, emeritus professor of mathematical institutional economics at Yale University. By arranging and describing Shubik’s life-long correspondence, his class notes from the time of his graduate training at Princeton in the late 1940s, files of professional engagements, as well as materials related to nearly all of his published works, we had the chance to get an overview of Shubik’s distinguished career as an academic and a practicing economist during an important historical period encompassing the Cold War years in the United States.

While Shubik was born in New York City in 1926, he received his early education in England. After moving to Canada, he graduated with a B.A. in mathematics and subsequently with an M.A. in political economy from the University of Toronto in 1947. Equipped with this background, Shubik arrived at Princeton University in 1949, where the archival record begins. He received a Ph.D. in economics in 1953 under the supervision of Oskar Morgenstern, one of the founding fathers of game theory. The influence of his supervisor becomes apparent in Shubik’s collection, not only through the class notes Shubik took of Morgenstern’s lectures and in the correspondence with him throughout the years, but also indirectly through Shubik’s life-long contributions to game theory and its application to economic problems. And, like Morgenstern, Shubik frequently voiced a critical attitude towards purely theoretical work.

Shubik’s collection is a treasure-house of primary resources on economics, especially for researchers interested in the early years of game theory. Shubik was part of an inspiring group of students during his stay at Princeton, including Harold Kuhn, John McCarthy, John Milnor, John Nash (Nobel Prize, 1994), Norman Shapiro, and Lloyd Shapley (Nobel Prize, 2012), who were pioneers in the field of game theory and would continue to shape the history of American mathematical economics during the second half of the 20th century. Innumerable drafts of Shubik’s collaborative works, often accompanied by correspondence and research notes by his co-authors, afford an inspiring set of resources evoking that historical period. The collection contains Shubik’s and Shapley’s drafts and notes on their joint works on game theory, from their early papers in the 1950s to their collaboration during the 1970s at the RAND corporation. The collection also allows for personal glimpses into Shubik’s life. For example, Shubik’s life-long friendship and professional collaboration with Shapley is reflected in the extensive correspondence throughout their academic careers. Similarly, Shubik’s exchanges with Nash (sometimes through humorous cards and joke letters) offer a unique source for historians interested in the early years of game theory and the history of modern economics.

While Shubik made fundamental contributions to mathematical economics, the collection shows that his interests were not confined to academia. Very early in his career, he took on consultancy positions for companies including General Electric and the Watson Research Lab of IBM. He also took on research and teaching responsibilities outside of the U.S., participating in projects such as the Cowles Commission’s research on simulation modeling in Latin America. The collection also contains a large amount of correspondence, trip reports, memoranda, and conference invitations that reflect Shubik’s professional development as an expert in the strategic analysis of warfare. More generally, the material reflects not only the increasing use of mathematical methods in American economics during the Postwar period, but also affords insights into the actual application of those new theoretical tools to specific problems that economists were concerned with during that time, and the institutional context within which those undertakings were embedded.

The papers of Martin Shubik reveal the mosaic of the career of an exceptional and multi-faceted economist during a highly charged professional and political climate, and the degree to which the field of economics is built on collaborative research. In short, it is a must for any historian interested in the origins of modern economics.

Post contributed by Catherine Herfeld and Danilo Silva, research fellows at Duke’s Center for the History of Political Economy.


Reminder: The Rubenstein Library is closed until Jan. 7!

Introducing the Anna Schwartz Papers

Anna Schwartz in the New York Times, 1982.

I am pleased to announce a new finding aid for one of our newest collections, the Anna Schwartz Papers. Schwartz was an economist at the National Bureau for Economic Research, and collaborated with Milton Friedman on numerous works, including A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960. She also served as the executive director of the United States Gold Commission from 1981 to 1982. Her papers are an exciting addition to the Rubenstein’s Economists’ Papers Project.

The vast majority of the Anna Schwartz Papers are all business: her research and subject files on banking, monetary policy, currency, and the Federal Reserve; Gold Commission materials, including correspondence with fellow commissioner Ron Paul; collaborations and correspondence between Schwartz and Milton Friedman; and numerous articles and lectures by Schwartz from throughout her 70-year career. One bit of material that shows a more personal side of Schwartz are her many datebooks, from the 1950s to 2012, which help document her appointments, schedule, and contacts over the course of her life. I also really enjoyed seeing material from her time at Barnard College in the 1930s. She seemed to constantly win honors there, including Phi Beta Kappa.

Dozens of datebooks from the Anna Schwartz Papers
Dozens of datebooks from the Anna Schwartz Papers.

Upon Schwartz’s death earlier this year, her New York Times obituary described her as “a research economist who wrote monumental works on American financial history in collaboration with the Nobel laureate Milton Friedman while remaining largely in his shadow.” Now, with the opening of this collection, Anna Schwartz’s contributions and scholarship are finally out of the shadows, so to say, and freely available for everyone to use.

Post contributed by Meghan Lyon, Technical Services Archivist.

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.

A Family Affair

In the University Archives, it is not unusual to interact with students and alumni who have familial ties to Duke. It is not often, however, that we obtain collections with such steep ties to the university like the Dorothy Newsom Rankin Papers. Rankin has the distinction of being the daughter of a Trinity College graduate (Class of 1899), an alumna herself (Class of 1933), a faculty wife, and the mother and grandmother of Dukies.

As I processed the collection, it quickly became obvious that Rankin was an archivist at heart. There were handwritten notes throughout which said “give to the Archives.” She understood and realized the value of what she had accumulated and its significance to preserving and sharing pieces of Duke’s history. The bulk of her collection centers on her father’s time at Trinity and her life as an active and engaged alum.

Her father, D. W. (Dallas Walton) Newsom, edited The Trinity Archive, was elected Phi Beta Kappa, and was a member of 9019, Kappa Alpha, and Sigma Upsilon. He was also a successful orator. Prior to entering Trinity College, he learned a form of shorthand, a skill which provided him the opportunity to work as personal secretary to President John C. Kilgo. Newsom kept a student diary, written in shorthand, which describes his daily activities and provides insight into the life of a Trinity student during the last years of the 19th century. The diary and its typescript translation are part of his papers within this collection, in addition to several of his Trinity College textbooks.

Newsom's diary, in bottom left, with Trinity textbooks from the 1890s.
Newsom’s diary, in bottom left, with Trinity textbooks from the 1890s.

Rankin was elected Phi Beta Kappa, served as senior class president of the Woman’s College as well as May Day Queen her senior year, and was a member of Kappa Delta and the White Duchy.  After graduation, she married Professor Robert Rankin. She was actively involved in university life until her death in 2002. The Woman’s College Class of 1933 gift to the university was the tower which holds “Marse Jack,” the bell on East Campus given by Ben Duke in honor of President Kilgo in 1911. In the early 1980s, some faculty and students lobbied to have the bell moved to West Campus. Rankin argued against this and led an effort to keep the bell at its original location because of its relationship to the history of Trinity College. She was successful in this endeavor. The bell is now housed in Bell Tower Residence Hall on East Campus.

Dorothy Rankin underneath the Marse Jack belltower on East Campus.
Dorothy Rankin underneath the Marse Jack bell tower on East Campus.

We also received as part of the Rankin papers, the Kappa Delta sorority rush jumper, worn by Rankin’s daughter Battle Rankin Robinson (Class of 1959), in circa 1956.

Technical Services Archivist Kim Sims poses with a Kappa Delta sorority jumper from the 1950s.

The Dorothy Newsom Rankin papers are available for use in the University Archives within the Rubenstein Library.  For more information, visit the finding aid.

Post contributed by Kimberly Sims, Technical Services Archivist for University Archives.