Category Archives: New Finding Aids

A Different Take on “Yes We Can!”

Currently, there is a debate among faculty at the University of Chicago regarding whether or not President Barack Obama’s presidential library should be erected on campus.  Duke University experienced a similar debate in 1981, in what is today referred to as the Nixon Library Controversy.

For a little background, we turn to the Committee Against the Nixon –Duke Library (CANDL) Records finding aid:

In late July 1981, Terry Sanford initiated negotiations with former president Richard Nixon (Duke Law 1937) to locate the Nixon presidential library on the campus of his alma mater. When this information was revealed to faculty members during the week of August 10, 1981, many opposed the proposition as well as Sanford’s failure to consult the faculty prior to initiating negotiations.

Many who opposed the library had moral objections to memorializing a president whose behavior in office was reproachable, and they feared a negative effect on the university’s reputation. Other concerns included the effects of greatly increased tourist traffic on campus and the aesthetic nature of the large proposed structure. However, supporters of erecting the Nixon Library on campus argued that the scholarly and academic benefits of locating the vast Nixon Presidential Materials collection on campus should and would outweigh any moral concerns. These supporters tended to denounce the actions of vocal dissenters as divisive and/or arrogant.

Meetings of the Academic Council and Board of Trustees during September and October 1981 were dominated by this debate, and a group of faculty formed the Committee Against the Nixon-Duke Library (CANDL) to organize the efforts of faculty, students, alumni, and others opposed to the proposed library. Although the Academic Council voted not to recommend further negotiations with Nixon in a 35-34 decision September 3, 1981, the Board of Trustees later voted 9-2 to proceed. By April 1982 negotiations had stalled, and a year later Nixon’s representatives announced that a site at Chapman College in San Clemente, California, had been chosen for the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library.

Duke University Archives houses several collections related to the Controversy.  Our most recent acquisition is the Peter Wood Papers on the Nixon Library Controversy.  Wood was Professor of History during this time and was a member of CANDL.  Included in his papers is the following flyer:

CANDL Flyer, ca. 1981
Click to enlarge.

For more information about the Nixon Library Controversy, we invite you to consult resources within Duke University Archives, including the following collections:

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

Haitian Children in Guantanamo

Boy with fish in Guantanamo Camp #9, ca. 1994-95. From the Americans for Immigrant Justice Records.

We recently completed processing the Americans for Immigrant Justice (AIJ) Records. Formerly the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC), AIJ is a not-for profit legal organization that advocates on behalf of immigrants and refugees, including those being held at various detention centers, such as Guantanamo, Krome and Turner Guilford Knight. The majority of the material in this collection deals with the Haitian refugee population in Florida. Two aspects of this collection struck me. First, while this collection contains material that addresses the Haitian refugee crises from a broader political and historical perspective, it is notable for the quantity of material it contains that focuses on the stories and testimonies of individual refugees, in their own words, in documents such as affidavits and correspondence.

The second aspect of this collection that struck me as particularly interesting is the amount of material it contains on children – child refugees and detainees, children seeking asylum, children stranded in Haiti, and especially unaccompanied minors. As I became more familiar with this collection, I became especially interested in the detained child as both a fact and an idea. Sifting through accounts both by and about children of their emotional, mental, and physical experiences in detention, I began to wonder how the search for asylum and subsequent detention is conceived of by children.

The reason why this subject fascinated me is because of the strong incongruity in the idea of the child, on the one hand, and the idea of imprisonment of any kind, on the other, an incongruity that suggested to me that accounts of children in detention might uniquely illuminate how we think about detention and refuge. We often associate children with places of refuge, with a powerful need for and unique faculty to find or construct places of refuge. One example of this faculty is play. As I looked through photographs of and read testimony by children detained at Guantanamo, I began to wonder what place “play” has in detention, in homelessness, and in lack of refuge.

Boy holding guitar in Guantanamo Camp #9, ca. 1994-95. From the Americans for Immigrant Justice Records.

The subset of documents about which I am writing are dated from around the early and mid-1990s, during and following the campaign of terror against Aristide supporters. One must bear in mind that the majority of Haitian refugees held at Guantanamo at this time were forcibly returned to Haiti where their lives were imperiled (5,000 Aristide supporters were estimated to be killed in 1993). In fact, many of the children detained at Guantanamo were unaccompanied for precisely this reason – their parents or caretakers had been killed in Haiti during this period. As the AIJ Records reveal, many of these children, upon repatriation, were thus compelled to eke out a living on the streets.

So, how does the child reconfigure the way we conceive of detention? Three photographs from the Photographic Materials Series caught my attention. After I selected them, I asked myself why I had been drawn to them, and I realized that in each, a child or children were holding some kind of object – a fish, makeshift drums, a guitar.

I considered these photographs against the written testimony about and by children detained at Guantanamo (information packets, emergency action requests related to medical conditions, correspondence, affidavits, reports, etc.). The written documentation described abuses, including rape, that were committed at Guantanamo against women and children. Child detainees, not surprisingly, wrote of their desperation and depression (their own words), and observers of these children offered similar accounts. Yet, these children not only subsist at Guantanamo but also, as the photographs above communicate, find ways to play. It is not difficult to perceive a form of resistance in their play, in their insistence upon occupying places that we cannot envision as inhabitable. I was likewise captivated by the photographs in which children are holding objects because they seem to me to manifest the construction of places of refuge within displacement and dispossession. The subjects in these photographs seek asylum in the objects themselves. There is something about gripping an object, possessing that object, that also solidifies the reality of oneself – and this in a place in which that very reality is relentlessly objected to – in abuse, obscurity, neglect, remaining unheard.

Boys playing drums in Guantanamo Camp #9, ca. 1994-95. From the Americans for Immigrant Justice Records.

Post contributed by Clare Callahan, graduate student assistant in Rubenstein Technical Services and the Human Rights Archive.

Wooshes, Whistles, Crowd Roars, and Seal Screams

"Footage of Ocean" Reel from the Freewater Films CollectionThe name Freewater Films is perhaps best known for the film series it puts on in the Bryan Center. But in addition to these screenings, it is also responsible for providing workshops and support for amateur film-making by Duke students and community members.

The origins of Freewater Productions Films can be traced to 1969, when the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation gave funds for students from the Duke University Union Visual Arts Committee to make a 16mm film. In November 1970, several students produced an original film (called Dying), using a 16mm Bolex camera borrowed from the Union. Described by the maker as “a woman’s surrealistic encounter on an island,” Dying went on to win first prize at the Association of College Unions’ 1971 International Film Festival.

Over the years, Duke students produced a number of cutting-edge films under the auspices of Freewater, ranging from documentaries on urban Durham to science fiction and horror films set in the Duke Hospital. (The 1984 film A Medical Scutwolf in Durham tells the story of a doctor who becomes a werewolf.)

Sound Effects Reels from the Freewater Films CollectionSaved in a variety of formats—including DVDs, VHS, Betamax, and 16 mm film—the Freewater Productions Films archives are now housed at Duke University Archives. They have recently been arranged in order by date, format, and title. In some cases, “unofficial” titles had to suffice, as in the reel titled “Footage of Ocean,” pictured above. Those that arrived in rusty cans or unstable cardboard boxes were transferred to archival plastic “cans.”

Pictured at left is a group of 21 sound effects from the collection, labeled as: “wooshes, whistles, crowd roars, and seal screams.”

We’re looking forward to the day when these historic films may be screened again!

Post contributed by Jessica Wood, William E. King intern for the 2011-2012 academic year.

The Doris Duke Collection Reimagined

Since August of 2009, when the Doris Duke Collection first opened for research, patrons using the collection have regularly shared with me two pieces of feedback. First is that there is no historical timeline capturing the major events in Doris Duke’s life that could provide context for the collection. The second is the challenge of navigating such a large and complex collection. Because the Doris Duke Collection is divided into smaller collections and the Rubenstein Library holds other collections that contain materials related to or about Doris Duke, discovering all the various parts can beguile even the most seasoned of researchers.

Acknowledging the merit of this feedback, staff from the Rubenstein Library, including me and Noah Huffman, the Archivist for Metadata and Encoding, teamed up with Application Developer, Will Sexton, Web Developer, Derrek Croney, and Digital Projects Developer, Sean Aery from the Duke University Libraries Digital Experience Services to create a “people portal” to the Doris Duke Collection.  The expectation is that this portal will both introduce you to Doris Duke and some of the wonderful materials within the collection, and assist you in effectively navigating the collection and therefore having greater success in finding the materials you’re looking for.

Screen-capture of the Interactive Timeline

The portal has four major features. The first is the interactive timeline, highlighting key events in Doris Duke’s life. By visually representing her life we hope to offer a quick glance to facts and information about Doris Duke. There are several really snazzy features to this timeline. You can scroll from event to event by clicking on the arrow to the right or the left, or if you’re interested in jumping around in the timeline, let’s say to see what Doris was up to in the 1940s, you can scroll the timeline bar below and select a specific year and associated event(s).

Screen-capture of the portal's Biographical History
Screen-capture of the portal's Doris-related collections list

The second feature is the Biographical History. This presents the events in a more linear fashion and not only offers an enticing sample of the material or materials in the collection related to that particular event, but guides you to the collections within the Doris Duke Collection that contain additional information about that event. The idea is to connect the physical materials in the collection to a more abstract event. So for example, if you want to see a selection of materials related to Doris Duke’s wedding to James Cromwell and their honeymoon, you can locate the event and then click through some materials related to that event. You can then select the “Sources” hyperlink. This shows the three collections that contain material(s) related to this event.

The third feature of this portal is perhaps the most exciting. To help you have a fuller research experience, we have included all the collections within the Rubenstein Library associated with Doris Duke, with a direct link to each of the finding aids. By scrolling down this list, you’ll not only see the various smaller Doris Duke collections, such as the papers associated with the Shangri La residence, but other collections within the library that contain materials about Doris Duke. These collections include the James B. Duke papers, since he was her father, and the Duke Endowment Archives, since she was a board member. This list will expand as we not only open additional materials in the Doris Duke Collection but also as we continue to find collections and resources in the library related to Doris Duke.

The final feature is a quiz to test your knowledge of Doris Duke. We wanted to provide an entertaining way to introduce newbies to Doris Duke and also test those who think they know everything about her. We think you’re in for some surprising revelations!

Screen-capture of the Doris Duke trivia quiz. (Answer: True.)

Since this people portal is the first of its kind, we welcome your feedback and any suggestions for improvement. Visit the live people portal here. If you want to learn more about the technology behind this portal, including the use of Encoded Archival Context (EAC), a newly adopted XML standard for encoding information about the creators of archival materials and the circumstances of record creation and use, see Will Sexton’s blog (with the most awesome title ever!) Engineering the Killer Rabbit: How We Represented a Timeline of Doris Duke’s Life in XML.

Post contributed by Mary Samouelian, Doris Duke Collection Archivist.

A Home for our Dragons (and Ghosts, and Bunnies…)

One of my ongoing processing projects for the past year was to arrange and describe the Edwin and Terry Murray Collection of Role-Playing Games, a vast collection with thousands of books, boxed games, miniature pieces, card sets, magazines — all relating to the world of RPGs. Most of these items received individual attention. For example, each volume in the collection has been described at an item level, including its title, publisher, and year, to better help our patrons browse across the various game worlds and decades of RPG publishing. Users can download a spreadsheet from the finding aid and search and sort the materials to their heart’s content. Since these materials are all stored offsite, I also included each box or volume’s barcode to speed the recall of these materials to the reading room.

Cart of RPG books, ready to go offsite
Cart of RPG books, ready to go offsite

One of the best parts of working with RPGs was the fact that they contain such colorful and imaginative artwork. Even if I didn’t have any interest in playing the game, the covers of the many volumes or boxes easily grabbed my attention. Some of the highlights? For me, the movie-based games were always fun to find.

Who You Gonna Call? Ghostbusters!
Who Ya Gonna Call? Ghostbusters, of course.

I also enjoyed learning more about the many, many variants and knock-offs of Dungeons and Dragons — why reinvent the wheel when you can just change the words around a bit? But the funniest, in my opinion, were the games that clearly tried to reach new audiences — like these two games aimed at people who liked bunnies.

Wabbit Wampage RPG
Wabbit Wampage and Bunnies and Burrows: 2 different RPGs featuring scary smart rabbits.

You may remember our blog posts about the Rubenstein Game Night, celebrating the opening of the collection last winter. Since then, we received another very large addition, and we needed to work closely with our Conservation Department to figure out how to house the hundreds of hand-painted figurines and miniatures that arrived with the collection. I think they had as much fun as I did down in the lab. Check out this post from Preservation Underground to learn more about stabilizing and housing the tiny dragons and other creatures that make up the Miniatures, Props, and Pieces Series. And, be sure to view the photo essay on Flickr for detailed shots of the pretty and gruesome monsters in the collection.

Post contributed by Meghan Lyon, Accessioning Associate in the Technical Services Dept.

The Peacocks’ Gift

Ethel Carr Peacock Memorial Collection Bookplate
An Ethel Carr Peacock Memorial Collection Bookplate

Last fall, The Devil’s Tale posted “What’s in a Name,” where readers were asked to vote on their favorite name from a list accumulated from across our collections. The winner (although votes are still being accepted!) was Dred Peacock.

Peacock graduated from Trinity College (now Duke University), married the daughter of a Trinity professor, and eventually became President of the Greensboro Female College. Peacock and his wife, Ella, created an immense library which they established at the Greensboro Female College in memory of their daughter Ethel, who’d died at a young age. The Peacocks stipulated that should the College close, they could remove their collection and establish it elsewhere. Years later, when it appeared the College would in fact close its doors, the Peacocks moved their library to Trinity College, which by this time had moved from Randolph County to Durham.

We recently uncovered several scrapbooks created by the Peacocks. They contain clippings, programs, and invitations from the late 19th century and largely relate to events and news regarding Greensboro Female College and Trinity College. One clipping that caught my eye highlights the professions of Trinity graduates by 1887: 275 graduates went into the ministry, 49 went into law, 66 went into teaching, 20 went into medicine, 11 went to the quill, and the rest to merchandising and agriculture. Of its alumni, 5 were judges, 7 were solicitors, 11 were either presidents or professors of leading colleges, 49 were members of legislatures of different states and territories, and several were in congress from 2-8 years.

Pages from the one of the Peacock Scrapbooks
Pages and Loose Programs from the one of the Peacock Scrapbooks

Curious about the other fascinating items contained in the scrapbooks? They are now available for use in the Rubenstein Library’s reading room. Check out the online finding aid for more details about the scrapbooks1

Post contributed by Kim Sims, Technical Services Archivist for the Duke University Archives.

Vive la France! et Manuscripts!

A few months ago, I processed the James Ludovic Lindsay Collection of French Manuscripts, which is by far the largest collection I have processed since I started working in Technical Services in October. As a freshman, I was incredibly excited to work on this collection. The collection is composed of 223 items, mostly letters and administrative papers, all dating to the French Revolutionary era (late 18th and early 19th century). Though the collection may not seem extremely appealing, unless you are an administrative papers-type person, it did have a few gems that are worth noting.

Let me begin with a little background on the collection. The collection was assembled by James Ludovic Lindsay, the 26th Earl of Crawford, and formed part of the larger “Bibliotheca Lindesiana,” a sizeable private library that Lindsay inherited from his father, Alexander, in the mid-1800s.  Like his father, Lindsay had a passion for French Revolutionary writings. While Duke does not hold Lindsay’s entire collection (it was auctioned to many different entities), we have acquired a few items that are quite unique.

Sophia and French manuscripts
Processing the Lindsay Collection of French Manuscripts

For example, scattered amongst mostly legal and administrative papers, I discovered a letter addressed to the Emperor Napoleon from a lawyer, Arnoud Joubert. The document was in perfect state, with no visible damage at all. I was most surprised by Joubert’s writing style (we also possess other letters from him). One would think that writing to an Emperor, especially once the monarchy had fallen, would require extreme politeness. However, Joubert did not make an extra effort towards Napoleon. This document, Box 3, Folder 160, made me wonder if there were other items of interest in the collection.

One such letter, from Cardinal Albani addressed to Alexander I, Emperor of Russia, requests the Emperor’s protection from French authorities. What is most interesting about this letter is that it is well-known that Alexander I and Napoleon had a tense relationship, and that Alexander often referred to Napoleon as “the oppressor of Europe and the disturber of the world’s peace.”  This just shows that despite the fall of the monarchy, which hypothetically should have lessened tensions in France, and pleased most French citizens, certain individuals still searched for asylum in other foreign countries.

Another thing that I was not prepared for was how the documents were dated. Many of them used the old French Republican calendar. Unlike our Gregorian calendar, this calendar began with the fall of the French Republic in 1789, which was then renamed Year I. For a little over 12 years, this calendar replaced the commonly used Gregorian calendar in France.

Processing this collection definitely improved my knowledge of older French, and I am confident I can now read any sort of handwriting. Some of the pieces were near illegible, and it was sometimes difficult to decipher what was being said. But do not worry: if you ever have to write a paper on this period, or even if you are just curious about old French manuscripts, you should take a look at these documents.

Post contributed by Sophia Durand, Technical Services student assistant and Trinity ’15.

Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel

A monthly series highlighting the Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel Collection Project and the woman behind the documents.


Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel is a fierce advocate for art in fashion, design and architecture and a leading voice on some of the defining urban issues of our time, including preservation of the historic built environment of the United States. The impact of her work is all around us.  Have you been inside re-adapted buildings?  Diamonstein-Spielvogel was one of the pioneers of adaptive reuse of buildings throughout the country.  Have you seen “Historic neighborhood” medallions on street signs in numerous major cities?  She pushed for those (and still does).  As we start the New Year, we are excited to announce the Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel Collection, a new addition to the Rubenstein’s Archive for Documentary Arts.

Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel helps to commemorate the inventor of Scrabble with an historic street sign.

Diamonstein-Spielvogel’s interest in the relationship among the arts, public policy, community and politics has charted the course of her career, fostered her involvement in national and local institutions and organizations, and earned her many awards and honors. As the first Director of Cultural Affairs for New York City, she brought the first public art to Bryant Park in 1987 and the first public performance by the Metropolitan Opera to Central Park. Diamonstein-Spielvogel was appointed by President Reagan to the board of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and by President Clinton to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, where she was elected its first woman vice chair in 2002. In 2010, Barack Obama appointed her as a commissioner of the American Battle Monuments Commission. She has written 20 books and dozens of magazine and newspaper articles and has served as interviewer/producer of nine television series for the Arts and Entertainment Network plus several programs for other national networks, many of which Duke has made available in the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Video Archive.

Diamonstein-Spielvogel's latest book, Landmarks of New York: An Illustrated Record of the City's Historic Buildings

As part of the two-year Diamonstein-Spielvogel Collection Project, we will be processing the 200-plus boxes of manuscripts pertaining to her life and career.  The project will culminate in an exciting exhibit in 2013. In our next post, look for information on Diamonstein-Spielvogel’s work with famous designers and artists including Calvin Klein, Adolfo, Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Nevelson, Jeanne-Claude and Christo, Roy Lichtenstein, and Sam Maloof.

Post contributed by Ruth Cody and Caroline Muglia, Graduate Interns for the Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel Collection Project.

Juanita Kreps and the Merger of the Duke Woman’s College, 1972

Working on the Economists Papers Project at the Rubenstein Library this summer introduced two Duke economics graduate students to an inspiring and impressive figure who shaped the histories of both Duke University and the United States: Juanita Morris Kreps.  The description and arrangement of 58 boxes of her professional papers was made possible in summer 2011 by Matthew Panhans and Nori Takami, with funding from the Center for the History of Political Economy.

Krep's senior portraitBorn into a childhood of poverty in the small mining town of Lynch, Kentucky in 1921, Juanita Kreps emerged as one of the top students at Berea College, earning her a scholarship to study economics at Duke University, where she completed her M.A. and Ph.D.  She joined the faculty at Duke in 1955 and served as Dean of the Woman’s College and as Associate Provost; in these roles she oversaw the controversial 1972 merger of the Woman’s College and the men’s Trinity College to form the present coeducational undergraduate Trinity College of Arts and Sciences.  As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of that merger in 2012, many of us may not be aware of its deep significance to the history of Duke and to the future for women in higher education. Kreps’ papers hold many files of correspondence from alumna who responded to her calls for comments, accompanied by letters, speeches, and memoranda written by Kreps which reveal her own insights into this monumental change.

In 1972 Kreps became the first woman to hold the prestigious James B. Duke chair, and in 1973, Kreps was named a Vice President of the University.  In 1976 she left Duke to serve as the first female Secretary of Commerce under President Carter, also the first academic to serve in this role and the fourth woman ever to be a part of the Cabinet.  As the Secretary of Commerce, she was an advocate for the business community while also encouraging business to look beyond profits and towards social responsibility to workers, consumers, and the public.

Kreps at her deskPerhaps rooted in her humble beginnings in Kentucky, her academic research maintained real-world relevance.  Much of her work was on the value of women’s work, women’s education, and labor issues related to aging populations.  These and other topics that remain relevant today pervade her speeches, which are both witty and moving.  The plethora of thank you notes accompanying each speech offers clear evidence of the power of her words and ideas – but if this is not enough to convince you, come to the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library and read them for yourself!

Post contributed by Paula Mangiafico, Senior Processing Archivist for the Rubenstein Library. Matthew Panhans is an M.A. student in Duke’s Department of Economics. Norikazu Takami is a post-doctoral fellow at Duke’s Center for the History of Political Economy.

One for the Refrigerator Door

Painting by Doris Duke, 1924

Doris Duke—the only daughter of Duke University benefactor James Buchanan Duke and noted philanthropist and patron of the arts—painted this lovely scene in 1924 at the age of eleven. It is part of the Doris Duke Papers, donated to the Rubenstein Library in 2009 by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and now open for public research.

Further details about the extraordinary collection may be found in the official press release, or by reviewing the collection’s finding aid.