This post is contributed by Paula Jeannet, Visual Materials Processing Archivist, and is part of “An Instant Out of Time: Photography a the Rubenstein Library” blog series.
My work as a photographic archivist often includes improving the housing of the thousands of photographs found in older collections in the Rubenstein Library. One such group of seventy-eight photographs was recently discovered in the Isabelle Perkinson Williamson Papers, a collection of letters chiefly between Isabelle and her mother. The Perkinsons were residents of Charlottesville, Virginia, where several family members served on the faculty at the University. Isabelle married a civil engineer, Lee H. Williamson, in 1917 and traveled and lived abroad with her husband. World War I found Lee Williamson serving in the 55th Engineers of the American Expeditionary Forces in France. The collection includes his military ID card as well as some wartime correspondence.
As I sorted and sleeved the bundle of photographs, I came across a single studio portrait of three children that didn’t seem to fit in with the others, chiefly because of the children’s dress:
Turning it over, I observed a stamp from the Red Cross Bureau of Photography, and the address of a Madame Bras in France:
An online investigation using the negative number on the print and key words such as “Red Cross photographs” quickly turned up a matching digitized glass plate negative, part of the Library of Congress’s American Red Cross negative collection of over 19,000 scanned images.
The caption reads: “Jeanne Le Bras, adopte. Address: Mme. LeBras, Haut du Bourg Plogastel St. Germaine (Finistere Pres Guimper) protégé of: 302 Ambulance Co. Sanitary Train, Care Company Clerk. American Expeditionary Forces .” The photographer is recorded as Joseph A. Collin, who took many of the images found in the Red Cross collection.
Here’s what I learned from the Library of Congress site and other resources: in the aftermath of World War I, whose events we continue to commemorate in 2019, thousands of refugee families and orphaned children were “adopted” by American troops and cared for by American Red Cross staff. The Red Cross hired professional photographers to document the organization’s efforts in Europe; they took hundreds of portraits of refugees and orphan children. The images may have been used in many ways: to find lost families; to publicize children available for adoption, or to record their successful adoption. As an interesting sidelight, I discovered that one of these photographers was Lewis Hine; his camera recorded over 1100 images for the Red Cross and are also part of the Library of Congress collection.
Some of the images in the Library of Congress Red Cross collection show signs of heavy editing: children were erased from group portraits, perhaps because they had already been adopted, and in some cases, adult figures blocked out. The latter was a common practice of the 19th century – explore this phenomenon by searching online for “hidden mothers photography.”
The Library of Congress caption for the single image found in the Rubenstein collection names only one child out of the three, Jeanne; it is not clear which one was Jeanne, but one hopes that all three were adopted and raised by kind families. Also a mystery is how the photograph came to live with the others in the Isabelle Williamson collection. It may have originated from Isabelle’s husband, who served in World War I, or from a friend of the family, Mary Peyton, who was a field nurse in World War I.
There is an abundance of primary source material on World War I in the Duke Libraries – images as well as papers. “Views of the Great War,” a Rubenstein Library online exhibit, is a great way to learn more about this world-changing event as revealed through our collections.
Post contributed by David Dulceany, Marshall T. Meyer Human Rights Intern and PhD candidate in Romance Studies
El Pueblo Inc. is a Triangle area Latinx organization based in Raleigh, NC. They strive for the local Latinx community “to achieve positive social change by building consciousness, capacity, and community action.”  El Pueblo Inc. has been involved in policy change by lobbying state and national politicians and pushing for legislation that benefits the Latinx community, raising health awareness, and especially, spearheading public safety campaigns. For example, in past campaigns, they have focused on reducing drunk driving and encouraging the proper use of child car seats. The organization also specifically focuses on youth issues and youth leadership. They have a separate Youth Program division tasked with running programs for Latino youth that are youth-led. One example is Pueblo Power, a social justice and community-organizing program.
La Fiesta del Pueblo is the organization’s major annual cultural event and it was also the founding event of the organization.  La Fiesta del Pueblo features live music, food, arts, and information booths. The event, as well as El Pueblo Inc. itself, has grown exponentially since its inception in 1994. Over the past 25 years, the event has gone from just a few tents and booths to a massive cultural festival spanning several blocks of Downtown Raleigh and boasting tens of thousands of attendees.
North Carolina, similarly, has seen a tremendous growth in its Latinx population since El Pueblo’s founding. The Latinx population of North Carolina grew by 943% from 1990 to 2010 and it continues to grow: on average, 25% per county from 2010 to 2017.   North Carolina now has the 11th largest Latinx population in the United States.  Naturally, El Pueblo expanded to meet the needs of the growing community and developed a wide array of programs and campaigns as a result.
I felt an immediate affinity for the material in the archive because of my studies and previous work with Latinx communities and with Latinx literature, art, and culture. As a doctoral candidate in Spanish and Latin American studies, I have had the opportunity both as a student and an instructor to engage in experiential and service learning projects with a number of Latinx organizations. I admired seeing how El Pueblo tirelessly fought for the promotion of Latinx culture and the rights of Latinx workers, students, and families in the state.
One joy of working on an archive containing records from recent history is the ability to directly connect to the ongoing development and work of the organization. For example, I attended La Fiesta del Pueblo 2018 and saw firsthand the successful growth of the event, especially comparing it in my mind to the many old photographs of the early years. Through this experience, I had a more intimate and direct sense of the archival material, being able to engage with it in the present.
One example of an interesting item from the collection is the Public Service Announcement ads created by El Pueblo as part of their Nuestra Seguridad Public Safety campaign, a collaboration with the NC government. These ads were the direct response to the rise in DWI incidents among the Latinx population and the resultant xenophobic and racist backlash from concerned citizens and local government officials. Their message is clear, one person’s bad judgment or mistake affects the whole community and closes doors to everyone. The aggressive tone of the ads is strongly expressed in its rhyming slogan in Spanish “¿Manejar borracho? ¡No seas tonto muchacho!” or “Driving drunk? Don’t be dumb, man!”. I find these ads fascinating because they show the success of mobilizing a community to create change, to both increase Public Safety and defend against discrimination.
I believe that this collection would be of interest to any artists, educators, researchers, students, activists, or non-profit workers that want to learn more about the history of the Latinx population in North Carolina and Latinx culture, non-profit organizations in North Carolina, Youth leadership, and the debate on immigration reform post 9/11. The breadth of audiovisual material could also be used in exhibits or as part of book projects.
In our current context of rising anti-immigrant sentiment and policy, El Pueblo Inc.’s ongoing work is ever more relevant and needed.   Their records offer a look into the recent history of the state and how the organization has impacted and strengthened Latinx communities in North Carolina.
Post contributed by Jessica Janecki, Rare Materials Cataloger
Today’s blog post features a photograph album of 20 gelatin silver prints that depict women loggers at work in England during World War I. This item is from the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection which documents women’s work across the centuries, from the 13th to the 20th. We chose to highlight this photograph album because it unites two of the Rubenstein’s collecting areas, women’s history and documentary photography.
Although the title, Glimpses of Women’s Work in the Woods, verges on the whimsical, these photographs show young women hard at work doing the grueling manual labor that, until the Great War, had been done almost exclusively by men.
The women depicted in the photographs were members of the Timber Corps. During World War I, forestry, like many male-dominated industries, was left critically under-staffed and the British government encouraged women to do their part for the war effort by taking on these vital jobs. The images show women loggers felling trees with hand-axes and saws, trimming and “barking” felled trees, carrying logs, and driving horses. These photographs were taken in the summer of 1918 around the towns of Petworth and Heathfield in Sussex, England.
These images were captured by HoraceNicholls, a British documentary photographer and photojournalist. He had been a war correspondent during the Second Boer War and later returned to England to work as a photojournalist. Prevented from serving in World War I due to his age, in 1917 he became an official photographer for the Ministry of Information and the Imperial War Museum, documenting life on the home front.
The series was not issued commercially and the album in the Baskin Collection appears to be a unique production. The 20 gelatin silver prints are carefully mounted on cream card stock with gilt edges. The binding is full red leather with the title in gold on the front cover and spine. Each print has a hand lettered caption. Click this link to view the full catalog record.
Post contributed by Laurin Penland, Library Assistant for Manuscript Processing in Technical Services
Locus, the Magazine of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Field, was started in 1968 by Charles N. Brown, Ed Meskys, and Dave Vanderwerf as a science-fiction news and fan zine, and it’s still going! For all of the years that the staff have been creating the magazine, they’ve also been saving and collecting correspondence, clippings, and books by and about science-fiction, fantasy, and horror writers. In 2018 the Rubenstein Library acquired this massive collection (almost 1,000 boxes). It will be a while before we finish processing and cataloging all the books and papers, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t share a sneak peek of the project mid-process.
A Few Highlights
I recently finished processing the manuscript portion of the collection, which includes seven boxes of files relating to more than 800 authors. My favorite part of these files is the correspondence, the bulk of which was written between 1960 and 2009. Many writers wrote to Locus to share news that could be included in the magazine or to quibble about inaccuracies and to suggest corrections. Overall, the correspondence creates a sense of community among a very diverse and spread-out group of writers; people wanted to know who was publishing what, who changed agents, who was involved with such-and-such scandal or lawsuit, who died, who got re-married, etc. Fans may swoon over the signatures of Octavia E. Butler, Arthur C. Clarke, Issac Asimov, and Ursula K. Le Guin (to name a few). Many of the letters are amicable, some are irate, and some are sassy and humorous. Here, one of my favorite writers, Octavia E. Butler, writes to make an important and sErious correction:
Researchers will find evidence in these letters of a thriving community of writers, publishers, and editors all working to create relatively new and modern genres of fiction.
Perhaps of special interest to fans and scholars will be the international ties of the collection, especially to Eastern Europe, the U.S.S.R., China, and Japan. Below, Alexander Korzhenevski provides a report about a science-fiction conference in Sverdlovsk (U.S.S.R.). He writes that the 1989 convention “was the biggest (so far) SF convention in the Soviet Union.” Later in the report he alludes to publishing organizations in the U.S.S.R. by describing how two books arrived at the convention: “Both books were published through (not by, because cooperative organizations here still have no publishing rights) new publishing cooperative organizations (one of them “Text” is headed by Vitaly Babenko), and both of them were delivered to the convention by fans by train (no help from state book-trading organizations).” Korzhenevski’s file also includes a flyer for his business, which is described as “the very first independent literary agency in Russia, operating since 1991.”
This collection has the best stationery by far of any manuscript collection that I have processed. I wonder what researchers in the distant future will think about these creative designs? Here are 14 of my favorites:
Post contributed by Paula Jeannet, Visual Materials Processing Archivist
This post is part of “An Instant Out of Time: Photography at the Rubenstein Library” blog series
A recently acquired photograph album offers a study of the landscape, culture, and the realities of travel in a remote region in the steppes of Central Asia, through the camera of British Army officer Sir Percy Molesworth Sykes. Charged as acting Consul-General in Chinese Turkestan, now Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, Sykes had to travel from England to the capital city of Kashgar. In an unusual turn of events for the time, he was accompanied on this arduous overland journey by his sister, Ella Constance Sykes, also a Fellow of the Geographical Society and a well-regarded writer on Iran.
In March 1915, when the two set off for their arduous nine-month journey, World War I was in full tilt, thus their northerly route through Norway. Meanwhile, in Central Asia, after decades of conflict which included the Crimean War, Russians, Turks, English, Chinese, and British Empire troops from India, were still grappling to extend their control over these strategically important regions. Lieutenant Colonel Sykes’ camera recorded the presence of these nationalities.
In researching this collection of photographs, I discovered that brother and sister also recorded their experiences in a co-authored travel memoir, Through deserts and oases of Central Asia (1920, available online); it includes many of the photographs found in the album. To find a written companion piece to a photograph album is a stroke of luck, as with its help I could confirm dates, locations, and a historical context for the photographs found in the album.
Ella Sykes wrote Part I of the memoir, which describes the journey in vivid detail, and her brother, Part II, which focuses on the region’s geography, history, and culture. In her narrative, Ella occasionally recounts taking photographs of various scenes, such as the image on page 92 of women at a female saint’s shrine. A note in the image index states that “The illustrations, with one exception, are from reproductions of photographs taken by the authors” (emphasis mine); clearly, some of the book’s illustrations are her work. The question arises, did she take any of the images found in the album?
Of the photographs in the album that also appear in the Sykes’ book, several are found in the section written by Ella, leading one to think perhaps she took them, including a different version of this group, found in the album:
However, the title of the photograph album, handwritten in beautiful calligraphic script, states: “Photographs taken by Lt. Col. Sir Percy Sykes to illustrate Chinese Turkestan, the Russian Pamirs and Osh, April-November, 1915.”
With this title in hand and my cataloging hat on, and without firm evidence of Ella’s hand in the album’s images, I officially record Sir Percy Sykes as the album’s sole creator.
Through researching the context for Percy Sykes’ photograph album (a copy of which is also held by the British Library), I learned a bit about the history of the region and of his role in the administration of British affairs. I was also serendipitously introduced to Ella Sykes. Even though in her fifties when she traveled, she clearly had great stamina as a horsewoman and adventurer, and was a keen observer of the people, landscapes, and animals she encountered. Sir Percy writes in the book’s preface: “To my sister belongs the honour of being the first Englishwoman to cross the dangerous passes leading to and from the Pamirs, and, with the exception of Mrs. Littledale, to visit Khotan.” (p. vi) Ella Sykes was a founding member of the Royal Central Asian Society and a member of the Royal Geographical Society as well. She died in 1939 in London, while her brother Percy died in 1945, also in London.
For more information about the photograph album, see the collection guide. The album is non-circulating but is available to view in the Rubenstein Library reading room. It joins other Rubenstein photography collections documenting the history of adjacent regions in the Middle East, Central Asia, Russia, India, and China.
Post contributed by Maggie Dickson, Metadata Architect, Digital Collections and Curation Services
As the metadata architect in the Digital Collections and Curation Services Department at Duke University Libraries, I have the opportunity to work on the design and development of many fabulous digital collections. This includes the Radio Haiti Archive, which has been one of the most interesting—and challenging—projects I’ve worked on throughout my 10+ years of working with digital collections.
Over the past few years, we’ve been standardizing our metadata practices across digital collections so that they will be more scalable and sustainable—we’ve learned the hard way that the more specialized a collection is, the more prone it is to breakages and difficulties over time. The Radio Haiti project needs are really specialized, and the metadata (description) is rich, granular, and multilingual. So, striking the right balance between standardization and specialization is definitely a challenge.
One of the foundational goals of the NEH grant we received for our work with Radio Haiti is to make sure that the collection is accessible to people in Haiti as well as the Haitian diaspora, and therefore we needed to provide description in three languages: English, Haitian Creole, and French. While we’d worked with metadata in multiple languages before, we’d never worked with trilingual content, and the technology we use to present and manage our digital collections doesn’t accommodate multilingual metadata in a sophisticated way. To get around this, rather than create lots of custom metadata fields just for this collection, we decided to use our standard fields, such as title, description, and subject, to store the multilingual content. The metadata displays in the item record and is keyword searchable and, in the case of subjects and formats, faceted. This isn’t the most elegant solution, but it works, and when the digital library community develops support for multilingual content, we will be ready!
Beyond figuring out how to present the metadata to users of the archive, it has also been an ongoing challenge to figure out how to manage the workflow for the development of the metadata—not only is it complex, it is voluminous! Created iteratively by project archivist Laura Wagner and her team of intrepid translators, the metadata passes through several hands and undergoes quite a few transformations before it is ready to go live on the website. Therefore, it has been critically important that we continuously review and revise our process to make sure nothing gets lost or distorted along the way. So many spreadsheets!
Through much careful consideration and many meetings with project staff, I think we’ve achieved a good balance between meeting project needs and being responsible to the long-term health and sustainability of this and other digital collections. That being said, we still recognize the inherent limitations to providing broad accessibility to this important content—despite the inclusion of multilingual metadata in the digital collection, it is still embedded in a predominantly English language website for an academic research institution located in the United States. And as project archivist Laura Wagner stated in an earlier blog post, “Radio Haiti’s digital archive is not only for scholars writing about Haiti; it isn’t even principally for them. It is for everyone.”
We’re experimenting with a few options to try to address this limitation, including engaging in ‘digital repatriation’ by distributing flash drives loaded with content to cultural heritage organizations in Haiti, standing up pilot collections of the content to reach a broader audience using YouTube and the Internet Archive, and improving the performance of the digital collection in low-bandwidth environments.
Working on the Radio Haiti Archive has been a challenge both in technological ways as well as how we think about collections, collecting, and access. Providing broad, equitable access to our digital collections, through our use of metadata and otherwise, is an intense and critical challenge, but one which we are beginning to tackle with intentionality and enthusiasm.
The processing of the Radio Haiti Archive and the Radio Haiti Archive digital collection were made possible through grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Post contributed by Eline Roillet, Translator for the Radio Haiti Archive
“What do you know about Haiti?“ asked Laura during my interview in September 2017. I knew it was a Caribbean country where Creole was spoken; I knew it had suffered a devastating earthquake almost a decade ago; and I knew it struggled economically. And that was about all I knew.
“Well,” she said, “you’re going to learn a lot more”.
And thus began my journey with Radio Haiti. As a French Master’s student in literature, I am in charge of translating thousands of broadcast descriptions from English to French. I love translation. It requires not only the ability to understand the sentences in a text, but their very essence too, and in turn to channel this essence into another dialect. Spelling, conjugation and vocabulary are crucial, of course, but to be a good translator, one must also look beyond the words and explore the context.
The very first description I translated was about the Battle of Vertières which I promptly researched in order to make sense of who Jean Jacques Dessalines was and his significance for Haiti. To my astonishment, the battle was fought between the Haitian rebels and the French colonial army. In all my years in the French educational system, I was never taught about French colonialism. I never knew Haiti was the first successful slave revolution, nor that France asked for an independence debt, which greatly contributed to Haiti’s economic woes.
I felt like I was learning a whole new history, one much less European-centric. Over the course of the last 13 months, I got acquainted with Erzulie and the other Lwa; I admired paintings by the Mouvement Saint-Soleil; I was introduced to the liberation theology; and I learned about how the US devised strategies to control and influence the Western hemisphere. What an eye-opening experience!
This new knowledge has changed the way I think about Haitian history and spilled over in to my everyday life, sometimes in unintended ways. For example, I recently met a Dominican young woman at a bar and when she announced her nationality, I eagerly asked her what her take on antihaitianismo was, upon which she looked at me like I had three heads and declared “This is not the kind of thing I want to discuss at a club.”
Still, the Radio Haiti project has taught me more than I ever could have thought about history, geopolitics, and the cultural context of 1970-2000, and I can honestly say that I am learning more and more every day.
Mèsi anpil Laura and Radio Haiti staff for the experience!
The processing of the Radio Haiti Archive and the Radio Haiti Archive digital collection were made possible through grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Post contributed by Laurin Penland, Library Assistant for Technical Services
Update: Coming Out Day has been postponed due to rain and will be happening October 27th.
In celebration of Coming Out Day on October 11th, I would like to introduce our blog readers to a special scrapbook. Recently, the Rubenstein Library acquired and digitized the Joe H. Hernandez scrapbook. We do not know many biographical details about Hernandez. My esteemed colleague Allie Poffinberger cataloged the scrapbook and discovered that Hernandez “was born in 1924 and worked in the San Antonio General Depot between 1951-1954.” Other facts: he was an Army veteran; he attended night clubs and dance halls; he dressed in feminine and masculine clothing (I am using male pronouns here, though I do not know what this person’s preference might have been); he was probably a member of the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities.
Hernandez’s scrapbook is both intimate and wide in its scope. It shows a life full of friendship, romance, glamour, and travel. Early on in the scrapbook there is a souvenir flyer from Billy Berg’s, a night club in Hollywood. The flyer is dated 1948 and signed by musician and showman Slim Gaillard. After a little sleuthing, I found out that the club was known for being racially integrated and for being the first club on the West Coast to host Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Billy Holiday also performed there.
Another souvenir in the scrapbook is a matchbook from The Colony Bar, an openly gay bar that existed in Kansas City, Missouri in the 1960s. It was the kind of place that threw Tea Dances and flashed the lights on and off when they were about to get busted. Oh, how I wish I knew more!
The ticket stubs, matchbooks, flyers, and signed photographs are enough to create a national map of LGBTQ life in the U.S. from the late 1940s to the 1960s. I wish that I had the time to create this map and to describe the nightlife in detail. I also want to know more about Joe H. Hernandez and his friends and family. So, if anyone’s out there, reading this, and you would like to do further research on this scrapbook, please do and please share your findings!
Also, I want to take a moment to appreciate all of my colleagues who acquired, described, preserved, and digitized this scrapbook. Thanks to you all, this scrapbook is now available for anyone in the world (who has internet access and/or can visit the reading room) to research.
And, Happy Coming Out Day! To learn more about the Rubenstein Library’s LGBTQ materials, please stop by and say hello at our table at the Bryan Center.
Not all of the films are available, unfortunately, as not all have been digitized yet. Only the football game films that have been requested by our users and digitized within the last ten years or so can now be viewed by anyone. The story of how these films became available is a bit complicated, and demonstrates why making digitized content of archival materials is never as easy as folks might think.
The football game films have been in the archives since the 1980s, with additions coming in occasionally. The older films are all actual films – 16mm films, to be more precise. Later films were made on video, including Betacam and DVCam. In total, there are about 2,500 films representing more than 80 years of football games at Duke.
Staff have made copies of some game films for people to view since the originals first came the Archives, and as time went on the format of these copies changed: we have use copies of films on VHS, Betacam, DVD, and digital files.
To keep an inventory of these films, Archives staff created an Access database in the mid-2000s, which includes both football and basketball films. This database included the date of the game, the opponent Duke played, and the outcome of the game, as well as how many films had been made of the game and what boxes they were in. The database was later made available onlineso people could search it and find games they were interested in seeing, and also included some information about use copies.
Unfortunately, the database was difficult, and then impossible, to update. We received more films from Duke Athletics, and more use copies were made, but the database didn’t include these new items. Also, our methods of keeping track of individual films changed. Our current archival practice for handling sound and motion picture recordings is to give each item a unique number so we can track it, and track any copies made of it. The database was made before we assigned these unique IDs to the films, so staff created a spreadsheet with information from the database plus the unique ID assigned to each film.
What’s more, we now manage all of the information about all of our collections in a separate, much larger database, ArchivesSpace. The sports film database could not talk to ArchivesSpace, and the spreadsheet version with the unique IDs wasn’t formatted to go into ArchivesSpace, either.
By 2016, we had well over a hundred boxes holding a couple thousand films of football games (and a similar situation with basketball films), and we had quite a lot of description about the games divided across several places, plus use copies of films and a few dozen digital files of games that people had requested, none of which were easily accessible to the public.
We know people want to see these films. We want people to see these films! So we set to work to figure out how to get a full list of all the games we had, in the same place and format where we keep all the information about our collections; how to let people know which ones have been digitized already; and also let people actually watch the ones that have been digitized.
First I had to get all the metadata about the films together into one place, formatted consistently, with the unique IDs we use to track them included. This involved lots and lots of spreadsheets. I used the original Access database, two different Excel spreadsheets that had been created to assign unique IDs and format data, and OpenRefine. I spent a lot of time cleaning up dates, moving things around, and just so much copying and pasting. I also had to figure out how to organize the films in a way that made sense both to human beings looking at the lists and the way ArchivesSpace stores and displays description. Finally, after months of wrangling spreadsheets, I got the description for football films from the 1930s through 1993 organized by opponent, in chronological order, with any other description we had (final score, what part of the game an individual film covered), and into ArchivesSpace. We created a collection guide that was available online, showing all this information, hooray!
After that, there was still a lot of work to do to get the digitized films available for streaming online. I worked closely with Craig Breaden, the Audiovisual Archivist, to figure out what had been digitized and where those files were. Craig and I also worked extensively with Molly Bragg and Moira Downey in the Digital Production Center to get the digitized films into the Duke Digital Repository, the home of our digital collections. Moira did a ton of work and was very patient with me while we worked out how to do this, since it involved once again making sure the metadata we had was formatted in a way that worked with the DDR systems, that we knew what and where the files were, and many other steps.
Once Moira did the bulk of the work in getting the films into the DDR, there were still a few steps I and my colleague Noah Huffman needed to do to make sure the films would be visible within the collection guide. We were able to make sure metadata from the DDR went into ArchivesSpace, then once Molly’s team published the digital collection, reposted the collection guide. And voila!
Getting digitized archival material available for almost seamless viewing by the public takes a lot of preparation and work behind the scenes. The technologies we use to make copies of recordings, the methods we use to keep track of our materials, and the way we store and display materials online all change rapidly and frequently, so any endeavor like this, even one that seems simple, takes multiple people, multiple systems, and a surprising amount of time. So far, there are 38 films from the Football Game Films Collection available online, but there is still a lot of work to be done with this collection: there are more films to add to the collection guide, and other copies made of films that we hope to make available.
The staff of University Archives is very excited to make the digitized football films available, and we’re glad all our work went in to something we think a lot of people will enjoy. I’m currently working on repeating this process with the Basketball Films, so stay tuned!
Post contributed by Laura Wagner, Ph.D., Radio Haiti Project Archivist
In a 13 July 1998 editorial, Jean Dominique of Radio Haïti-Inter reflected on the geopolitical implications of World Cup soccer, focusing in particular on Haitian love for the Brazilian national team. This passion, and the political ramifications of soccer, continue to this day. Just last week, the Haitian government raised gas prices during the Brazil-Belgium World Cup match, in very wrongheaded hopes that people would be too distracted to notice.
Transcript of original editorial, translated from French:
“La France Métisse”: this is the headline splashed across the front page of an Italian newspaper. “Long live King Zidane,” says the one in Algiers – Zidane is of Algerian descent. The victory of the French team yesterday presents certain social dilemmas: Jean-Marie Le Pen’s blood must have boiled to see the Stade de France streaming with black people and beurs (beurs are French people of North African descent). Soccer is no mere sport ; it is something else as well, and the World Cup has geopolitical implications. But in Port-au-Prince, one has to wonder about the phenomenon of Haitians willing to shed their blood for Brazil or Argentina. At first glance, this appears quite strange. In the aftermath of the World Cup, would it not be thrilling and fun to examine how things unfolded at home and elsewhere, beyond technical and professional terms and 4-2-4 formations, penalties, red cards, or semi-finalists?
If the vast majority of Haitians are as head-over-heels in love with Ronaldo as are the residents of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, we should seek the cause of this phenomenon. Is it a sense of Latin-American belonging? Is it a racial reflex? — for Brazil, or at least Brazilian soccer, has been strongly permeated with African diasporic origins. Let’s not forget King Pelé or the brown-skinned Ronaldo himself. But then why would we have in our midst so many fans of Argentina, which has nothing to do with Blackness? Our fervor for and aggressive attachment to foreign soccer teams stem from other factors: outsized love for the game, of course, and in the momentary absence of a national team, the people of our land want to take part in a collective passion. We must love together. And, alas, we must also hate together.
Let us recall Carnival ‘98, let us recall those Sundays of sport and culture organized so skillfully by Dady Lescouflair. Throughout all the neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, we came together to appreciate wholesomeness, sport — all sports! — and painting. And so it must be that for us, soccer draws upon collective urges that have as much to do with politics as they do with religion. Let us add immediately that in Haiti, during this month of the World Cup, the political fervor for Brazil and Argentina would seem at first glance to have nothing to do with imminent political choices; some of the candidates have even argued that soccer represents a new opium to distract the masses from pressing economic concerns… But bear with me.
A less simplistic explanation for this phenomenon should allow us to pose other questions, for Haiti’s passion for soccer retraces the very lines that define and connect our world. We should not dismiss the political ramifications: the popularity rating of Chirac and Jospin and France demonstrates that a national team’s victory can be taken advantage of by politicians. But if we zoom out a little more on this World Cup, we discover first off, as did the journalists of Manière de Voir in a special edition of Le Monde Diplomatique that just happened to be devoted to this very World Cup ‘98, that there exists such a thing as a geopolitics of soccer in our world today. It is as global a phenomenon as the economy, but it differs from the globalization of the economy in a crucial way. Whereas the world economy is dominated by the United States, with Wall Street reigning supreme over the stock markets while Hollywood dictates global culture, in the world of soccer, Brazil is the superpower and the United States plays no role at all. One can see perhaps a parallel with today’s geopolitical dynamics, with the main difference being that a global superpower in soccer arouses universal goodwill and the admiration of all, which is not the case for the United States.
The latter has had some curious reactions to the World Cup. Earlier today, I recalled yesterday morning’s mise-au-point in the New York Times. I recently noted the francophobia on display in weekly and daily newspapers during the preliminary matches at the Stade de France. Subsequently, the special envoys changed course, bouncing back by highlighting France’s successful organization of the World Cup. But this only further revealed the feelings of exclusion the Yankees feel in the face of the globalization of soccer zeal. Barely 12% of viewers from New York to Los Angeles watched the games, while some thirty-eight billion people, all told, sat before their television screens around the world. A bit of humor emerges, however, from this American sense of social isolation and exclusion — these Americans who, as everyone knows, prefer baseball and American football to soccer — they call it soccer, by the way, not football. Michael Elliott, the resident francophobe at Newsweek, losing his luster, evokes the hope — wait for it — that his compatriots might start playing soccer in the future, and he adds, with a touch of humor, that it is high time for the American barbarians to begin to civilize. Let us recall with some nostalgia that even Shakespeare was anti-soccer and that in King Lear, one finds the king himself addressing a peasant — which is to say, a man of the people — as a “base football-player.” Well, well!
So, reading that declaration by Michael Elliott, with the barbarians on one side and the civilized on the other, I remembered a joke from a Marine colonel, who said of our country, quote: “How can you expect a people to evolve after nineteen years of occupation, if they have never even learned to play baseball?” A people that cannot learn to play baseball is not a civilized people, according to that Marine colonel. This World Cup has indeed avenged our footballing people…
This perhaps is taking us away from clashes between Haitian fans of Brazil and of Argentina. But have we truly departed from the questions that these strange passions present to us? A mystery remains, certainly, but the vapors of this opium will dissipate quickly, and the realities of everyday life will quickly resume. It will remain once again a diffuse state of mind. The masses of our homeland, like those elsewhere, are able to come together around a collective passion, to transform it into a sort of mobilization. And in the lingering indifference to the electoral crisis of 6 April 1997, is there not an indication of a collective awakening soon to come? It remains to be seen what the motivations of this coming awakening might be…
Finally, a small suggestion to one and all concerning the political crisis: why should there not be a decision — at the state level obviously, parliamentary of course — to offer Ronaldo Haitian citizenship, bring him to Port-au-Prince, and then appoint him Prime Minister? But of course, there is the matter of his grandmother’s papers…
Special thanks to Dr. Grégory Pierrot for transcription of the original French text. He recently reflected on race, colonial legacies, and what the 2018 French national team represents to French people of African descent over at Africa is a Country. Thanks also to Eline Roillet for help with this translation.
 Jean-Marie Le Pen was a far-right French politician who espoused explicitly racist beliefs.
 Evans “Dady” Lescouflair was Haiti’s Minister of Sports and Youth in the late 1990s.
 Lionel Jospin of the Parti Socialiste was the Prime Minister of France under right-wing President Jacques Chirac from 1997-2002.
 Ericq Pierre was appointed Prime Minister by President René Préval, only to have his nomination rejected by an obstructionist parliament because he could not prove his Haitian citizenship by producing his grandparents’ birth certificates.
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University