Category Archives: Technical Stuff

Nell Irvin Painter Reflects

Date: Monday, 13 September 2010
Time: 4:00 PM
Location: Rare Book Room
Contact Information: Amy McDonald, 919-681-7987 or amy.mcdonald(at)duke.edu

Photo by Robin Holland.

With a career that has stretched from top public universities and the Ivy League to institutions in Italy, Ghana, and France, Nell Irvin Painter brings her rich experience to a personal consideration of African American women in academia. In “Alone and Together: One African American Woman’s Experiences in the Academy,” Dr. Painter will reflect upon her professional successes and challenges, as well as her career-long exchanges with several fellow African American women scholars.

Dr. Painter’s professional and personal papers, which are held by the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, have recently been opened to public research. For more information about her papers, visit the collection inventory or contact special-collections(at)duke.edu.

This program, part of a year-long celebration of the 15th anniversary of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History, is the first in a series of two events co-sponsored by the Franklin Research Center and the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute.

For more information about the second event, hosted by the Franklin Humanities Institute the following day, please visit the event’s webpage.

Hot New Finding Aids!

Is the heat wave getting to be too much to bear? Head on over to the RBMSCL and do some research in our cool reading room!

Full Frame Festival Program, 2007. From the Full Frame Archive Film Collection.

Full Frame Archive Film Collection, 1998-2010

The largest film festival in the United States entirely devoted to documentary film, the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival has been an annual highlight of Durham’s cultural scene since 1998.

In 2007, Duke University Libraries and Full Frame, with support from Eastman Kodak and Alpha Cine Labs in Seattle, announced the creation of the Full Frame Archive, to be housed at the RBMSCL, with the aim of acquiring, archiving, and preserving copies of all of the Festival’s award-winning films. The Full Frame Archive Film Collection comprises preservation masters of documentary films that won awards at the Full Frame Film Festival between 1998 and 2010. Each year’s festival will bring new additions to the collection!

Confederate States of America Collection, 1850-1876

One of our older collections has a brand new finding aid. This perennially-popular collection includes a wide variety of records from the administrative bodies within the Confederate States of America, including original and typed copies of acts and statutes of the C.S.A. Congress, Army soldiers’ correspondence and papers of several Army units, and records from the Treasury Department. There might even be a clue about the lost Confederate gold!

Preserving Duke’s Webpages (At Least 457,009 of Them)

Archive-It's capture of www.duke.edu/web/joecollege

As I was preparing for my last year at the School for Information and Library Science (SILS) at UNC, I knew that I needed to gain some practical experience in the library field in addition to my current part-time job. At SILS, I became fascinated with electronic records and how they are being preserved for the future. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) defines electronic records as “any information that is recorded in a form that only a computer can process and that satisfies the definition of a record.” The actual definition of a record can vary slightly depending on who is consulted (i.e., NARA or the Society of American Archivists).

I contacted Duke’s University Archivist, Tim Pyatt, who put me in touch with Seth Shaw, the Electronic Records Archivist. Unbeknownst to me, Tim and Seth had been discussing the need of preserving information found on Duke’s various websites. When I approached them about a possible field experience, they felt that this would be a good project for me to assist with.

Online material has become an integral part of many institutions and Duke is no different. In order to preserve this information, web sites need to be collected and archived. Out of all the ways to do this (and there are many), we decided that the Internet Archive’s tool, Archive-It, would be the best option. Before starting to capture websites, we created a policy that defined what types of materials we wanted to collect. I used that policy to select the websites of 350 out of 500 Duke student organizations for capture.

This project provided me with a good amount of hands-on experience that will definitely be beneficial as I pursue my career in library science. Although I’ve finished my field experience, there will soon be a new field experience student to take up the reins and assist Seth in making sure that part of Duke’s cultural heritage is preserved.

Post contributed by Stephanie Brantley, RBMSCL Technical Services field experience student.

Gee, Paperclips are Expensive…

Archival supplies are often the overlooked backbone of special collections. Imagine if we didn’t have boxes to hold all those priceless papers, or rubber stamps to warn everyone that the enclosed tintypes were “FRAGILE”?

Stainless Steel Paperclips

Boxes, folders, envelopes, interleaving paper: all of these things have been specially made treated to be acid-free, lignin-free, and archivally safe for the materials we store in them. They are designed to extend the life of our collections by preventing items from shifting during transport, or letting users grab a sturdy folder instead of a delicate manuscript. Some boxes and folders are chemically engineered to absorb oxidative gases from items like old newspapers, preventing them from yellowing or damaging other papers that might be stored in the same box.

Specially designed supplies usually result in extremely expensive supply costs for a special collections library. Regular cardboard boxes can cost as little as a dollar, while our archival boxes for letter-sized paper cost as much as $10. Oversized material requires extra-large folders and boxes, which can run as much as $40 per box! Even tiny supplies pack a punch: stainless steel paper clips, for example, cost a whopping 8 cents per paper clip. Regular paper clips are much cheaper (less than 1 cent), but they also rust and damage paper.

As archivists, we want to protect our collections so they will last as long as possible. Special supplies, while expensive, are critical to our success.

Post contributed by Meghan Lyon, Technical Services Assistant.

A Jazz Master’s Papers Come to Duke

Frank Foster, ca. 1970s. From the Frank Foster Papers.

The Jazz Archive at Duke University announces the recent arrival of the Frank Foster Papers. Foster is one of the leading jazz saxophonists, big band leaders, and composer/arrangers of the post-World War II era. While serving as the primary arranger for the Count Basie Orchestra since the 1950s, Foster continued to compose and arrange for a variety of ensembles, receiving two Grammy Awards in the 1980s for his work. In 2002, Foster received the Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The papers (which range from 1927 to 2009) reveal Foster’s personal and professional lives. Scores and parts composed or arranged by Foster for jazz big bands, as well as business records, publicity, reviews, and news clippings documenting Foster’s career, are complemented by personal correspondence, photographs, and a variety of Foster’s own prose writings. There are also roughly fifty hours of concert recordings featuring various bands Foster performed in.

While portions of the papers are currently open for research, the entire collection should be processed and available for use by the fall of 2010. If you’d like to arrange a visit to view the collection, or if you have any questions, please e-mail us at special-collections(at)duke.edu.

Post contributed by Jeremy Smith, Jazz Archivist.

April Showers Bring New Finding Aids!

Our technical services archivists have created a veritable deluge of new finding aids for some of our older collections. All of the following collections are open for research. Please contact the Special Collections Library at special-collections(at)duke.edu with any questions.

Japanese Matchbox Label Collection, circa 1910

400 vividly-colored Japanese matchbox labels are mounted in a contemporary paper album and housed in a custom-made cloth box. Unfortunately, the name of the person who created this marvelous collection is unknown.

Ann Atwater Interviews, 2006

Master and use copies of Jeff Storer’s oral interviews with Ann Atwater, an African-American civil rights activist based in Durham regarding her friendship with Ku Klux Klan leader C. P. Ellis.

Montrose Jonas Moses Papers, 1789-1960

The papers of this drama critic, journalist, and author of works on American and European drama and on children’s literature includes correspondence with giants of the turn-of-the-20th-century theater, including Eugene O’Neill, Percival Wilde, David Belasco, and Margaret Anglin.

Thomas Lee Settle Papers, 1795-1949

The papers of this Virginia surgeon, said to have pronounced the death of abolitionist John Brown, shed light on the practice of medicine in the 19th century. Of particular interest are documents detailing Settle’s own medical service for the 11th Virginia Cavalry.

Afghanistan in Pictures

Jirga with Kaniguram in background.
From the R. B. Holmes Afghan War Photographs, 1919.

The harsh and beautiful landscape of Afghanistan has been the site of many conflicts, including the Anglo-Afghan Wars of the early 20th century. The RBMSCL’s Archive of Documentary Arts has recently acquired a collection of 34 black-and-white prints of the 1919 war taken by British photographer Randolph Bezzant (R. B.) Holmes, who owned a photography studio in Peshawar, Pakistan. The majority of these well-preserved, highly detailed, and skillfully composed images depict large British military camps and vast landscapes, sometimes with camel caravans or military convoys. Some scenes show the remains of villages, military features such as towers, and religious structures. The landscape views include the Khyber Pass, Tanai Gorge, Kabul River, and Khargali Ridge. Military camp views, many in grand panoramic scale with fine detail, include Landi Khana, Dakka Plain, and Landi Kotal.

For more information about the collection, take a look at the collection guide. If you’d like to arrange a visit to view the collection, or if you have any questions, please e-mail us at special-collections(at)duke.edu.

Post contributed by Tim Pyatt, University Archivist and Associate Director of the RBMSCL

Merry New Finding Aids!

A few new finding aids to make your season merry and bright. All of the following collections are open for research. Please contact the Special Collections Library at special-collections(at)duke.edu with any questions.

A poster from the Durham Savoyards’ 1972 production of The Mikado.

Durham Savoyards Records, 1898-1989 and undated

This collection contains the archives of the Durham Savoyards, a Durham production company of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. Dating from 1898 to 1989, the materials consist of minutes, correspondence, programs, financial records, posters, director’s notes, stage design, photographs, videocassettes, color slides, and clippings. The collection also includes “The Savoyards, Durham Savoyards Limited, 1989” and “Mindful of the Whys and Wherefores; a Savoyard Producer’s Journal” by James L. Parmentier. Photographs predating the 1963 founding of the Savoyards depict comic operas said to have been performed at Durham’s Southern Conservatory of Music.

American Association of University Women Records, 1913-1976 and undated

The records of the American Association of University Women’s Durham chapter span the years from its founding in 1913 through the 1970s. The central organizational records are almost complete for this period, including minutes of Executive Board meetings, Presidents’ files, financial records, membership information, and national and state convention files.

Baher Azmy Papers, 1986-2007 and undated

Azmy, an Egyptian-American lawyer and Professor of Law at Seton Hall University Law School Center for Social Justice, was the attorney for Murat Kurnaz, a citizen of Turkey and permanent resident of Germany, who was held in extra-judicial detention by the U.S. military at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. The material documents Professor Azmy’s legal motions and public efforts for writ of habeas corpus and the release and repatriation of Mr. Kurnaz.

New Finding Aid: The South Asian Pamphlets Collection

Indian Handicrafts, July 1963
Indian Handicrafts, July 1963



The RBMSCL’s South Asian Pamphlets Collection (collection guide here) contains some 7500 pamphlets published in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka between 1920 and 2005.

These English-language publications were received by Duke University’s Perkins Library over four decades through the Library of Congress South Asia Cooperative Acquisition Program (SACAP).

The pamphlets cover such topics as agriculture, arts, economic development, education, industry and commerce, international relations, politics and government, religion and philosophy, rural development, tourism, and women. In particular, the pamphlets form an impressive body of primary sources on ethnic and political conflict, as well as the effects of wars, poverty, and mass education, and issues regarding Islam and other religious traditions.

Researchers wishing to use these pamphlets should note that the entire collection is stored in our off-site storage facility. Please contact the RBMSCL (special-collections(at)duke.edu) at least 24 hours before your visit so that we can request the pamphlets you’d like to see.