The artistic response to societal tragedy is always a difficult balance: how can art contribute to understanding and interpreting, without aestheticizing suffering? In the past decade, films, novels, and other creative approaches to events such as the Holocaust, 9/11, and the conflict in Darfur have provoked controversy and debate about art’s place in the discussion of international politics and personal suffering.
Shortly after the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s 2005 landing on the Gulf Coast, the RBMSCL acquired a unique artist’s book, Katrina by Beth Thielen, made in 2007. An opening supported by waves of paper reveals tiny human figures trapped in a whirlpool, begging for help. The text asks, “How do we make a just society when there is an underlying contempt for helplessness?”
In correspondence with this post’s author, the artist explained: “I made the work because the moment was such a clear and rare reveal of the darker undercurrents of our country…. During Katrina we all watched the images of people with outstretched arms pleading towards the sky. Is there any image more archetypal of helplessness? It is a crying baby’s pose. Reproachful disdain to helplessness… is as primitive as a school yard bully calling someone a crybaby after taking their candy.” She continues, “To feel with is to feel for. A civilized response.”
Thielen’s work joins another artist’s book in the RBMSCL’s collections, Habitat by Jessica Peterson, which explores Katrina’s destruction of Biloxi, Mississippi. Both works add to our collections of Southern Americana and artists’ books by women. Nearly 300 more works of fiction, films, essays, and scholarly works on Hurricane Katrina can also be found in the Duke Libraries’ online catalog (see these catalog records here).
Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections
On the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the Iran Hostage Crisis, the RBMSCL will host a discussion of the changing role of the eyewitness account in the creation of historical narrative—with Iran as the context.
Mark Bowden, author of Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam, will talk about the interviews he conducted with hostages and hostage-takers in the 1979 crisis, as well as the information he obtained from military officials about 1980’s failed rescue attempt.
Negar Mottahedeh, associate professor in Duke’s Program in Literature, will speak about social networks and new media in the reporting of current events in Iran. Professor Mottahedeh posts frequently on Twitter about developments in Iran (follow her here).
The discussion will be moderated by Bruce Kuniholm, dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy and a member of both the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Policy Planning Staff during the Carter administration.
Library staff have prepared a LibGuide in conjunction with this event. Of particular interest, the RBMSCL holds the interviews Mark Bowden conducted (collection guide here), as well as the interviews that author and Duke alum Tim Wells conducted with 36 of the the 1979 hostages (collection guide here).
What does it mean to be an educated woman? Find out at the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture’s 4th Biennial Symposium, held in honor of the 40-year career of Bingham Center co-founder and Duke University professor Jean Fox O’Barr.
Three conversational sessions focused on scholarship, pedagogy, and activism will explore this central question. Speakers will include Dr. O’Barr’s colleagues and former students, as well as librarians whose work relates to women’s education.
Friday evening’s keynote address (4:00 PM; White Lecture Hall, Duke University East Campus) will be given by Dr. Lisa Yun Lee, the Director of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago and the creator of the Jean Fox O’Barr Professorship at Duke University. Dr. Lee will explore the parallels between her studies as a feminist scholar at Duke and her work as the museum’s director.
As with the Bingham Center’s previous symposia, the theme emanates from a collection strength. The center’s holdings—described in this research guide—include printed materials and manuscripts including the papers of professional educators, schoolgirl diaries, and records of women’s schools and women’s educational organizations.
Information on registration, travel, and the symposium schedule can all be found online.
Post contributed by Rachel Ingold, Bingham Center Intern and Conservation Technician
Date: Thursday, 22 October, 2009 Time: 12:00 PM Location: Rare Book Room Contact Information: Jeremy Smith, 919-660-5839 or jas5(at)notes.duke.edu
Join us as the Jazz Archive hosts this fall’s second installment of John Brown’s “Jazz Conversations.” Brown, Associate Professor of the Practice of Music and Director of the Duke Jazz Program, will discuss jazz history and contemporary developments in jazz with Vincent Gardner of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Guests are invited to bring their own lunches—but dessert and drinks are on us!
Archives are the foundations through which society maintains its continuity with the past and preserves the present for future generations. Archivists are trained professionals who select, maintain, describe, and assist the public in locating archival records in their care.
Please join us in this celebration of the North Carolina record by telling us about your own experiences visiting this state’s many wonderful archives!
The press dubbed Doris Duke “the richest girl in the world” when she inherited a fortune from her father, Duke University founder James B. Duke, in 1925 at the age of twelve. Upon her death in 1993, Duke left the majority of her estate to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The Foundation recently gave its historical archives to the RBMSCL. The Foundation’s historical archives, 800 linear feet of materials (an amount that, stacked vertically, would be four times taller than the Duke Chapel), includes photographs, architectural drawings, and motion picture footage of Doris Duke and the Duke family.
Records of Duke’s Foundation for Southeast Asian Art and Culture, the Newport Restoration Foundation, and the Duke Gardens Foundation are in the archives as are documents related to the operation of her properties: Duke Farms, a 2,700-acre estate in Hillsborough, New Jersey, that her father created at the turn of the 20th century; Rough Point, the Duke family mansion in Newport, Rhode Island; and Shangri La, her home in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she exhibited her extensive collection of Islamic art.
All of the materials in the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation historical archives will be open for research in about two years when processing of the materials has been completed.
Date: Thursday, 15 October, 2009 Time: 5:00 PM Location: Rare Book Room Contact Information: Patrick Stawski, 919-660-5823 or patrick.stawski(at)duke.edu
Ambassador Muñoz will read from and sign The Dictator’s Shadow: Life under Augusto Pinochet. The winner of the second annual WOLA-Duke Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America, this poignant and wide-ranging memoir recounts how Chileans brought the former dictator to account for his crimes. Ariel Dorfman, the Walter Hines Page Chair of Literature and Latin American Studies and a long-time friend of the ambassador, will give the introduction. Duke University’s Gothic Bookshop will sell copies of the book. This event is co-sponsored by the Duke Human Rights Center and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.
Ambassador Muñoz was Deputy Foreign Minister of Chile from 2000 to 2002 and Minister Secretary General from 2002 to 2003 at La Moneda Presidential Palace before assuming his present post as Chile’s ambassador to the United Nations. He was imprisoned and exiled by the Pinochet regime for his political views.
When the first shipment of U.S. Senator Willis Smith’s papers arrived at Duke University in 1954, it numbered some 50,000 items—all paper documents. A photograph of that collection’s arrival has been kept in the collections of the University Archives. It shows Mattie Russell, then curator of manuscripts, and Jay Luvaas, then the director of the George Washington Flowers Collection of Southern Americana, sorting through reams upon reams of papers in the Library’s vault—which we still have, incidentally. It looks like something that Al Capone might have used.
Today, the staff of the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library (RBMSCL) still arranges and describes reams of paper documents, although we are honing our computer deconstruction skills as more of those documents are born digital. We also curate collections of rare printed materials, teach classes and organize events, and help people with a broad range of research and information needs. We want to use this blog to inform you about what we do: about our events and exhibits and projects, about our newly-acquired collections and our favorite treasures, and about the many reasons the RBMSCL is such an exciting place. So come visit us often!
And, by the way, the Willis Smith Papers have grown: the collection now contains 97,813 items. That’s over 130 linear feet of archival records. You can check out the collection inventory here.
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University