Teaching Remotely, Staying Connected: Rubenstein Library Instruction Goes Online

Amanda Lazarus, Eleonore Jantz Reference Intern, 2019-2020

Special thanks to Assistant University Archivist, Amy McDonald, for her generous help in digitizing the photobooks used for this session, and to Hannah Jacobs, Wired! Lab Digital Humanities Specialist at Duke University, for consulting on and hosting the photobook WordPress site.

In spring 2020, COVID-19 stay-at-home orders limited access to educational and research resources on Duke’s campus, and the world over. During this time, the Rubenstein Library, which offers object-based instruction sessions for Duke University students, took quick and measured steps to keep teaching, and moved instruction online. Here is a brief look at how one Rubenstein Library instructor converted a scheduled, on-site instruction session on photobooks to a virtual one, and the steps taken to help students connect with Rubenstein Library materials and each other.

Edmonds, John. Higher. New York: Capricious, 2018.

 

After consulting course instructor Phyllis Dooney, we decided to move forward with a virtual, synchronous instruction session for her Digital Photography course, focusing on six photobooks from the Rubenstein Library’s collections that I digitized before the university closed in March. While preparing to move the session online, I tried to anticipate and prevent logistical and/or technological issues that might arise. To that end, I shared several resources with Phyllis and her students in advance of our virtual class:

Lesson Plan

 

The session was conducted via Zoom, and was divided into roughly two hour-long blocks. The beginning of class was reserved for student check-ins–an act of care and connection that Phyllis and I agreed was vital, and one which she had already put into practice in her own virtual classroom. I then followed a more conventional lecture format and introduced students to the Rubenstein Library’s services and collections, and provided a brief historical overview of photobooks.

 

Matyas, Emily. Sol y tierra: vistas más alláde la frontera México-EEUU, 1988-2018. Daylight, 2019.

In the second half of the session, I used Zoom breakout rooms to divide students into small groups, and assigned each a photobook to review using the discussion questions already provided. Students accessed the digitized photobooks prepared in WordPress using the 3DFlipbooks plugin (an attempt to recover some of the browsing and haptic experience of working with a physical photobook that was lost in virtual translation). Afterwards, students shared their findings with the whole class, discussing the images, narratives, technologies, and aesthetic choices they encountered in their photobooks.

Discussion topics the students used in their breakout sessions.

Remote instruction with special collections presents an opportunity to leverage technology to help bridge the gap between the physical and the virtual. For my part, it was a positive experience and helped me to feel more grounded and connected.

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library is committed to providing enriching, collections-based instruction to the Duke community and beyond. As the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly changed higher education, the Rubenstein Library’s instructors have developed new digital pedagogy resources, and offer unique instruction sessions and services through synchronous and asynchronous teaching online.

Gearing Up to Work from Home

The Rubenstein Library transitioned to working from home on March 17. The work of five departments and forty-one staff has continued despite this unexpected change in our daily work, and we continue to move forward on many exciting projects and initiatives, while taking this opportunity to think about our spaces, services, and work in new and exciting ways.

Collection Development
Andy Armacost, Curator of Collections

  • Andrew Armacost, Curator of Collections, has been named a co-director of a new Franklin Humanities Institute Research Lab, entitled Manuscript Migrations, which will explore ownership and provenance in manuscript studies.
  • Sara Seten Berghausen, curator for the Economists’ Papers Archive, has launched a new collections portal with updated information on many newly available collections.
  • John Gartrell, Director of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, has been preparing a major digitization grant proposal to digitize all of the oral histories in the Behind the Veil: Documenting African American Life in the Jim Crow South collection.
  • Rachel Ingold, Curator of the History of Medicine Collections, served as program chair for the Librarians, Archivists, and Museum Professionals in the History of the Health Sciences (LAMPHHS) 2020 annual meeting where on short notice she helped transfer the conference to a virtual format.
  • Laura Micham, Director of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture, has been working with a group of student curators on an exhibit to celebrate the centenary of American Women’s Suffrage.
  • Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist, has been preparing an exhibit related to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, drawn from the recently acquired Witness to Guantanamo Video Collection.
  • Jacqueline Wachholz, Director of the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, is completing a CLIR grant with the University of Miami to document the history of Pan American World Airways. Images from the advertising collections will help document the history of the firm and its worldwide services.
Andy Armacost, Sara Seten Berghausen, John Gartrell, Patrick Stawski, and Jacqueline Reid Wachholz. Not pictured: Rachel Ingold and Laura Micham.

 

Exhibitions
Meg Brown, Head of Exhibition Services and E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation Exhibits Librarian

The exhibition department is creating online exhibits and curating future physical displays, planning to be ready with great visual experiences when our community can safely return to the libraries. With a host of exhibition curators that include librarians, interns, students, and faculty, we have been working on:

  •  A Place Outside the Law: Forgotten Voices from Guantanamo and Suffrage Centenary, as noted above.
  • Early Studies in Parapsychology at Duke, curated by History of Medicine intern Steph Crowell and Rachel Ingold.
  • James Van Der Zee and Michael Francis Blake: Picturing the “New Negro” of the 1920s, curated by John Hope Franklin Center intern Jessica Stark and John Gartrell.
  • 35 Years of East Asian Collecting, curated by International Area Studies librarians.
  • Commemorating Dante. An undergraduate course taught by Dr. Martin Eisner spent the spring semester exploring Dante’s works. For their final projects, students submitted creative and thoughtful proposals for a Chappell Family Gallery exhibition. We will work virtually this summer with Professor Eisner and a few students to make these proposals into an actual exhibition!

And we have created digital exhibitions for two of the current physical exhibitions:

The exhibition department is also taking this time to work with colleagues in Digital Strategies and Technology to migrate older digital exhibitions to the platform we currently use and to explore how we might streamline the creation of future digital exhibitions.

Draft of Guantanamo exhibit on SketchUp: 3D Design Software, created virtually with curators.

 

Research Services
Katie Henningsen, Head of Research Services

Instruction librarians are working with peers around the country to develop remote teaching resources and converting existing courses and workshops to the online environment. In the fall we will offer asynchronous instruction sessions and digital assignments. Developing these tools will allow us to expand our instruction capacity and engage more Duke students and students from other institutions to use Rubenstein Library materials. This summer we are offering our first Digital Archival Expeditions fellowships for Duke graduate students. Seven students and one peer-coordinator are developing online teaching resources and assignments for specific Duke courses in the fall. We are looking forward to having these students’ subject expertise and collaborative work featured on our website at the end of the summer.

Research Services continues to respond to reference questions, reproduction requests, and requests for permissions to publish. The reproduction staff are organizing several years of images scanned for researchers, and they are using those images and digital collections to fill reproductions orders when they can. As we prepare for fall, we are rethinking our services, spaces, and work with researchers to continue providing high-level services in new and exciting ways.

Research Services Staff, clockwise from top left: Katie Henningsen, Jennifer Baker, Kate Collins, Elizabeth Dunn, Joshua Larkin Rowley, Megan O’Connell, and Kelly Wooten. Not pictured: Trudi Abel, Hope Ketcham Geeting, Brooke Guthrie, and Lucy VanderKamp.

 

Technical Services
Meghan Lyon, Head of Technical Services

Creating description of rare materials without being able to look at the item itself is very challenging, but Technical Services staff have found a number of creative ways to keep working from digital copies or substitutes. In the days before leaving Duke’s campus, archivists and catalogers scanned title pages and took photographs of comic books, manuscripts, and other in-process priority projects so that they would have reference images to continue cataloging from home. Combined with Duke’s institutional access to HathiTrust, and using digitized copies of our own materials in the Internet Archive, Technical Services continues to publish new catalog records and collection guides. Our remote work has also included long-desired description for digitized audiovisual, born digital, and electronic media; updating of departmental documentation and policies; and migrating legacy description from paper box-lists to online platforms. And, speaking of migration: Technical Services staff have been deeply involved in the development of ArcLight, a new portal for searching our archival collection guides that launched in July. You can read more about this project on the The Devil’s Tale blog, or check it out yourself at archives.lib.duke.edu.

Technical Services Staff, clockwise from top left: Meghan Lyon, Craig Breaden, Noah Huffman, Tracy Jackson, Paula Jeannet, and Alice Poffinberger. Not pictured: Liz Adams, Jonathan Cogliano, Richard Collier, Jessica Janecki, Leah Kerr, Megan Lewis, Laurin Penland, and Lauren Reno.

 

University Archives
Valerie Gillispie, University Archivist

The University Archives is meeting virtually with Duke offices and student groups, and we have accepted almost a dozen new digital accessions. We are glad to have the technology to fulfill our mission to collect and document Duke’s history! As part of our collecting and documentation, the University Archives launched the Share Your COVID-19 Story initiative in April, which provides Duke students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to share their personal stories. We aim to capture as many experiences of the Duke community as possible so that future researchers will understand not only the administration of Duke, but also the realities of life for the Duke community during this time. Materials in this collection will be available online in late 2020. This summer, the University Archives is also sponsoring a Data+ project, On Being a Blue Devil, which (virtually!) brings together three undergraduates and a graduate student to create visualizations of the geographic origins of Duke students over time. The students will produce maps and interactive features to show how Duke’s student body has changed from a regional cohort to one that includes students from across the country and around the world.

 University Archives Staff, clockwise from top left: Valerie Gillispie, Amy McDonald, Hillary Gatlin, and Matthew Farrell.

 

Research Support in a COVID-19 World: A Series of Anecdotes

On Wednesday, March 11, we made the decision to close the reading room the following Saturday. In those final days the reading room was filled with faculty, researchers, and graduate students utilizing the seven reading room scanners to image material they would need for their courses and research. Our staff immediately stepped in to offer support, routing material for scanning to the Libraries’ Digital Production Center (DPC), digitizing material on staff scanners.  After the reading room closed, staff spent a day scanning material for Duke classes to finish the spring semester. Below are just a few stories of how Rubenstein Library staff are making material available to researchers during the pandemic.

Hope Ketcham Geeting, Research Services Assistant

For the past two years, Building Duke, a Bass Connections course, has used University Archives to research the development of the campus from 1924 through present. During the spring semester, Dr. Kristin Huffman brought the Building Duke students to the reading room multiple times each week for research. As we began preparing to close the reading room, reproduction staff worked closely with Dr. Huffman to digitize the material her students would need to complete the semester. Since scanners were in high demand, many large blueprints went to the DPC for digitization and I worked with Dr. Huffman to digitize the rest in the reading room. Collectively we were able to scan all of the materials needed for Building Duke to complete the semester.

Master plan, existing conditions, 1 sheet, diazo, undated. Sarah P. Duke Gardens records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

 

Matthew Farrell, Digital Records Archivist

Since my work is mostly back-of-house, I don’t frequently work with Rubenstein Library researchers directly. That said, since starting remote work in mid-March, I’ve been as busy as ever. Making newly (and in some cases, not-so-newly) acquired born-digital files ready for our processing archivists to describe has taken a front seat and involves:

  • Identifying collections appropriate for remote arrangement and description (e.g., collections that are not too large, have as few “weird” file formats as possible);
  • Refining documentation, which was definitely geared toward having physical access to our spaces and collections; and,
  • Juggling remote access to our electronic records processing workstations.

Similar to on-site work, this involves a lot of wrangling information in various forms (e.g. spreadsheets, calendars, documentation) and keeps the boredom at bay.

Keeping track of collections ready for remote arrangement and description.

 

Amy McDonald, Assistant University Archivist

For the University Archives, the end of each academic year usually brings a flurry of discussions with undergraduate student group leaders interested in archiving their groups’ past year of records. This year—even as students scattered to their homes and the University Archives staff began working from home—was no different. Digital Records Archivist Matthew Farrell and I worked with a number of student groups—including the Native American Student Alliance, theater performance group, All of the Above, and the Duke Club Ballroom Dance—to either archive new records or begin conversations about what the archiving process would look like for them. We’re so pleased that the pandemic hasn’t prevented these student voices from joining the University Archives’ collections!

Photograph of Black Caucus 2019 leaders, 18 September 2019. Black Student Alliance records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

 

Kelly Wooten, Research Services and Collection Development Librarian for the Sallie Bingham Center

At the end of March, after closing the Rubenstein Library’s reading room, I noticed a tweet from the account @fanzines looking for the zine Girl Jock from the early 1990s. They were having trouble locating copies after seeing a mention of the title. The Bingham Center has a few issues in our zines and periodicals collection, and I recalled taking pictures of the covers in a history class session on Men, Women, and Sport earlier in the semester. We don’t have the zines digitized, but these handy photographs were able to fulfill some curiosity on the fly. The reply from @fanzines: “Wowowow! Thank you so much, Kelly! This is awesome. Interesting that they made the leap to a professionally printed magazine.”

From the Collections

Kelly Wooten, Research Services and Collection Development Librarian for the Sallie Bingham Center.

For over twenty years, the Rubenstein Library has offered travel grants for researchers. The first grant began with the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture’s Mary Lily Research Travel Grant program and grew to include the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture; John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History; History of Medicine Collections; Human Rights Archive; and most recently, the Harry H. Harkins T’73 Travel Grants for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History.

As archivists, we have long understood that research, scholarship, writing, and creative processes take time. The outcomes from the people and projects we support often come to fruition years in the future. Thankfully, we stay in touch with many of our grant recipients long after they visit the Rubenstein Library, and are thrilled to celebrate their publications and projects once they are out in the world. Here are a few selections we’d like to highlight:

Anesthesia Mask, 4”x5” printed plexi glass plate, 2016-2018. History of Medicine Collections, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, c. 20th c.

Lindsey Beal, Mellon Faculty Fellow at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, received a History of Medicine travel grant in March 2016. Beal’s photographic work, Parturition, features History of Medicine Collections instruments and artifacts with a focus on obstetric and gynecological tools.

Little Cold Warriors: American Childhood in the 1950s by Victoria Grieve, Associate Professor of History at Utah State University, was published by the Oxford University Press in 2018. Dr. Grieve visited the Rubenstein Library in May 2016 as a Foundation for Outdoor Advertising Research and Education Fellow through the Hartman Center to use the Outdoor Advertising Association of America archives, the Garrett Orr papers, and the J. Walter Thompson Co. Writings and Speeches Collection.

Her Neighbor’s Wife: A History of Lesbian Desire Within Marriage by Lauren Jae Gutterman, professor of American studies at the University of Texas at Austin, was published in 2019 by the University of Pennsylvania Press. Dr. Gutterman received a Mary Lily Research Travel Grant from the Bingham Center in 2013. Her research focused on the Minnie Bruce Pratt papers, as well as the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance’s archives and the papers of prominent feminist thinkers Robin Morgan and Kate Millett. Dr. Gutterman is also co-host of the podcast Sexing History.

Marjorie Lorch, Professor of Neurolinguistics, Department of Applied Linguistics and Communication, University of London, visited the Rubenstein Library in February 2018 as a History of Medicine Collections grant recipient, utilizing the Henry Charles Bastian papers for her research. Her article, “The long view of language localization” was published in Frontiers in Neuroanatomy in May 2019. She also co-authored an article with R. Whurr, “The laryngoscope and nineteenth-century British understanding of laryngeal movements,” Journal of the History of the Neurosciences, also published in May 2019.

Rachel R. Miller successfully defended her dissertation “The Girls’ Room: Bedroom Culture and the Ephemeral Archive in the 1990s” to complete her Ph.D. in English at the Ohio State University on May 18, 2020. She received a Mary Lily Research Grant to use the Bingham Center’s zine collections in 2018. Since her defense was held via videoconference, Dr. Miller noted on Twitter, “I’ve been working for four years on a project about how teenage girls’ bedrooms are archival spaces, so I guess it’s only appropriate that I’ll be defending my project from my bedroom.”

Erik A. Moore, postdoctoral associate at the University of Oklahoma’s Humanities Forum, visited the Rubenstein Library in May 2017 as a Human Rights Archive grant recipient. His article “Rights or Wishes? Conflicting Views over Human Rights and America’s Involvement in the Nicaraguan Contra War” was published in the journal Diplomacy & Statecraft (v. 29, no. 4) in October 2018. Dr. Moore used the Washington Office on Latin America records in his research.

Wangui Muigai, Assistant Professor in African and African American Studies and History at Brandeis University, is a historian of medicine and science. She received a Franklin Grant in 2015 for research on infant mortality and race from slavery to the Great Migration. Dr. Muigai  was awarded the Nursing Clio inaugural prize for best journal article for “‘Something Wasn’t Clean’: Black Midwifery, Birth, and Postwar Medical Education in All My Babies” in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine (v. 93, no. 1,) in 2019, which cites an interview from the Behind the Veil oral history collection.

John Hervey Wheeler, Black Banking, and the Economic Struggle for Civil Rights by Brandon K. Winford, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, was published by the University of Kentucky Press in 2019. . Dr. Winford is a graduate of North Carolina Central University and went on to receive his Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He was awarded a Franklin Research Center grant in 2015-2016. While visiting the Rubenstein Library, Dr. Winford consulted the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company archive, the C.C. Spaulding papers, the Asa and Elna Spaulding papers, and the Rencher Nicholas Harris papers. In February 2020, Dr. Winford returned to Duke to give a talk about the book and his research at the Duke University Law School.

Crap: A History of Cheap Stuff in America by Wendy Woloson, Associate Professor of History, Rutgers-Camden, will be published by the University of Chicago Press in September 2020. Dr. Woloson visited the Rubenstein Library as a Hartman Center grant recipient in 2017 and used the Advertising Ephemera Collection and the Arlie Slabaugh Collection of Direct Mail Literature.

 

Tracing “Miss Violet”

Contributed by Amelia Verkerk, Graduate Intern, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture

This past fall the Sallie Bingham Center received a reference question from Dr. Elizabeth Harmon, American Women’s History Initiative Digital Curator at the Smithsonian Institution Archives about Serena Katherine “Miss Violet” Dandridge. Dr. Harmon wanted to know more about Dandridge’s involvement with the women’s suffrage movement since Dandridge was employed as a scientific illustrator at the Smithsonian Institution in the early 1900s. In her research, she had not come across many other women employed at the Smithsonian who had also been active in the campaign for women’s right to vote. Within the Bedinger and Dandridge Family Papers which comprise 64 boxes of correspondence, journals, sketches, photographs, and poems spanning across generations are archival materials relating to Violet’s life and her experiences with the suffrage movement and as a patient at a psychiatric hospital in Maryland around the same time.

Serena Katherine “Miss Violet” Dandridge was born March 15, 1878, at her family home of “Rosebrake” in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to parents Danske Bedinger Dandridge and Adam Stephen Dandridge. Violet grew up at Rosebrake with two younger siblings, Stephen Hawks and Dorothea Spotswood, until moving to D.C. at the age of 18 in 1896 to begin studying art. She returned to Rosebrake in 1897 after her younger brother unexpectedly died while attending the University of Virginia. Dorothea Spotswood also died at a young age from an unspecified illness in 1907.

Portrait of Serena Katherine “Miss Violet" Dandridge. She is standing wearing a tweet suit.
Serena Katherine “Miss Violet” Dandridge

By 1903, Violet had moved back to Washington, D.C. and began drawing marine and fauna wildlife for publication at the National Museum in the Smithsonian Institution. In 1914, her parents committed her to Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, one of the nation’s oldest psychiatric hospitals in Maryland, for bouts of “nervousness” and possibly an eating disorder. The superintendent of the hospital stated that they resorted to force feeding Violet as she did not “retain food well” and her weight was a concern. However, in a letter to her family two weeks later, Violet noted that the staff were “kind and helpful” and the food was “delicious,” but she was just too anxious to finish her meals because she was worried about her mother, Danske, who also had a history of mental illness and particularly struggled after the deaths of Violet’s two younger siblings. Danske passed away from suicide during one of Violet’s stays at the hospital, but the nature of her death was concealed from Violet by doctors and family members out of concern for her well-being.

Violet was involved in the movement for women’s suffrage, and by 1915, she was regularly making donations, attending local meetings, and subscribing to suffragist newspapers and magazines. Violet most likely became involved in women’s suffrage before her time at the hospital, as the superintendent in February of 1914 claimed that Violet “wishe[d] to die on account of man’s injustice to woman.” Violet also had a deep love and appreciation for the environment, being arrested twice when she was 52 years old for interfering with a company’s plan to cut down local trees. She found inspiration for her poems and her art in nature, particularly trees. Sometime after being released from the hospital, Violet moved back to her family home to raise sheep and live with her cousin, Nina Mitchell, both never marrying.

During the 1940s, Mary Katharine Kern, a graduate student at Duke University, contacted Violet to learn more about Danske Dandridge for her thesis on poets of the Shenandoah Valley in West Virginia. The acknowledgments of her thesis and correspondence from the curator at the time indicate that the library acquired the Dandridge Family Papers from Violet as a purchase. The library also acquired Violet’s cousin Nina Mitchell’s papers, which also hold traces of Violet’s story.  Violet died on November 7, 1956, at age 78 after returning to Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital for further treatment related to mental illness.

In the fall semester of 2019, we shared the letters sent from Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital as primary evidence of early twentieth century treatment of women with mental illness with students in Seth LeJacq’s Writing 101 course on Women and Western Medicine. These letters provided a poignant complement to this course’s analysis of texts like Charlotte Perkins Gilman book The Yellow Wall-paper. Violet’s papers are a unique portrait of women’s involvement in science and politics as well as personal experiences with mental illness in the early 1900s.

Sources:
Bedinger and Dandridge Family Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

New Rubenstein Finding Aid Interface to Launch on July 1

Post contributed by Noah Huffman, Archivist for Metadata, Systems, and Digital Records

On July 1, 2020 the Rubenstein Library will launch a new and completely redesigned discovery and access interface for our collection guides (a.k.a. finding aids). The new site, soon-to-be available at archives.lib.duke.edu, will replace our current finding aid platform and is the result of over a year of planning and six months of local development work. Duke staff can access a demo app (VPN required) for a sneak peak of the interface before it launches.

Here’s a 5-minute video tutorial outlining some the site’s key features.

Built on the open-source ArcLight software, the site will offer researchers new ways to search, browse, and explore nearly 4,000 detailed inventories of collections held in the Rubenstein Library, including the Duke University Archives. In total, the site will contain information about the contents of nearly 80,000 boxes of material held in the Rubenstein, including manuscripts, letters, diaries, organizational records, photographs, audio visual recordings, oral histories, objects, zines, digital materials, and much more.

What to expect from the new finding aid site:

While the new site will contain the same data available on the old finding aid site, you will notice many differences in the way information is structured and presented. Listed below are just some of the new features along with a few screenshots of the new interface. We’ll provide more details about the new interface after the July 1st launch. In the meantime, you can read about some of our design and development work in a blog post from Sean Aery, the primary developer for ArcLight at Duke.

Some new features in archives.lib.duke.edu:

  • More comprehensive and reliable searching
  • Advanced searching by name, place, subject, format, and title

    Arclight search results example
    Search result and facet view
  • Filter search results by name, place, date, format, subject, and several other facets
  • Limit search results to only materials available online
  • Browse Duke-focused collections by University Archives Record Group (for university offices, schools, former presidents/provosts, athletics, student/campus life, etc.)

    Browse By University Archives Record Group
    Browse by University Archive Record Group
  • Easily navigate large finding aids and complex collection hierarchies (by series, sub-series, etc.)
  • View digital objects in the context of their collections: More seamless integration with the Duke Digital Repository

    Arclight collection page
    Navigate collection hierarchy and view digital objects in context
  • Bookmark collections, boxes, or folders of interest; save the bookmarks; and email them to yourself or others
  • View a rotating gallery of featured items on the homepage (with citations and links to collections)
  • Mobile-friendly display, but also optimized for wide displays

    Arclight on mobile device
    Mobile display
  • Improved visibility of restriction information: Know when materials are restricted or require certain conditions for access
  • WCAG2.0 AA compliant: works well with screen readers and other assistive technologies; easily navigable by keyboard
  • Faster page-load times for large finding aids and for researchers with low-bandwidth connections

We welcome your feedback!

We’re proud of the new site and we hope it empowers researchers to discover and interact with our collections in new ways. Still, we know that there is more work to do and we welcome your feedback. If you have questions, find a bug, or want to suggest a new feature, please let us know!

Diary Foreshadows Conviction for Involvement in Slave Trade

Post contributed by Laurin Penland, Library Assistant for Rubenstein Technical Services

For someone like me who studied Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness in school, the Congo River can play an outsized role in my imagination as a place of brutal Western imperialism. So, you can imagine, how, when I was carefully paging through a diary from 1852 for a ship named the Mary Adeline, I froze in a moment of recognition upon seeing the words, “I was in the Congo River 12 days, during which time got ashore Shark’s Point. Was attacked by the savages, defended the vessel successfully and was eventually got off by … [the] steamer ‘Firefly’ and schooner ‘Dolphin.’”

Hand-written diary entry.
Diary entry written by Appleton Oaksmith while captain of the Mary Adeline. The entry describes a battle on the Congo River in 1852.

This ship’s diary was written almost forty years before Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, during a time when enslavers were still abducting people from Africa and selling them if not legally, then illegally, especially to countries in South America (by that time many countries, including the US, had outlawed the transatlantic slave trade). The diary was kept by a man named Appleton Oaksmithcaptain of the Mary Adeline—and though he does not mention enslaving people in the diary, I was suspicious. I wanted to know what he was doing in the Congo River and why he was “attacked.” So, I began to do more research.

First, I should provide a little more context. This diary was donated to the library as an addition to the Appleton Oaksmith papers, which the Rubenstein has held since 1937. The library had previously borrowed the diary in the 1950s so that it could be microfilmed. And now, decades later, the owners of the physical diary decided to donate it to the Rubenstein. It’s part of my job in the library to process new additions to collections, and this addition of the diary led me to try and discover what exactly the diary was about and how I might add it to the existing collection.

I did not know much about Oaksmith. In our online catalog, the description of Oaksmith stated merely that he was an “adventurer, author, ship owner, and industrial promoter of Hollywood, N.C.” A quick Google search for Oaksmith led me to think that “adventurer” was at best a polite euphemism and at worst a papering-over of the history of illegal slave trading. Here is one of the first entries I found about Oaksmith and his ship, the Mary Adeline:

“The U.S. brig Mary Adeline departed from Rio de Janeiro in April 1852 destined for the coast of Angola. After having been visited by the British steamship Fire Fly investigating evidence of slave trading, the Mary Adeline ran aground on a sandbar at Shark’s Point near the mouth of the Congo River. Within hours an estimated fifteen hundred to three thousand Africans attacked the boat. They used muskets, spears, oars, and cutlasses as weapons, along with hooks and poles to climb the side of the ship. The small crew of the Mary Adeline fought back by shooting a six-pound cannon that killed several of the Africans…. News of the battle spread quickly. Couriers capable of running fifty to sixty miles a day surely carried this information along the African coast. Inhabitants of Salvador learned of the attack after the return of the Mary Adeline to Salvador in late July. A planned attack by Africans of a slaving vessel helped to convince Bahians and foreigners resident in Salvador that a resumption of the slave trade would pose significant and unwanted risks.”[1]

This passage is from Dale Torston Graden’s monograph, From Slavery to Freedom in Brazil, Bahia, 1835-1900. Graden’s description of the battle in the Congo River suggests two important points: 1) It is likely that Oaksmith was attempting to enslave West Africans, and 2) the attack played a significant role in limiting or ending the slave trade in Brazil. If these things were true, why did previous archivists describe Oaksmith as an “adventurer” and not as an enslaver?

This question sent me searching our digitized collection of the Rubenstein’s old card catalog. This is often the first place I look when trying to find more information about collections that the library has held for a long time, given that sometimes, descriptions in the old card catalog were never migrated to the online catalog due to length, complexity, or outdated language. The old card files on Oaksmith included a long biographical sketch. The writer of the description chose to describe the battle on the Congo River through the lens of the crew members of the Dolphin who helped Oaksmith escape. According to the Dolphin, Oaksmith fought “gallantly” against “3000 natives who had assembled for the purpose of plundering [the Mary Adeline’s] valuable cargo.”[2] Later, the card file mentions that Oaksmith was indicted for slave trading, that he escaped from jail, and that he was eventually pardoned by President Grant. I was confused by the card file and by our online description, especially in juxtaposition to other scholarship that I found online. Was Oaksmith on the Congo River to enslave people? What was his valuable cargo? Why was he attacked? If he was eventually indicted, when was he convicted? How should I change the description of Oaksmith in the online catalog?

Old paper card catalog file with typed text.
Part of Oaksmith’s biographical sketch from the Rubenstein’s old card catalog. The card file emphasizes the perspective of crew members who helped Oaksmith escape the “attack” by West Africans.
Inside the front cover of Oaksmith’s diary. The inscription reads, “George Marsden, Rio de Janeiro.”

One curious aspect of the diary is that there is an inscription inside the front cover that reads, “George Marsden, Rio de Janeiro.” I found mention of Marsden in The United States and Transatlantic Slave Trade to the Americas, 1776-1867:

“[In 1852] the British Prime Minister to Brazil, Henry Southern, wrote to the foreign office about indications that the US vessels Mary Adeline and Camargo were being prepared to engage in the slave trade. ‘Mr. Marsden, a broker in Rio, a citizen of the United States,’ continued Southern, ‘is the party who is actively interested in getting up and aiding these speculations.’”

Later in 1852, the Camargo “disembarked 500 slaves at Bracuhy, south of Rio de Janeiro.”[3] Marsden was jailed but was eventually freed. The captain of the Camargo, Nathaniel Gordon, escaped from Brazil, but was hung ten years later in the United States for slave trading. (Gordon is the only person in US history to have been executed for the crime of slave trading; his conviction and hanging are largely credited to the politics of that moment with the start of the Civil War and the beginning of Lincoln’s presidency.) The last place that Gordon abducted West Africans was at Shark’s Point on the Congo River, the same place that Oaksmith had run aground years earlier.[4] And as for Marsden, after he was released from jail, he went on to be involved with a New York shipping company that was caught trafficking enslaved people to Cuba. Oaksmith also had significant ties to Cuba: his brother Sidney lived there, and Oaksmith himself was perhaps best known by historians as an ardent supporter of William Walker who “planned to establish a Central American empire that would ultimately include Spanish Cuba.”[5]

Newspaper clipping
Newspaper article from The World describing Oaksmith’s conviction for outfitting a slave ship, June 16th, 1862.

It turns out that there is a copious amount of scholarship on Oaksmith and the illegal slave traders of his time. While I have not yet determined with certainty the purpose of Oaksmith’s journey to the Congo River in 1852 aboard the Mary Adeline and the reasons for the battle that ensued, I found historical evidence for his later attempts at slave trading, thus justifying two changes in the collection description: mentioning  in the online catalog that Oaksmith was indicted for outfitting the slave ship Augusta in 1861 and finally convicted for outfitting the slave ship Margaret Scott in 1862, and adding “Slave trade – United States – 19th century” as a subject heading. I also decided to remove the word “adventurer” from his biographical description, lest it glorify the horrors of the slave trade and chattel slavery. The Appleton Oaksmith papers have also been added to a list of collections to which Rubenstein archivists hope to return, down the road, so that we can provide more detailed and just description. This is one of many legacy collections at the Rubenstein that deserve to be reprocessed and re-described so that we can better document the history of slavery and redress archival errors, silences, omissions, and erasures.

As for the ship’s diary that inspired this blog post, it has finally joined the rest of Oaksmith’s papers at the Rubenstein Library and will be requestable in the reading room once the library has reopened.


 

[1] Dale Torston Graden, From Slavery to Freedom in Brazil, Bahia, 1835-1900 (Albuquerque: University of Mexico Press, 2006), 8.

[2] Card catalog entry for the Appleton Oaksmith Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

[3] Leonardo Marques, The United States and Transatlantic Slave Trade to the Americas, 1776-1867 (New Haven & London: Yale University Press) 170, https://doi.org/10.12987/yale/9780300212419.001.0001.

[4] Ron Soodalter, “Hanging Captain Gordon.” Civil War Times, 08, 2009, 46-53.

[5] John J. TePaske, “Appleton Oaksmith, Filibuster Agent.” The North Carolina Historical Review 35, no. 4 (1958): 427-47. Accessed June 15, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/23517266.

W. E. B. DuBois in the Charles N. Hunter Papers

Post contributed by Lucy Dong, T’20,  Middlesworth Social Media and Outreach Fellow (2019-2020)

Back in February, I was busy combing the archives for cool stories and important figures in black history to share on our social media (follow us on Instagram!) That’s when Dr. Trudi Abel,  Research Services Archivist, tipped me off to an interesting find in the Charles N. Hunter Papers, 1850s-1932 , a black educator, journalist, and reformer from Raleigh, North Carolina. The Hunter papers are all digitized, so you can check them out even while the Rubenstein is closed.

Dr. Abel has taught a course called Digital Durham for many years, and she’s found that the Charles N. Hunter Papers are especially underutilized for what it reveals about education of black students in Durham. For example, in some of his correspondence, we get insight into the beginning days of what was called the Durham Colored Graded School. Later named the Whitted School after their principal Rev. James A. Whitted (Durham’s first black principal), the Durham Colored Graded School was created in response to the earlier Durham Graded School which gave only white students access to the modern graded model of teaching by age group.

Among letters to other educators, the nation’s first black congressmen, and more personal family matters, there’s a letter from prominent black scholar W. E. B Du Bois.  Du Bois and Booker T. Washington happened to visit Durham in the same year, both commenting on the rich culture and entrepreneurial spirit of its black community during Reconstruction. One primary symbol of that prosperity was North Carolina Mutual Insurance, created by black entrepreneurs to serve their community, which established (white) insurance companies refused to service. NC Mutual paved the way for a flourishing, though segregated, black business district.

Washington saw Durham as a great example of black people helping themselves out of poverty and saw segregation as a reasonable means to achieve “racial self-help and uplift.” Du Bois celebrated the success of Durham’s black community, but generally pushed harder to demand full civil rights. In this letter, Du Bois is seeking recommendations for someone to help him do some sociological studies on social improvement in black communities, especially pertaining to the South.

Front and back of handwritten letter from DuBois to Hunter. On letterhead from Atlanta University.

Can you make out all the words here? Dr. Abel regularly has her students do transcription projects to become familiar with reading older documents. The handwriting is not the easiest thing to read, but thanks to contextual clues and some corrections by Dr. Abel, I came up with the following:

Dr. A.B. Hunter, Dear Sir:

You have perhaps heard of the sociological studies of the Negro people which we are making here; we have already made a little inquiry with Negro health and dwellings and we want this year if possible to conduct a short investigation into the organizational efforts of Negro [sic] for social improvement. I enclose blanks [survey forms] indicating the scope of the questions. Is there anyone in your school who would be disposed to take charge of the inquiry for the city of Raleigh? I desire very much to have some reliable person interested in the matter to take hold of it and report to the conference. Due credit will of course be given. If you recommend someone kindly turn the blanks over to him and ask him to write me as to the number of each kind he will need. Thanking you in advance for the favor, I am

Very Truly Yours,
W. E. B DuBois

But wait, I thought these were the records of Charles N. Hunter, not A. B. Hunter. Were they related? Why was this piece of correspondence included in Charles N. Hunter’s personal records? A separate letter provides our missing link:

Handwritten letter from A.B. Hunter to Charles Hunter, on letterhead for St. Augustines School in Raleigh, NC.

My dear Mr. Hunter,

I enclose Prof. DuBois’ letter and have written him that you were hopefully most familiar with the societies he indicated in his letter. I hope you will be able to undertake the work. I regard his investigation as of very great importance. Will you kindly write him.

Very truly yours,
A.B. Hunter

Rev A. B. Hunter, Dean of St. Augustine’s School – now St. Augustine’s University, a historically black college in Raleigh – recommended Charles N. Hunter to help with Du Bois’ study. Quick searches into ancestry records and census documents did not indicate a familial connection.

Thanks to Dr. Abel for this fun experience piecing together the context and the connections between these three black educators. It was exciting to first interpret the handwritten letter, then search for the reason it was included in this collection and learn a little more about Durham’s past. Such are the small thrills of doing work in the archives–turning over fragile pieces of history to uncover things I didn’t know I didn’t know.

So Many Dates! : Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

Post contributed by Lucy VanderKamp, Stacks Manager (Library Associate for Research Services)

Cover of Foods from Suny Lands, feautring a man in the foreground wearing a head covering and carrying a large basket of dates, behind him are two camels, a palm tree, and a boat on a canal.
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I came across this 1925 cookbook – Foods from Sunny Lands – and it struck a chord: I had just made a date and nut bar to keep me eating healthy snacks. It seems we may not be the only household requiring gummy bears to fill some sort of stay-at-home-related need for sugary, fruity, chewy wads (out of stock on Amazon!). Dates could be a good alternative!

As may be expected from an American cookbook from 1925, this book depicts people of color one-dimensionally and seems to romanticize and exoticize Middle Eastern culture and foods.

The authors also make many grandiose claims about health and diet. There are a couple statements that seem imminently modern, though! This from page 12: “If we were to reduce our quota of white bread, cane sugar, candy and often too generous meat ration… substituting more green vegetables and sun-ripened fruits… we should pay the doctor and dentist a great deal less.” Same story 100 years later!Page opening from the cookbook, it is illustrated with images of Middle Eastern workers loading crates onto or off of a boat. .

On to the recipes! I tried the three below thinking I’d only have to “cut small” pieces of dates one time. I also felt the need for muffins and two types of cookies – don’t ask me why.

Rich Date Muffins

Recipe for Rich Date Muffins

For the muffins, I opted to not use 4 teaspoons of baking powder. I bake muffins often and none of my recipes call for anywhere near this amount. Maybe there was something different about baking powder 100 years ago? I went with 2 teaspoons. Also, I added one mashed banana for some additional sweetness (2 tablespoons of sugar isn’t very much!). These turned out fine, a little doughy, not what I would call “rich,” but fine.

Photo of the interior of one of the date muffins

Date Crisps

Recipe for Date Crisps

The crisps turned out tasty but definitely not “crisp.” I even tried letting a few get very dark to see if they’d crisp up. They didn’t.

The dough was super hard to work with, too. I tried chilling it for 20 minutes to see if it’d be less wet but that didn’t really help. I added a ton of flour to keep it from sticking during the rolling out but I wasn’t able to get it very thin. Maybe ¼ inch. They also needed to cook about twice as long as the recipe said. Maybe because they were too thick? Oh and also, it’s hard to cut out rounds when there are chunks of dates in the cookies! But I might recommend these. Very sweet and a nice soft texture.

Collage showing a not-so crispy crisp on the left and eight crisps from above on the right, they look a little like chocolate chip cookies

 

Date and Nut Meringue

Date and Nut Meringue Recipe

And the meringues… these turned out good! I used ½ cup chopped dates as I didn’t know what “½ package” would’ve been. Also, I’ve made meringues a couple times and had usually left them to cool in the oven so I did that. I took them out after about 20-30 minutes in the turned-off oven.

Cooked meringues on parchment paper

A few things I learned as a result of this cookbook:

    1. This Hills Brothers Company (think cans of terrible coffee) created Dromedary Food Products in the early 1900s.
    2. Dromedary is the word for Arabian Camel.
    3. One of the main factors in the success of Dromedary Food Products was an effort to alter the American consumer’s view of “packaged food.” Prior to this, when fresh food was wrapped up in a package it was because it was damaged, unattractive, or slightly old. The advertising campaigns for Dromedary focused on the usefulness of varying sizes of packages and the freshness they provided.
    4. Dates were touted as a good source of “lime” on page 4 of this cookbook by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg – famous corn flakes inventor also known for his pro-Eugenics views and for running a tuberculosis sanitarium. Lime starvation was noted as a harbinger to or result of tuberculosis.

Back cover of the cookbook with an illustrated ad for Dromedary products including figs, coconut, and dates.

X Marks the Spot: Adding Coordinates to Rare Maps’ Catalog Records

Blog Post Contributed by Liz Adams, Rare Materials Cataloger

The Rubenstein Library has 2,142 individually cataloged printed maps, collectively covering nearly the entire world. There are aerial views of Alexandria, Egypt and Venice, Italy; fire insurance maps of our own North Carolina and ones of nearby Tennessee and Virginia; and pre-1800 (or what we call “early”) maps of what is now the United States. We have maps charting rivers in Southeast Asia and thematic ones related to public health and nuclear proliferation. Our maps perform dual functions: they orient users to particular places and ideas in particular times and reveal the beliefs of the map creators about those places and the wider world.

Elaborate printed map showing an early depiction of North and South America
Map of America from Blaeu’s Toonneel des aerdriicx, ofte nievwe atlas, dat is Beschryving van alle landen; nu nieulycx uytgegeven, 1648.

It’s a truism that early printed maps look a little different to modern eyes. This is partly the result of imprecise mathematical knowledge prior to the 18th century. According to David Woodward in The history of cartography, “before careful measurement, distances from place to place could be roughly paced” (13). “Roughly” is the key word. These differences are also bound up in the original goals of the maps, which in the case of Western European countries, often included economic, religious, and political expansion nearby and into faraway places (that is, colonialism) (Woodward 19). And finally, and very much related to the first two points, the world has never been static. For example, there was once a province called Carolina that included North Carolina and South Carolina as well as parts of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Things change.

A map catalog record with coordinates under Scale.

I’m a cataloger, and catalogers want to describe those early maps accurately. But how do we do that when distance was “roughly” measured, or when place names and boundaries have changed? For example, how do we document a map showing that Texas once “included much of what later became Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Oklahoma” (Lepore 222)? Subject headings do some of that work in a catalog record, but geographic headings specifically relate to modern boundaries, not historic. The real heavy lifting comes from including bounding coordinates, the easternmost and westernmost longitudes and northernmost and southernmost latitudes seen on a map. We provide those coordinates in two places in the record, one more visible than the other. If you look at one of our catalog records online, you’ll see the coordinates under “Scale.” We also include those same coordinates as coded data in a separate area in the MARC record (see row below beginning with “=034”). This coded data is very precisely structured data. You can’t see it in our online catalog, but if you ever need access to it, let us know! We’re here and happy to help.

A record in our data editing software. The added coordinate data is circled in red.
A section of the United States with it's coordinates listed below.
Finding the coordinates using Bounding Box.

Adding coordinates to map records is a relatively new practice, and not all Rubenstein Library maps include that data. We’re trying to change that. Using a combination of data editing software, and digitized versions of maps, we’ve begun adding that data point to our early printed map records. Doing this work today has an immediate impact for researchers. In our online records, you can see the coordinates and use that data to make research decisions. It also serves an important task for the future. Coordinate data is easily accessible to librarians and can be changed into other data standards for use in digital humanities projects (Kiser & Smeltekop). Without coordinates, this work may be at a standstill.

Since we began this project a few weeks ago, we’ve made changes to over 100 hundred records, with no plans to stop. We still have several hundred to go!

Want to know more about maps? We don’t blame you! In 2013, Duke students in Borderworks Lab curated “Mapping the City: a stranger’s guide,” an exhibit featuring maps and atlases held by the Rubenstein Library. The exhibit is online and is very cool.

 

Works Cited

Kiser, Tim, and Nicole Smeltekop. “A Method for Creating Scanned Map Metadata for Geoportals, Library Catalogs, and Digital Repositories: Reworking Existing MARC Records of Paper Maps to Create New Records for Their Scanned Counterparts.” Journal of Map & Geography Libraries, vol. 14, no. 2-3, Feb. 2018, pp. 109–131. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text, doi:10.1080/15420353.2019.1640166.

Lepore, Jill. These Truths: a History of the United States. W.W. Norton & Company, 2019.

Woodward, David. “Cartography and the Renaissance: Continuity and Change.” History of Cartography, vol. 3:1, University of Chicago Press, 2007, pp. 3–24.

Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University