The Extravagant Shadows Screening

Date: Friday, November 30th, 2012
Time: 3:00 PM
Location: Biddle Rare Book Room, Perkins Library, Duke University
Contact Information: Kirston Johnson, kirston.johnson(at)

Please join us this Friday at 3:00pm for a screening of The Extravagant Shadows, David Gatten’s new work of digital cinema. Gatten is an award-winning filmmaker and Guggenheim fellow, and is currently a Lecturing Fellow and Artist in Residence with Duke University’s Program in Arts of the Moving Image.  Earlier this year he was named one of the fifty best filmmakers under fifty by Cinema Scope magazine.

Still from The Extravagant Shadows
Still from The Extravagant Shadows

Fourteen years in the making, The Extravagant Shadows is a film concerned with libraries, reading, letters, and lovers.   It premiered at the 50th annual New York Film Festival and has received widespread acclaim.

Still from The Extravagant Shadows
Still from The Extravagant Shadows

“David Gatten’s first digital work, The Extravagant Shadows, undertakes the head-scratching question of what it would mean for a film to be of its textual sources. A historical narrative of love separated across space and time is embedded in various codes and correspondences, all of it pocked by ellipsis and obscurity, never unfolding so much as digressing, disclosing, doubling back.”  – Max Goldberg, Fandor 

“Gatten […] lays long excerpts, condensations, and re-writings of text upon the image itself, so that looking at the image is as much about seeing as it is reading—if these two activities can even be separated. The text tells a looping, broken and elliptical tale of love across distances, love missed and time passed, of communicating via letter, manuscript, telegraph, […] notes, novelization, monologues and memories across and within these spaces. Of the lost meanings, allusive facts and fixtures, of the supreme ambiguity of purposes, of a sense of time, of narrative to be found between, around and inside text and its transmissions to the reader.” – Daniel Kasman, Love in the Painted Image,” MUBI

This event is sponsored by the Archive of Documentary Arts, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, and the “Thinking Cinematics Working Group” with support from the Franklin Humanities Institute and the Program in the Arts of the Moving Image at Duke University.


Feasting from The History of Medicine Collection

As we sit down to our Thanksgiving dinners, I leave you with a few images from a recent acquisition of thirty-four medical prints collected and donated by William H. Helfand. The posters date mainly from 18th century Paris, but the earliest dates to 1695 (the Kospter poster below) and the latest to 1991. They are all beautiful prints–heavy with political satire and caricatures, quack doctors and alchemy. But they also serve as wise reminders to eat in moderation this season. Happy Thanksgiving from the Rubenstein Library!

Maleuvre, “La Ribotte a nos chants”, color lithograph, Paris 1823
Cheret, J., “Kola Marque,” color lithograph, Paris, c. 1895
Dusort, Cornelius, “Hopster,” engraving, Holland, 1695
Grandville and Forest, “Memento Homo Quia Pulvis…”, hand color lithograph, Paris, 1833
Langlumé, “L’indigestion” from Album Comique, color lithograph, 1823

Post contributed by Joanne Fairhurst, Technical Services Intern and doctoral candidate in the Classical Studies Dept.

Bringing the Rubenstein to Wikipedia

Wikipedia—love it or hate it, it’s a hallmark of Internet culture. It’s also one of the most common ways students and scholars begin a research project. That’s why, as a field experience student in the Rubenstein this semester, I’ve begun a project to incorporate content from the Rubenstein into Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons.

Adding a link to an archival finding aid in a Wikipedia article can direct readers to more information on a subject, and it can serve as a reference for adding new content to an existing article.

I’ve been editing Wikipedia in two main ways. The most straightforward edit is to find a biographical article on Wikipedia and link from the article to the finding aid for that person’s papers on the Rubenstein’s finding aids site. For example, I’ve linked finding aids for many of the prominent economists’ papers housed at the Rubenstein, notably Nobel Prize winners such as Kenneth Arrow and this year’s Nobel Prize-winner Alvin E. Roth.

If the Rubenstein holds someone’s personal papers and they don’t yet have a Wikipedia article, that’s a perfect opportunity to create one. This was the case with economist and journalist Leonard Silk and North Carolina filmmaker Herbert Lee Waters.

A visitor to the Wikipedia article on Alvin Roth, 2012 co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, will also find a link to the finding aid for his papers at the Rubenstein.

The other main type of contribution I have been making has been uploading selected photos from Duke’s Digital Collections to Wikimedia Commons and then using those photos to enhance Wikipedia articles. My favorite contribution so far has been adding a photo from the Sidney Gamble Collection to the gallery in the Wikipedia article on Tiananmen Square. I can’t say why the people in the photo are gathered, but it illustrates (as photos do so well!) the historical importance of the square as a place for public demonstration.

Sidney Gamble’s photo of a student protest in Tiananmen Square, ca. 1917-1919

This project has been a great way to get familiar with the treasure trove of collections held by the Rubenstein, but there are many more ways to highlight archival collections in Wikipedia. If you’ve used the Rubenstein’s collections and found something you want to share with the world, why not include it in Wikipedia?

Kristi Krueger is a field experience student from UNC’s SILS working in the Rubenstein Technical Services Dept.

Digitizing the LCRM Update #6: The Importance of Context

In this month’s update of the Content, Context, and Capacity Project at Duke, we examine the context of an issue of the DRIVE Reporter, a publication of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.  The first page of this issue includes a memorial to President John F. Kennedy and an article about President Lyndon Johnson’s new call for Congress to act on civil rights legislation.  Immediately, two questions come to mind:  Why are these issues appearing in a labor union’s publication?  And why does this publication appear in the papers of Basil Lee Whitener, a Congressman from North Carolina?

Issue of DRIVE Reporter, December 15, 1963, published by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Basil Lee Whitener Papers, Box 143, Folder 4: blwms02004082

The first question ties to the stated mission of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.  Led by its controversial president Jimmy Hoffa, the Teamsters launched DRIVE (Democratic, Republican, Independent Voter Education) in 1959 to educate its members about labor issues and pending legislation.  Both the death of President Kennedy and Johnson’s proposals qualified as issues that would affect labor in the immediate future.  In addition, the Teamsters had fought for the equality of African-Americans in the workplace.  Thus, the inclusion of a story on civil rights legislation made sense in terms of the scope of the Teamsters’ mission.

Committee assignments explain why this publication appears in the papers of Basil Lee Whitener.  As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Whitener reviewed the federal trial of Jimmy Hoffa that occurred in 1964.  This publication, along with other Teamsters information, was gathered by Whitener and his staff as research files for the trial proceedings.  If Whitener had not been a member of that committee in 1964, the CCC Project would not have access to these rich Hoffa files.

To learn more about the CCC Project and how context plays a role in the history of the LCRM, please visit CCC on Facebook.

The grant-funded CCC Project is designed to digitize selected manuscripts and photographs relating to the long civil rights movement. For more about Rubenstein Library materials being digitized through the CCC Project, check out previous progress updates posted here at The Devil’s Tale

Post contributed by Josh Hager, CCC Graduate Assistant.

The Titans of Commerce and Industry

The History Channel recently aired “The Men Who Built America,” a docu-series about the titans of the early industrial age featuring Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, J. Pierpont Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller. As a self-described history junkie, I was immediately hooked. So imagine my delight when I came across a poster of Hosts & Guests at a banquet tendered for HRH Prince Henry of Prussia, New York, dated 1902 Feb 26 (reprinted 1905) while processing the photographs in the Doris Duke collection.

The portraits in the poster represent a veritable “Who’s-who” of the movers and shakers of the early 20th century, including Vanderbilt’s son William, Rockefeller (and son), Morgan, Nikola Tesla (with his wavy hair and dreamy eyes), his arch-nemeses Thomas A. Edison, Adolphus Busch and Frederick Pabst (for our beer lovers), Marshall Field (perhaps the most well-dressed?), and our very own James B. Duke.

So what brought these men together?

In 1902 Germany made a concerted effort to improve its relationship with the United States. One of the warmest displays of this diplomatic effort was a visit by the younger brother of German Emperor William II, His Royal Highness (HRR) Prince Henry of Prussia (1862-1929). The two week tour (February 22-March 11) was specifically designed to allay misgivings arising from a conflict between the United States and German fleets in Manila in 1898.

On February 25th, HRH Prince Henry made a brief stop in New York City. The next day he attended a formal luncheon with the “representatives of commerce and industry” at 12:30 p.m. after which he continued sightseeing in New York. The banquet was commemorated by the poster now housed in the soon to be available Doris Duke Photograph Collection.

Want to learn more about Prince Henry’s visit? The Internet Archive has made available the “Tour of His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Prussia in the United States of America: Under the Personally-Conducted System of the Pennsylvania Railroad,” a floridly detailed itinerary or “General Programme” of his visit to the United States.

Post contributed by Mary Samouelian, Doris Duke Collection Archivist.

Researching an Important Duke Milestone

Logo for the Commemoration of 50 Years of Black Students at Duke UniversityIn 2013, Duke will mark 50 years since the desegregation of the undergraduate student body.  The campus-wide theme, “Celebrating the Past, Charting the Future: Commemorating 50 Years of Black Students at Duke University” will be woven into annual events, like commencement, reunion, and Founder’s Day, and will also be a topic of reflection through exhibits, speakers, and service opportunities. Working together across the University, this milestone year offers all of us the opportunity to learn more about Duke’s history.

The University Archives has a rich photographic collection, and we have added a number of photos on Flickr as part of the anniversary celebration. They show us moments of protest and performance, as well as celebration. The photographs are featured on a new website dedicated to this fiftieth anniversary commemoration.

The University Archives contains many collections that provide historical context and primary source documentation on the desegregation of the school, the black student experience at Duke, and much more. Interested in diving in? A new guide to conducting research on African-American history at Duke is now available, and the UA staff is glad to consult on particular questions or projects. (Contact us here!)

Post contributed by Val Gillispie, University Archivist.

Gary Monroe on The Highwaymen

Date: Thursday, November 15, 2012
Time: 6:00 PM, reception to follow
Location: Biddle Rare Book Room
Contact Information: Kirston Johnson, kirston.johnson(at)

Please join the staff of the Archive of Documentary Arts next Thursday, November 15 for a talk with documentary photographer Gary Monroe.

In the late 1950s in rural Florida, a group of young, self-taught African-American artists began to paint optimistic and colorful Florida landscapes. They periodically left their backyard studios and took to the highway to sell their works to white customers, earning the name The Highwaymen. Their glowing images represented the American dream. Photographer Gary Monroe got to know these artists and will speak about their work and their legacy.

About Gary Monroe: Gary Monroe is a professor of art at the Southeast Center for Photographic Studies in Daytona Beach and author of The Highwaymen: Florida’s African-American Landscape Painters.

Post contributed by Kirston Johnson, Curator of the Archive of Documentary Arts.



The Curious Case of the Curator’s Statue

Benjamin Newton Duke
Benjamin Newton Duke. From the University Archives Photograph Collection.

Recently, I was tasked with the job of researching and learning about the life of Benjamin Newton Duke, affectionately known as “Mr. Ben.” Mr. Ben was the older brother of James B. Duke, and one of tobacco tycoon Washington Duke’s children.

J.B. was placed in charge of many of the family’s business ventures and became famous for his role in running American Tobacco and other Duke ventures, but Ben was the Duke family’s chief philanthropist. He gave away copious amounts of the family’s sizeable wealth, and was known for his generosity. He also served on several charitable boards, such as the Oxford Orphan Asylum north of Durham.

The purpose of my assignment was to create a timeline (coming soon!) that tells the story of Ben Duke’s remarkable life through words and pictures. In creating the timeline, I looked through boxes upon boxes of photos, letters, and ledgers related to his life. Among the photos that I looked at was a series of interior shots of his home in Durham, “Four Acres,” before it was demolished.

Postcard of Four Acres, the home of Benjamin Newton Duke.
Postcard of Four Acres, the home of Benjamin Newton Duke. From the University Archives Postcard Collection.

Somewhere in the lot was this photo, a look at one of the rooms in Four Acres. If you look closely at the photo, you’ll notice a statue on a pedestal on the right side.

Interior of Four Acres.
Interior of Four Acres. From the Benjamin Newton Duke Papers.

As part of our ongoing renovation preparation work, we have been researching the origins and provenance of some artifacts in our possession. One of these was a statue that has been residing in the office of the Duke University Libraries’ Exhibits Curator for a decade. We had documentation that the statue came from Four Acres, but we had no photographic evidence to prove it: until now. This series of previously unexamined photographs helped us confirm that the statue in the Exhibits Curator’s office is, in fact, the statue from Four Acres.

It’s nice to know that this simple project of learning about Mr. Ben has connected us so tangibly to all that he did for Duke University.

Post contributed by Maureen McCormick, Drill Intern for the Duke University Archives.

A Visit to Duke on the Way to the Presidency

When Senator John F. Kennedy’s plane landed in Raleigh on December 2nd—one hour before he was due to speak at Duke University—he hadn’t yet declared his candidacy for the 1960 presidential election. Writing about that evening’s address, the Duke Chronicle wrote simply that the “boyish John Kennedy” was the “leading unannounced candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination” and noted a recent decrease in his popularity, especially when compared with potential Republican candidates New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Vice President Richard M. Nixon.

Kennedy’s aspirations were, however, clear. The arrangements for the speech were made by J. Leonard Reinsch, then a member of the Democratic National Committee and director of the 1960 Democratic National Convention, whose two children were students at Duke. WUNC-TV filmed the evening—necessitating that the speech be given in the smaller Page Auditorium, rather than Duke Indoor Stadium (not yet known as Cameron)—and the WUNC radio station recorded it for later broadcast.

Kennedy spoke as part of the Major Speakers Series planned by the Student Union’s Educational Affairs Committee. For the 1959-1960 academic year, the student committee, led by chair Byron Battle, attempted to build a non-partisan slate of candidates for high public office. According to their meeting minutes, their efforts to secure Duke alumnus Richard Nixon involved “a constant barage [sic] of letters” from Duke administrators, including President A. Hollis Edens. They also considered extending an invitation to Hubert Humphrey, but decided against it, on the grounds of “a possible preponderance of Democrats, and a fear that he might not have anything worthwhile to say.” (Humphrey did eventually speak at Duke in 1965.)

Letter, Byron Battle to John F. Kennedy, June 23, 1959. From the Duke University Union Records
Letter, Byron Battle to John F. Kennedy, June 23, 1959. From the Duke University Union Records. Click to enlarge.

Local newspaper accounts indicate that the speech, titled “The Challenge to American Colleges” and ranging over key national and regional issues like the space race, North Carolina’s progress toward integration, and Kennedy’s position on birth control, was well-received.

But we’re less sure of the Duke student body’s reaction to the speech, perhaps because the campus’s attention turned almost immediately to a different election. In the same issue of the Duke Chronicle that looked forward to Kennedy’s speech, a undergraduate student reporter named Steve Cohen published the first part of a satire that set the nativity story in World War II-era Poland. Tipped off by the paper’s printer, and worried that the piece would cause controversy damaging to Duke’s reputation, President Edens acted swiftly, suspending publication of the Duke Chronicle until the editorial board could be reorganized.

Senator John F. Kennedy before his address in Page Auditorium, December 2, 1959.
Senator John F. Kennedy before his address in Page Auditorium, December 2, 1959. Kennedy is standing in the Flowers Building’s Music Room. From the University Archives Photograph Collection.

The Duke Chronicle published its next issue on December 14, 1959, 11 days later. The issue carries only a brief mention of Kennedy’s speech, in an editorial from new editor-in-chief hopeful Jim Brown, who wrote:

We are constantly in danger of focusing all our attention on the sensational. Significant events often pass unnoticed. People all over the nation know of the Chronicle incident. But how many of them heard about the speech that Senator Kennedy made the day after the Cohen article was published. . . . Senator Kennedy’s masterful presentation had a considerable impact on the student body. But compared with “A Christmas Story” the attention that it received was negligible.

Later that afternoon, Marian Sapp was elected by the University Publications Board as the Duke Chronicle’s new editor-in-chief. Kennedy declared his candidacy for president on January 2, 1960. We’re not definitively certain what happened to Steve Cohen, but Sapp herself alluded in her own December 14th editorial to the “destruction . . . of one boy’s right of expression in any University publication.”

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