Lynn Saville’s Night Views

This month the Archive of Documentary Arts highlights the work of nocturnal photographer Lynn Saville. The images were selected from Night Vision: Photographs of William Gedney and Lynn Saville, exhibited in the Rubenstein Library in 2005.   The Lynn Saville Photograph collection contains over two hundred black and white and color prints, the majority photographed at night.

Smith and Ninth Street, Brooklyn, 2002


Lynn Saville photograph, Palais Royale, Paris, 1999
Palais Royale, Paris, 1999
Lynn Saville photograph of graffiti in Brooklyn
Dancer on Front Street, Brooklyn, 1997
Lynn Saville photograph of Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge Fog, 1999

Gary Monroe: Photographs, 1976-2012

Date: Monday, February 20, 2012
Time: 6:00-7:30 PM
Location: Biddle Rare Book Room
Contact Information: Karen Glynn, 919-660-5968 or

Gary Monroe will present a retrospective of his work and talk about his life as a photographer at this upcoming event on the Duke University campus.  Among the generation of young men and women influenced by Cartier-Bresson and Garry Winogrand, Monroe’s work includes long-term, continuous documentation of people and places as well as “decisive moment” images captured on the fly.

Protesters with large sign, Les Gonaïves, Haiti, 1986
Protesters with large sign, Les Gonaïves, Haiti, 1986

Monroe describes the body of his photographic work on his website as, “Film-based black-and-white documentary photographs of images from South Beach, Miami, New York City, and from around the world—Haiti, Cuba, Brazil, Spain, England, India, Poland, Egypt, Israel, and the Caribbean, as well as photographs of Disney World tourists, Holy Ghost revival participants, roller derby contenders, sex offenders, mentally ill individuals, blind people, and corporate-driven architecture.”

Cairo, Egypt, 2010
Cairo, Egypt, 2010

Duke University’s Rubenstein Library Archive of Documentary Arts holds a selection of Monroe’s early Haiti photographs dating from 1980–1998; to view the selection, click here.

Gary Monroe is a professor of art at the Southeast Center for Photographic Studies in Daytona Beach, Florida. For more information on Gary Monroe’s work, visit his websites:

Text Messages of Love

While this Valentine’s Day might result in many short love notes being traded via smartphones and Facebook walls, sweethearts sometimes used a different method in the early 20th century: the telegram. Ella Fountain Keesler Pratt, a Duke employee for almost thirty years (1956-1984), was the recipient of several sugar-coated missives delivered by Western Union in the 1930s. These are a few of the loveliest love letters, found while processing Ella’s papers.

Telegram from Duke
Duke begged, "Please give me a few dates ... Don't leave town if you do I'm coming after you."
Telegram from Frank
"Want date Sunday night No answer means Yes Love, Frank."
Valentine's Day telegram
A secret admirer rhymed, "Than my skeeter none is sweeter if she'd only write."
Telegram from Lanny
"Incidentally I Love You," signs Lanny.

Ms. Pratt eventually married Lanier “Lanny” Pratt in 1938; he attended graduate classes and then taught at Duke University until his death in 1956. He must have said something right!

Post contributed by Rosemary K. J. Davis, Drill Intern, University Archives.

Honeymooning with the Cowpers

On April 17, 1909, Frederick Augustus Grant Cowper married Mary Octavine Thompson. Frederick became Professor of Romance Languages at Trinity College (now Duke University), while Mary (who earned a Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Chicago) became a suffragette, helping to organize the North Carolina League of Women Voters in 1920. Both Frederick’s and Mary’s papers reside in the Rubenstein Library.

The Cowpers' honeymoon scrapbook, with flowers picked by Mary

While on their honeymoon in New Hampshire, the Cowpers took many photographs they placed in an album they titled “Photographs of their Wedding Journey.”  In honor of Valentine’s Day, here is my favorite photograph and caption:

The Cowpers' honeymoon scrapbook, asking "How'd you like to spoon with me on Mt. Gardner?"

Post contributed by Kim Sims, Technical Services Archivist for Duke University Archives.

Beat UNC (Archives)!

Football Game Program Cover, Duke vs. UNC, 1967The fighting spirit of Blue Devil competitiveness doesn’t apply to only basketball and other sports—we’re  staging a little (Facebook) battle royale of our own:




The rules are very simple. Whichever institution gets the most NEW “Likes” for their Facebook page between today and tipoff (7:00 PM) for the March 3rd Duke vs. UNC basketball game wins! The winner will bask in electronic glory, while the loser will be required to change their Facebook profile to an image of their opponent’s choice. Big stakes, indeed.

So if you haven’t already, pop over to Facebook and “Like” the Duke University Archives page. Share the word with your friends so we can defeat our powder blue foes! Of course, you’ll also get the pleasure of learning more about Duke history while you’re at it—seems like a win/win all around.

Go Duke University Archives!

Historical Blue Devil vs. Historical Ramses, 1957
Historical Blue Devil vs. Historical Ramses, 1957. From the 1958 Chanticleer.

Post contributed by Rosemary K. J. Davis, Duke University Archives Drill Intern.

Gallery Talk: Suzanis, Women, Weaving, Life Journeys

A suzani needlework textile.

Date: Wednesday, February 15
Time: 3:00 PM
Location: Thomas Room, Lilly Library, East Campus
Contact Information: Mary Samouelian, 919-660-5912 or mary.samouelian(at)

Please join us to learn more about the Lilly Library exhibit featuring suzani needlework dowry pieces, a custom interwoven within the social fabric of the women of central Asia. Learn about the textile tradition and techniques of the suzani, discover an enthusiast with an intriguing Duke connection, and enjoy the collection on display on the main floor of Lilly Library.

The gallery talk will feature Greta Boers, Librarian for Classical Studies at Lilly Library, and Mary Samouelian, Doris Duke Collection Archivist for the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Ms. Boers will introduce and discuss her private collection on display on the main floor of the Lilly Library and Ms. Samouelian will recount Doris Duke’s introduction to suzanis in her travels as well as her longstanding admiration of these handcrafted dowry cloths.

A reception with light refreshments will be held after the talk. This event is free and open to the public.

P. Preston Reynolds on Integrating Hospitals

P. Preston Reynolds
P. Preston Reynolds will speak on racially integrating hospitals, 1963-1967.

Date: Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Time: Light buffet supper at 5:30 PM; lecture begins at 6:00 PM
Location: Biddle Rare Book Room
Contact Information: Rachel Ingold, 919-684-8549 or rachel.ingold(at)

Please join the Trent History of Medicine Society/Bullitt History of Medicine Club for its next speaker series event on Tuesday, February 14, 2012.  P. Preston Reynolds, MD, PhD, FACP, will be discussing “The Federal Government’s Efforts to Racially Integrate Hospitals Under Medicare, 1963-1967.” Dr. Reynolds is Professor of Medicine in the General Medicine, Geriatrics, and Palliative Care Division and a faculty member for Biomedical Ethics and Humanities at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

For more than 30 years, Dr. Reynolds’ research has focused on the history of race discrimination in healthcare and medical education.  She has published and lectured on the subject, received major funding from the NIH and national foundations, and won awards for her scholarship. She currently is writing a book on the history of Durham’s black hospital, Lincoln Hospital, and healthcare for blacks in the Carolinas, and revising a comprehensive guide to resources on the history and contributions of African Americans to the health professions.


The Mystery of Emily Johnson’s Headstone

Close-Up of Emily Johnson's HeadstoneAccording to oral tradition, Emily Johnson’s headstone was discovered in the 1960s at the construction site of the Divinity School addition.  It remained in a closet there until 1993, when it was transferred to the custody of the Duke University Archives.   How the headstone ended up on campus and where it originally resided remain a mystery to this day.

Over the years, several attempts were made by William King, University Archivist Emeritus, to locate information about Johnson and or her descendants in an effort to relocate the headstone to its appropriate resting place.   He found no record of any real estate transaction between the University and the Johnson family, indicating that it’s likely the headstone did not originally reside on West Campus land, most of which had been family farmsteads.

There are also no listings for Emily Johnson in nearby Durham cemeteries, such as Maplewood.  While death certificates usually provide burial location for the decedent, they were not regularly issued in North Carolina until 1913, eighteen years after Johnson’s death.

Duke University Archives staff would love to know where Emily Johnson’s headstone belongs.  If any blog readers would like to help take up the cause, your efforts would be most appreciated (contact us!).  Until such time as the headstone can be returned to its rightful place, Duke University Archives will continue to serve as its custodian.

Emily Johnson's Headstone in its Box

Special thanks to Jennifer Blomberg, Senior Conservation Technician in the Conservation Services Department, for making a custom box for the headstone.  To read more about the construction of the box, please check out Preservation Underground’s related blog post.

Post contributed by Kim Sims, Technical Services Archivist for the Duke University Archives.

Duke University Archives @ the Internet Archives

Cover of Catalogue of Trinity College, 1858-1859
Cover of the Annual Catalogue of Trinity College, 1858-1859

The recent digitization of many years of the Chanticleer, Duke University’s yearbook, has been a great benefit for both archivists and researchers.

Now, the yearly catalogs, known as Bulletins, are being digitized thanks to the Internet Archive’s Scribe machine located here at the Duke University Libraries. These newly-searchable resources provide more and better access to historical information about Duke University. The catalogs include information like courses offered, of course, but they are also full of other useful facts.

For instance:

  • What was the Trinity College undergraduate tuition for the 1892-1893 academic year (the college’s first year in Durham)? ($25.00 per term)
  • How many bound volumes did the Library contain at the end of the 1923-1924 academic year? (71,520)

In addition, there were specialized catalogs for graduate and professional education, so that someone researching the School of Medicine, for example, can learn more about that program in particular. There are even fun extras like aerial views of campus from the 1930s.

Virtually turning the pages of these historical catalogs provides a wealth of information. In the 1934-1935 Law School bulletin, for example, it lists the current students. One, Richard Milhous Nixon of Whittier, California, was a first-year student at the time. We can also tell from the catalog that school started on September 19 that year, and that “in addition to concert programs, recitals, and lectures, motion pictures are shown in the campus auditorium twice a week.” Sounds like a pretty interesting place to get an education!

Find links to Chanticleers and Bulletins at the Duke University Archives section of the Internet Archive. Additional Bulletins will be digitized in the near future, along with other Duke University resources.

Post contributed by Val Gillispie, Duke University Archivist.

“Charles Dickens: 200 Years of Commerce and Controversy”

Date: 31 January-1 April 2012
Location and Time: Rare Book Room cases during library hours
Contact Information: Will Hansen, 919-660-5958 or

Banner for Charles Dickens exhibit

This month marks the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, one of the most popular and influential authors of all time.  The Rubenstein Library commemorates the occasion with the exhibition “Charles Dickens: 200 Years of Commerce and Controversy.”

"Charles Dickens as He Appears When Reading," by C.A. Barry, Harper's Weekly, Dec 7, 1867.

Come see first editions of Dickens’s works, notorious plagiarized and pirated versions of The Pickwick Papers and Great Expectations, rare ephemera relating to beloved works such as Oliver Twist and David Copperfield, documentation of Victorian London, and more!  If you can’t make it to the Library, an online exhibit is also available.

But that’s not all!  Come to the Library’s Biddle Rare Book Room on February 8 at 7:00 p.m. to see author and Duke professor Michael Malone reenact Dickens’s fabled dramatic readings of beloved scenes such as the graveyard opening of Great Expectations, the death of Nancy from Oliver Twist, the “great trial” from The Pickwick Papers, and the Crummles theatricals from Nicholas Nickleby.


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