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.


Merle Hoffman Reads from Intimate Wars

Date: Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Time: 4:00 PM
Location: Biddle Rare Book Room
Contact Information: Kelly Wooten, 919-660-5967 or kelly.wooten(at)

Merle HoffmanNext Tuesday, Merle Hoffman reads from her new memoir, Intimate Wars: The Life and Times of the Woman Who Brought Abortion from the Back Alley to the Boardroom.

Hoffman is a pioneer in developing and providing women’s health services; an award-winning writer; and a fearless advocate for women who has been in the forefront of cutting edge issues for over 40 years.

This past fall, Hoffman pledged $1 million to endow the directorship of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture at the Rubenstein Library. Her papers are part of the Bingham Center’s collections.

The reading is co-sponsored by the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture and Duke’s Program in Women’s Studies as part of this spring’s “Future of the Feminist 70s” series of events.

On the Move!

In November, I was hired by the Rubenstein Library as the Collections Move Coordinator.  My job is to ensure that all the unique and inspiring Rubenstein Library collections transfer safely to our temporary space or the Library Service Center during the Rubenstein Library renovation.

We have gotten off to a running start in December and January by moving approximately 1,875 linear feet of manuscript material (or 2,260 boxes) to the Library Service Center.  We also moved approximately 10,000 pamphlets.  This seems like a lot, but we still have plenty to move, as there are   32,500 linear feet of space in our stacks.

As we moved our collections, we also removed the shelving from our stacks. The empty space has been transformed into a production area for move related prep work.

Stacks shelving cleared during a recent move
Stacks shelving cleared during a recent move
Stacks with shelving removed
Stacks with shelving removed
Work space carved out of the stacks
Work space carved out of the stacks

The Rubenstein Library’s goal is to have all collections moved either to our temporary space in Perkins Library or to the Library Service Center by the end of December 2012.  Our staff is currently hard at work prepping our manuscript and archives collections for the move.  We are also starting to turn our attention to print materials such as pamphlets and rare books and this work will increase in the coming months.

We are not planning any further large-scale moves of materials until Fall 2012.  We are, however, shipping regular batches of pamphlets to the Library Service Center this spring and through the summer.

So what does all this mean to our researchers and the Duke Community that we serve? I’m glad you asked.  We just published some information about how the public might be impacted by the move:  The important thing to remember is to let us know when you are coming and what you are researching.  Contact us now! We will be happy to assist you and we will do our best to have your materials waiting.

Post contributed by Molly Bragg, Rubenstein Library Move Coordinator!

A Dear Friend of the Rubenstein Library

We note with sadness the passing of Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans. Mrs. Semans was the great-granddaughter of Washington Duke, and the granddaughter of Benjamin Duke.  She came to Duke University as a 15 year-old freshman in 1935, and was an alumna of the class of 1939 of the Woman’s College. She remained a tireless advocate for Duke University throughout her life, serving as a longtime trustee and supporter of numerous projects on campus. These include the Mary Duke Biddle Rare Book Room, named for Mrs. Semans’ mother.

In 1938, Mrs. Semans married Josiah Charles Trent, a Duke alumnus and later the first Division Chief of Thoracic Surgery. The couple collected rare books related to the history of medicine, and Walt Whitman materials. Dr. Trent died of lymphoma in 1948. In 1953, Dr. James Semans and Mrs. Semans were married. They were known on campus, in Durham, and throughout North Carolina as supporters of the arts, higher education, civic projects, and other charitable endeavors.  Mrs. Semans was a longtime trustee of the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation (named for her mother), which has supported projects in the library, among many other grant recipients.

Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans with Curator of Rare Books Thomas M. Simkins.
Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans with Curator of Rare Books Thomas M. Simkins. The materials pictured are now part of the History of Medicine Collections in the Rubenstein Library. Photo from the University Archives Photograph Collection.

The Trent Collection of Whitmaniana and Trent Collection of history of medicine materials, along with Semans Family Papers, are significant parts of the Rubenstein Library today. We are grateful to the generosity of Mrs. Semans over the years, and the way she continued the legacy of philanthropy begun by her relatives. Mrs. Semans never stopped supporting the institution that her family transformed. Her contributions to the library, the institution, and our community will not be forgotten.

Post contributed by Valerie Gillispie, Duke University Archivist.

Robert Burns, Unglued

The Rubenstein Library owns a well-worn copy of Robert Burns’ Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect that was selected for conservation treatment in October of 2010. The full sheepskin binding was in fair condition and broken at the board hinges.  A previous spine repair attempt with what appeared to be Elmer’s glue left the leather on the spine looking, shall we say,… shiny? The glue coating also resulted in irreparable damage to the fragile sheepskin covering and caused the outer layer of the leather to separate and peel.

Spine of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect , before treatment
Spine of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect , before treatment

In addition, the pages were fairly dirty and, at the front of the text, were tipped to one another in ways that made it difficult to turn them safely.

Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect before treatment
Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect before treatment
Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect before treatment
Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect before treatment

In consultation with curators, conservators from the Conservation Services Department decided on a treatment that involved surface cleaning the text; removing damaging previous repairs; page mending and hinging in loose pages; reinforcing the board attachments; and recovering the spine with leather dyed to match the original sheepskin covering.  The treatment resulted in a binding that retains the character and evidence of use of the original but is much more stable and functional.

Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect after treatment
Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect after treatment
Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect after treatment
Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect after treatment

Post contributed by Erin Hammeke, Conservator for Special Collections. Thanks Erin! Visit the Conservation blog, Preservation Underground, for more from our friends in the lab!

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