Category Archives: Collections

– materials (not processing)
– fun new stuff

Visiting the Library From Home

Even as the Duke University Libraries remain closed, there is no shortage of library resources to be enjoyed remotely.  We asked the Technical Services staff to share how they are using the libraries to make the most of their time at home. Here are some of their responses:

“My family has enjoyed Naxos Music Library. It has over 2.3 million tracks!”
(Natalie Sommerville, Team Lead, Monographic Original Cataloging)


“I’ve been playing mandolin for a few years now, and I like to check out music from the library to work on. I’m pretty slow, so these two should be able to tide me over for some time. Also, both of the Fantastic Beasts movies are on Swank Digital Campus!” (Dennis Christman, Metadata Transformation Librarian)


“I have an issue of one of my favorite manga at home. It’s volume no. 2 of ‘Yotsuba &!’ The series shows the zany antics of a young girl (about 5 years old, I think?) in Japan.  It’s a slice-of-life comedy that always makes me laugh and puts me in a good mood.  I brought the volume home in case I need help feeling joyful in these times.”
(Will Hanley, Electronic Resources Management Specialist)


“I really needed a break from all of the terrible, frightening news, and I REALLY needed to laugh, so I decided to check out Swank Digital Campus.  Swank has a pretty good selection of films in a number of different genres, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to catch up on some I’d always heard about, but had never seen.  I decided upon ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ (I know, I can’t believe I never saw it either!), and really enjoyed it.  I needed something lighthearted and fun and that fit the bill. I may check out ‘Crazy Rich Asians’, and I noticed Swank also has ‘Eat, Drink, Man, Woman’, which I saw years ago and really enjoyed.” (Ellen Maxwell, Library Original Cataloger for Monographic Resources)

“I am using Duke’s OverDrive (in conjunction with Durham Library’s – it’s great, you can combine access to both in the OverDrive Libby app) to find ebooks for leisure reading on my Kindle.

Birds of the World is a great database for those of us who have become amateur bird watchers while at home. We have a great view out of my living room window onto a bird feeder and watch the birds come and go all day. I even spent some time trying to learn to identify bird songs this weekend (not super successful on that one).” (Virginia Martin, Head – Continuing Resource Acquisitions)

“I have stacked on my dining room table around 20 books from DUL that I am using to write an historical article.  It will be entitled, “Selling Virginia: promoting English emigration in the seventeenth century” and will be published in Advertising and Society Quarterly.

I’ve taken photos of many of the images of promotion literature included in these illustrated texts (all public domain, of course.)  They included broadsides, official documents, lottery headers, etc.  Many people don’t realize how rich our collections are in older texts, and the value they provide.” (Beverly Dowdy, Coordinator – Government Documents Processing)

Cataloging the Edwin & Terry Murray Comic Book Collection

Our last blog post talked about the vast variety of materials from around the world that pass through Technical Services every day. Duke’s collections run the gamut from the most esoteric and scholarly to the most popular and mainstream. In recent decades, materials formerly considered to belong firmly in the realm of pop culture have crossed over to academia, however, and have become objects of study as well as entertainment. Comic books are perhaps the best example of this phenomenon, and the Duke University Libraries are currently cataloging the Edwin & Terry Murray Comic Book Collection, one of the largest sequential art collections held by any library in North America, if not the world.

The Murray comics were a gift from local collectors Edwin and Terry Murray to Duke’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library and consists of approximately 55,000 comic books from the 1930s to the early 2000s. While the collection has been described in an archival finding aid since its acquisition in 2003, over the past few years we’ve embarked on a project to catalog it at the title and item level. Now users around the world can see exactly what we have as well as find and interact with the collection in ways that weren’t possible before. Catalogers in Rubenstein Technical Services and DUL Technical Services have been working together to describe and provide access to this remarkable collection more thoroughly, perhaps, than any other comic book collection in the world. They are supplementing title and issue information with character names, creators, and genre headings, allowing users to search and find comics in variety of ways.

The Murray collection features some of the most famous comics ever published, like Flash Comics #92 (cover-dated February 1948), in which Black Canary, introduced a few months earlier as a minor supporting character, moves to a starring role in her own monthly feature. Seventy-two years later, she’s still one of the most prominent superheroes of all time, starring in 2020’s Birds of Prey movie and having inspired and influenced generations of readers, creators, and the hundreds of superheroines who followed her. For the Duke Libraries staff who are longtime comics fans, holding such incredibly famous, iconic, and valuable artifacts in our hands can be breathtaking, and we’re thrilled to be able to make them available for viewing and use in the Rubenstein Library reading room.


Items from this collection pass through the two Technical Services operations constantly, and at any given time we’re working on everything from funny-animal comics to spy thrillers to Westerns. The bulk of the collection consists of superhero comics, though, and includes practically everything published during the Golden and Silver Ages of comics and beyond by Marvel and DC as well as other publishers like Image, Milestone, and Dark Horse.

Right now one of the many titles we’re working on is the Legion of Super-Heroes, who first appeared in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958) and have been one of DC’s flagship franchises ever since. Set 1000 years in the future and mixing super-heroics, science fiction, and soap opera, the team’s adventures have been published almost continuously for over 60 years. Originally supporting characters for Superboy, they became so popular that they eventually pushed him out of his own book, which changed its title from Superboy to Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes to just plain Legion of Super-Heroes. Like all the best comics, the Legion is weird and wonderful, brilliant and bonkers, and absolutely addictive.

Although the title is set 1000 years in the future, it reflects the social norms and mores of the time of its creation as well as hopeful visions of what society might look like in the future. It’s particularly interesting to look at the evolving role of women in the Legion from its beginnings to today. Early issues may have been set in the year 2958, but they were written in 1958, and female characters were portrayed as less powerful, less confident, and often less capable than their male teammates. While many of the male Legionnaires had physical powers such as super-strength, growing to colossal heights, and projecting lightning, the female Legionnaires had less showy (and less aggressive) powers like shrinking, intangibility, and thought-casting. (Even the weirder powers were gendered: Matter-Eater Lad could eat his way through anything, including metal, stone, and energy, while Dream Girl’s super-dreaming usually took the form of her becoming overcome by stress and passing out.)

Apart from Supergirl (an occasional Superboy stand-in), the only female character with purely physical powers was Night Girl, whose super-strength rivaled Superboy’s…but only in the dark, when no one could see her do it. As a result, in 1963 the team rejected her application for membership, declaring her powers too undependable.

Despite being the strongest woman in the 30th and then 31st centuries, it took Night Girl 44 years to take her rightful place among the galaxy’s greatest heroes, finally becoming an official member of the Legion in 2007.

Comic books reflect changes in society perhaps more immediately than any other literary medium, and as the role of women in the 20th century changed, so did the role of their 30th-century counterparts. New female Legionnaires were introduced who were more powerful, more capable, and more nuanced. Old characters such as mind-reading Saturn Girl and the ethereal Phantom Girl were redefined as among the toughest members of the team, and Dream Girl became one of the greatest leaders the Legion has ever seen after being elected to that role by a reader poll. Shrinking Violet, originally the shiest member of the team (hence the name), became one of its fiercest and most fearless fighters, while Princess Projectra, for many decades a spoiled illusion-caster with a towering bouffant, found new ways to use her powers in the 1980s as Sensor Girl, becoming one of the most powerful and fearsome heroes the team has ever seen.

As we catalog the Murray comics, we’re making special efforts to highlight titles featuring female characters. In addition to well-known characters like Wonder Woman and Storm, we want to make sure users can also find works about other female characters like Power Girl, Misty Knight, and Rogue. Sometimes it can be a challenge to make sure users can track characters through various titles over the decades, especially when they keep changing their names like Barbara Gordon/Batgirl/Oracle/Batgirl and Carol Danvers/Ms. Marvel/Binary/Warbird/Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel. Fortunately for them, and the readers who love them, the catalogers in DUL and Rubenstein Technical Services are experts in keeping track of people, places, things, and titles that keep changing their names again and again.

Cataloging of the Edwin & Terry Murray Comic Book Collection is an ongoing process. Clicking this link will display all the comics in the collection that have been cataloged so far, and more are added every week. Check the catalog regularly to see what new treasures have been made available!


Coming Attractions From the Non-Roman Acquisitions Team

Duke strives to have a diverse collection that supports the research interests of its students and faculty. What you might not know is exactly how diverse that collection can get! One of the best parts of working in library acquisitions is getting to be the first people to see the surprising and fascinating materials that get added to our collection every day.

Here is a quick tour of some material that might surprise you – inter-generational whimsy in the chill of Russia, humanity in propaganda films of North Korea, the co-existence of modern tension and long history in China, and effervescent, universal proverbs from Egypt.

(Disclaimer: Some of this material might still be in process when you read this. That’s OK – just think what else might be on the shelf waiting for you if you go looking!)


Arabic proverbs mirror the beauty of the Arabic language and Arab culture. These proverbs in the Egyptian dialect are part of everyone’s daily routine and life. Each situation has a proverb that fits it perfectly. It is Arabic wit and humor while at the same time the proverbs have lessons we learn from. Their meaning is universal as there are similarities found in other languages.

على رأي المثل      (Find it in the catalog)


Literal translation: If your friend is honey, don’t lick it all.
Hidden meaning: Don’t take advantage of your friends.


Literal translation: After his hair went white, he went to school.
Hidden meaning: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Applicability: Used to criticize someone old trying to do things more suited to young people


Literal translation:  Wonders don’t please him, and even if we postpone Ramadan fasting until next year, he won’t be pleased.
Hidden meaning: Criticism of someone who’s impossible to please.
Applicability: To comment on someone who puts down everything or everyone (Fouzia El Gargouri)


Duke also purchases DVDs of North Korean films for many reasons. We have the opportunity to analyze them as avenues of propaganda and to experience them as humans who may have similar goals, needs, and hopes. Check out two examples of new arrivals below:

사랑 의 종 소리 = The bell of love (Find it in the catalog)
From the back: “Soldiers and people rebuild the branch school on the remote island which was destroyed by flood disaster with join efforts to that they could ring the bell of education forever.”


내 삶 이 닻 을 내린 곳 = My last home (Find it in the catalog)
From the back: “Myong Son is an unconverted long-term prisoner who is embraced in the bosom of the Republic after 45 years of struggle behind the bars in south Korea from the time of the Korean war which was unleashed by the US imperialists, holding fast to his conviction. It is only one year that he spent in the embrace of the Republic. During this period, what did he experience and what is the prop that has supported his destiny?”

These films (and the other films and books in the Duke collection from North Korea) are a great opportunity to consider the intentional and unintentional messages we send when we create literature and art. Piqued your interest? Browse the LibGuide on North Korean films at Duke. (Sara Biondi)


Бумажная архитектура : Антология / Юрий Аввакумов
(Paper architecture: Anthology / Yuri Avvakumov)
(Find it in the catalog)

A peek into an art book can be a window into the dialogue between generations—and into Russian cultural history more broadly. Russian Futurists of the 1920s designed avant-garde architecture to bring their cities into a post-revolutionary modern world. With a relatively clean slate but no resources, many of their designs remained as “paper architecture,” — utopian dreams and sketched images which were never realized in bricks or steel.

When Russian avant-garde architects and artists returned to ‘paper architecture’ during the late-Soviet glasnost’ of the 1980s, they adopted some of the same forms and tropes of the 1920s works–but they were no longer dreaming of a “communist city of the future.” Some images showed a focused collision of themes, as with “Sea Battle” and the (divergent) houses of cards. But sometimes the new generation “just dreamed”; their more personal drawings seem to express longing for the whimsy of private and natural life.

Александр Зосимов – Морской Бой (1985)
Aleksandr Zosimov – “Sea Battle”

Photomontage with images of buildings, a sea foreground, a sky background, and a ship.


Николай Ладовский – Коммунальный Дом (1919)
Nikolai Ladovskii – “Communal House”
A drawing of a house of cards with a prominent top spire, a surprisingly individual element for an architectural concept named to envision communal living.


Юрий Аввакумов, Сергей Подъемщиков – “Catapultower” (1982/2007)
Iurii Avvakumov and Sergei Pod”emshchikov’s house of cards, in 4 sequential images depicting the structure with a “self-raising” catapult-style architectural propulsion.


Никола Овчинников – Московский Парфенон (1995)
Nikola Ovchinnikov “Moscow Parthenon”

Ovchinnikov regularly uses the theme of native Russian birch in his art. Here its inclusion naturalizes the ancient architectural concept into a truly Moscow structure.


Николай Каверин, Ольга Каверина – Второе Жилище Горожанина (1985)
Nikolai Kaverin, Ol’ga Kaverina -“Second home of a city-dweller”
Usually such a living space is a tiny rural cottage (“dacha”) with a garden plot as the center of activity. Here the structure is set as a “still life” in multiple views—the table setting is among the topography of the land and then noted as features of the individual allotments. The land’s produce itself embodies the details of the apple-home and pie-garden spaces. (Robin LaPasha)


Duke’s East Asian collection contains more than 35,000 titles in Chinese. Plenty of those titles contend with the issue of modernization; certainly many are concerned with the long history of the Chinese-speaking world. Here are two recent titles that illustrate both the urgency of change and the long arc of history – both equally important context for China today.

自由係 … : 反送中運動「夢境」紀錄 (Find it in the catalog)
This title documents the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement in Hong Kong (2019-2020 Hong Kong Protests) in text and photographs. 71 citizens of Hong Kong speak directly to us about their pursuit of democracy and freedom in a direct and honest way.
Find this title in the East Asian Collection.


茶馆 (Find it in the catalog)
The movie Teahouse is based on a play by Lao She (Shu Qingchun), a 20th-century Chinese novelist and dramatist. The story spans fifty years of Chinese history, and follows Wang Lifa, the boss of the eponymous teahouse, as well as the many characters that make up the society around him. It’s considered not only one of Lao She’s most important works, but a monumental depiction of Chinese history, depicting the social turmoil and seamier side of society over three dynastic periods.
More of a reader than a movie person? Read the play in bilingual translation. (Yaoli Shi)


Stacks of Jazz

The Music Library and Monographic Acquisitions are working on a project to boost the collections of Free Jazz and Spiritual Jazz (and Jazz Funk, some Fusion, some Spoken Word, Modal, Post Bop, New Sound, etc.), primarily from the 70s and with a focus on American jazz. Expect a brighter spotlight on these efforts in the coming months. But, for now, in the process of digging through the digital stacks, many many gems already in the collection were discovered. What follows is a rundown of just three of them, all LPs from the LSC. Take a stroll sometime through the Jazz at Duke Libraries and you will encounter numerous, and sometimes rare, wonders!

Human Arts Ensemble – ‘Under the Sun’  Universal Justice Records, 1974
(LSC: GX9430)

The 3rd release from the St Louis MO avant troupe, featuring Lester Bowie and Charles Bobo Shaw. Two side-long cuts, the B side is a more free and abstract original, while the A side is the true stunner. A funky one, it is “a free music symphony based on an Afghanistan folk melody, ‘Lover’s Desire’ (Folkways FE 4361) transcribed from radio Kabul.”


Julius Hemphill – ‘Dogon A.D.’  Mbari Records, 1972  (LSC: GX25087)

Another arch of brilliance from St. Louis, this one helmed by composer and reedman Julius Hemphill. The entire album wows, but the title track is a true powerhouse. Hemphill is on alto sax and joined by drums, trumpet, and most impressively: cello. Abdul Wadud commands the left channel with repetitive stringed brilliance while the drums hold down the right and the horns do as they please over everything.


Rufus Harley ‘A Tribute to Courage’  Atlantic Records, 1968  (LSC: GX8482)

Jazz bagpipes? Jazz bagpipes!! Harley (born near Raleigh, no less!) was adept at several instruments (the B side finds him on saxes and flute) but truly made his mark playing bagpipes in a jazz setting. The ears might need a while to adjust, but check out the lone elegiac original, and title track, ‘A Tribute to Courage (JFK)’, for a shining example of his unique stylings.