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Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University
Updated: 7 hours 49 min ago

Teaching & Learning with Artists’ Books

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 06:03

Post contributed by Kelly Wooten, Librarian for the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture

In the fall 2018 semester, I worked with students in two sections of Dr. Amanda Wetsel’s Writing 101 course, Photography and Anthropology to introduce them to the Rubenstein Library’s collection of artists’ books.

As context, Dr. Wetsel shared that students in Photography and Anthropology consider how anthropologists have treated photographs both as an object of inquiry and a means of communicating their findings.  She writes, “As they read both early and contemporary anthropological texts, students think about multiple ways words and images interact. They then conduct ethnographic research on a photographic genre here at Duke, such as lock screen photographs, Instagram accounts, and displays of photos in dorm rooms.”  As a final project, several students used the format of an artists’ book to convey their findings with words and photographs.

After their research visit, Dr. Wetsel reflected on how the works the students explored during their session inspired them to think creatively about their own projects:

Viewing artists’ books at the Rubenstein prompted students to think about how the form of a book can reflect its content, how to create powerful texts and format those texts creatively, and ways of making books engaging.  As they unfolded the game board of Julie Chen’s A Guide to Higher Learning, stretched Ed Ruscha’s Every Building on the Sunset Strip across the table, tugged down the staircase-like accordion folds of text on Clarissa Sligh’s What’s Happening with Momma and unrolled the delicate, cigarette-shaped scrolls of Amy Pirkle’s Smoke, students thought about how they could adapt the forms to communicate their own research.  We’re fortunate to have a range of creative and beautiful artists’ books at the Rubenstein for students to touch, read, and use as inspiration.   The form of the artists’ book allowed the students to combine text and photos in powerful and unexpected ways.

Kim’s “A View into the Wallpaper”

Joanne Kim, ’22, created a book entitled A View into the Wallpaper. The book itself resembles a cell phone, a box which opens to reveal four smaller icon-shaped boxes. She writes:

Detail from “A View into the Wallpaper”

The transition from home to college life is a daunting change which necessitates adaptation and the reconciliation of homesickness, and in some cases, existentialism. At Duke University, freshmen female and male students handle change differently. Female students respond by physically displaying the change in spaces such as their cellphone lock and home screen wallpaper. Male students seek some consistency in a major time of change, and therefore, keep their lock and home screen wallpapers the same through the transition. All the while, both genders utilize the space as a means of protecting and discovering their core identities throughout their freshman year and beyond.

Joshua Li, ’22, describes his piece Lily as having “six long and blue trapezoidal flaps with a Rubik’s cube at the center.” Each flap as an image of a meme which he presents as a form of community building, and the cube can be removed and played with separately. He shared a quote from the text in the book:

Memes function like a societal adhesive, a catalyst for unity in the ultra-diverse Duke community, as these witty photographs have for many years brought people together through shared laughter and warmth. Similar to how creating and looking at memes promote harmony, solving a Rubik’s cube enables one to achieve that same sense of harmony by restoring order to the scrambled and disorganized faces of the cube.

“Lily,” opened “Lily,” closed

He titled his book Lily “not only because the end product looked like the flower, but also because in Chinese culture lilies symbolize harmony and unity, which was the main conclusion from my research.” He continues, “The fact that the meme cube is at the center of a display made up of Duke colors (or close to Duke colors – the 3D printers here don’t bleed Duke Blue and white apparently) emphasizes the theme of memes being at the center of Duke University.”

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Women’s Work in the Woods: Women Loggers During World War I

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 11:13

Post contributed by Jessica Janecki, Rare Materials Cataloger

Today’s blog post features a photograph album of 20 gelatin silver prints that depict women loggers at work in England during World War I. This item is from the  Lisa Unger Baskin Collection which documents women’s work across the centuries, from the 13th to the 20th. We chose to highlight this photograph album because it unites two of the Rubenstein’s collecting areas, women’s history and documentary photography.

The Great War: Glimpses of Women’s Work in the Woods.

Although the title, Glimpses of Women’s Work in the Woods, verges on the whimsical, these photographs show young women hard at work doing the grueling manual labor that, until the Great War, had been done almost exclusively by men.

Timber felling near Petworth. A typical feller using her axe on a small fir tree.

The women depicted in the photographs were members of the Timber Corps. During World War I, forestry, like many male-dominated industries, was left critically under-staffed and the British government encouraged women to do their part for the war effort by taking on these vital jobs. The images show women loggers felling trees with hand-axes and saws, trimming and “barking” felled trees, carrying logs, and driving horses. These photographs were taken in the summer of 1918 around the towns of Petworth and Heathfield in Sussex, England.

The tree falling. Heathfield. “Barking.” Heathfield. Carrying the poles out of the wood. Timber felling near Petworth. Horse girls bringing logs down to railroad.

These images were captured by Horace Nicholls, a British documentary photographer and photojournalist. He had been a war correspondent during the Second Boer War and later returned to England to work as a photojournalist. Prevented from serving in World War I due to his age, in 1917 he became an official photographer for the Ministry of Information and the Imperial War Museum, documenting life on the home front.

The series was not issued commercially and the album in the Baskin Collection appears to be a unique production. The 20 gelatin silver prints are carefully mounted on cream card stock with gilt edges. The binding is full red leather with the title in gold on the front cover and spine. Each print has a hand lettered caption. Click this link to view the full catalog record.

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Records of Births and Deaths in a 19th Century Small Town

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 07:00

Post contributed by Taylor de Klerk, Josiah Charles Trent Intern for the History of Medicine Collections

A pair of books, nearly identical in appearance, live on the shelves of the Rubenstein Library. Both are beautifully bound and were clearly well-maintained by their original owner, Dr. Charles Brayton, who used them throughout his 19th century career. Despite their outward similarities, these books are almost exact opposites. Brayton kept one volume to document the births he attended and the other to record deaths in the same community: Stonington, Connecticut.

As a practicing physician from the 1870s to the early 1900s, Brayton provided care for many members of this community, which numbered around 6,000 to 8,000 at various points in his career. These books give us a sense of what life in 19th century New England was like, thanks to Brayton’s thorough records.

Each volume documents different types of information. The “List of Births” included the date (and sometimes time) of each birth, the child’s name and gender, the parents’ names and ages, and the baby’s surname. Dr. Brayton also sometimes described the parents’ race, where they were originally from, and any significant details about the birth. The timeline for this volume extends so far that it includes some instances where the babies Dr. Brayton had delivered later grew up and he delivered their children as well.

Entry for birth of Theodora “Dora” Sylvia, July 3, 1877

Tracing new mothers back to their own births happens on several occasions, including for Theodora “Dora” Sylvia Holland. Dr. Brayton delivered Dora at 10:15pm on July 3rd, 1877. His notes indicate that this is Theodora A. Daveny Sylvia’s fifth labor, but there are no anecdotes or records of complications. Reading through his notes from the decades that followed, Dora’s name reoccurs several times. Dr. Brayton delivered six of her children! Dora’s first adult occurrence in this book (after her own birth of course) was in 1896 for her second labor. Mrs. Dora Sylvia Holland gave birth to a baby boy at 5:50pm on May 11, 1896.

Entry for birth of John T. Holland, Jr., May 11, 1896 Entry for death of William Hyde, M.D., September 25, 1873

Conversely, Brayton’s “Record of Deaths” lists the date of each individual’s death, their name, approximate age (if he knew), and reason of death. For some individuals, he also included their relation to other community members and their place of birth. On some occasions Brayton included even more information, such as a narrative of the events leading up to the death.

This is the case for Dr. William Hyde, who died of consumption at 64 years old after spending nearly half of his life with the disease. Dr. Brayton describes Hyde as “a good friend to me and my preceptor in the study of medicine.” Brayton undoubtedly experienced a strong reaction to the passing of his teacher. Brayton’s record goes on to eulogize Hyde by listing his family and accomplishments, though unfortunately none of his five children lived longer than Hyde himself.

Records like these shed light into the practices of those that lived centuries ago. We use these books and others to help Duke medical students and undergraduates understand the historical context of the practices that they learn about in their coursework. Dr. Brayton’s records help us see the ways of life in 19th century small-town Connecticut, even if just through the lens of one man’s professional career.

Dr. Brayton’s List of Births and Record of Deaths are available to view in the Rubenstein Library’s reading room. Click here for more information about using our collections.

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Locus Archives Document the History of Sci-Fi

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 11:13

Post contributed by Laurin Penland, Library Assistant for Manuscript Processing in Technical Services

Locus, the Magazine of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Field, was started in 1968 by Charles N. Brown, Ed Meskys, and Dave Vanderwerf as a science-fiction news and fan zine, and it’s still going! For all of the years that the staff have been creating the magazine, they’ve also been saving and collecting correspondence, clippings, and books by and about science-fiction, fantasy, and horror writers.  In 2018 the Rubenstein Library acquired this massive collection (almost 1,000 boxes).  It will be a while before we finish processing and cataloging all the books and papers, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t share a sneak peek of the project mid-process.

A Few Highlights Correspondence

I recently finished processing the manuscript portion of the collection, which includes seven boxes files relating to more than 800 authors. My favorite part of these files is the correspondence, the bulk of which was written between 1960 and 2009. Many writers wrote to Locus to share news that could be included in the magazine or to quibble about inaccuracies and to suggest corrections. Overall, the correspondence creates a sense of community among a very diverse and spread-out group of writers; people wanted to know who was publishing what, who changed agents, who was involved with such-and-such scandal or lawsuit, who died, who got re-married, etc. Fans may swoon over the signatures of Octavia E. Butler, Arthur C. Clarke, Issac Asimov, and Ursula K. Le Guin (to name a few).  Many of the letters are amicable, some are irate, and some are sassy and humorous. Here, one of my favorite writers, Octavia E. Butler, writes to make an important and sErious correction:

Postcard from Octavia E. Butler

Researchers will find evidence in these letters of a thriving community of writers, publishers, and editors all working to create relatively new and modern genres of fiction.

International Connections

Perhaps of special interest to fans and scholars will be the international ties of the collection, especially to Eastern Europe, the U.S.S.R., China, and Japan. Below, Alexander Korzhenevski provides a report about a science-fiction conference in Sverdlovsk (U.S.S.R.). He writes that the 1989 convention “was the biggest (so far) SF convention in the Soviet Union.” Later in the report he alludes to publishing organizations in the U.S.S.R. by describing how two books arrived at the convention: “Both books were published through (not by, because cooperative organizations here still have no publishing rights) new publishing cooperative organizations (one of them “Text” is headed by Vitaly Babenko), and both of them were delivered to the convention by fans by train (no help from state book-trading organizations).” Korzhenevski’s file also includes a flyer for his business, which is described as “the very first independent literary agency in Russia, operating since 1991.”

Report on the Aelita-89 Science Fiction convention in the U.S.S.R., written by Alexander Korzhenevski. Check out those stamps! Stationery

This collection has the best stationery by far of any manuscript collection that I have processed. I wonder what researchers in the distant future will think about these creative designs? Here are 14 of my favorites:

 

Stay tuned (and stay wicked!) for more updates about the Locus Science Fiction Foundation Collection. You can view the collection guide for the manuscript collection online and request to see the papers soon in the reading room (open to the public). To search for books from the collection that are being individually cataloged, visit the library catalog and search “Locus Science Foundation Collection” as a keyword or author.

You can learn more about the history of Locus and read current articles at their website.

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Public Domain Showcase 2019!

Wed, 01/09/2019 - 15:11

Guest Post by Arnetta Girardeau, Duke University Libraries, Copyright & Information Policy Consultant

As you may have already heard, January 1, 2019 marked a very, very special “Public Domain Day.” When Congress extended the term of copyright in 1998 through the Copyright Term Extension Act, it set off a long, cold public-domain winter. For twenty years, no work first published in the United States entered the public domain. But now, spring is here! On January 1, 2019, works first published in 1923 became free to use. And in 2020, works first published in 1924 will enter the public domain, and so on and so on! It’s exciting stuff.  What does that mean to us as creators, makers, teachers, or writers?  It means that we suddenly have access to more materials to rework, reuse, and remix!  Works such as Charlie Chaplain’s The Pilgrim, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Links, and “The Charleston.”

At Duke, we’re celebrating this introduction of new materials into the Public Domain with a competition to showcase what our community can do with the public domain.  We want to see how Duke faculty, staff, and students can use items from 1923 and earlier, all of which are now in the Public Domain!   We have provided a few images below, but feel free to create with any works that you find that are in the public domain (if you have questions about what is and isn’t in the public domain, you can contact us and we’d be happy to talk!) Looking for some more inspiration? Browse our digitized collections for thousands of works published before 1923.

What can you do?

  • Write new lyrics to a song
  • Create a wallpaper for your mobile phone
  • Make a work of art
  • Create a score for a silent movie made in 1923.

What else do you need to know?

  • Any member of the Duke community may enter.  Faculty, staff, students, and retirees are all welcome. Selected entries will be posted on the blog and on Library social media. We have a small number of giveaways to thank you for participating.
  • Multiple entries are allowed;
  • Send in entries between January 9 and January 31 at midnight;
  • Use public domain content;
  • Submit your entries here 

You can read more about the Public Domain in this article by the Duke Law Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

If you have any questions about entering the showcase, or how to incorporate other people’s work into your own, consult the Arnetta Girardeau, Copyright and Information Policy Consultant, at arnetta.girardeau@duke.edu.

From Edward Topsell, The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents. 1658.

 

Trinity College Basketball Team, 1920-1921. University Archives Photograph Collection. Duke University Archives.

 

Cover of pamphlet advertising The Bryant and Stratton Commercial School. John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History

 

Chas. Johnson, “A New Rag, Dill Pickles.” 1906-07.

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Blue Devils’ Blue Light

Wed, 12/19/2018 - 08:00

Post contributed by Josh Larkin Rowley, Reference Archivist for the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History

Spend a moment chatting with me and there’s one thing you’ll likely learn: I really like beer. Since my arrival in Durham nearly a decade ago, I’ve spent an uncomfortable amount of my income at Sam’s Quik Shop. It’s changed a lot since my time here—expanded indoor space, the addition of outdoor seating, a less surly staff. However, it has always been a hub for me, a family-owned bottle shop that still feels like the Durham I met years ago. In an evolving cityscape featuring more new high-rise condominiums than personality these days, Sam’s is iconic. Like many local beer drinkers, I was stunned but not altogether surprised by the news that the bottle shop will close at the end of the month and the property sold. As a beer-loving member of the Duke community I started thinking about what Sam’s, in all its historical iterations, has meant to generations of Duke students. Taking advantage of resources available in the Duke University Archives we catch a glimpse of the evolution of Sam’s and a feeling for what the institution meant to generations of Duke students.

Sam’s Quik Shop ad from July 12, 1976 Chronicle

In the 1950s, when the Woman’s College was still active, codes of conduct choreographed interactions between men and women on campus. Consequently, students sought friendly establishments off campus where they could socialize freely. One of these was Sam’s Blue Light Basement, named after the hit song “The House of the Blue Lights,” which opened its doors in 1954 to students eager for a new nightlife spot in the city. Modeled on the German Rathskeller, students could dance to juke box tunes, drink beer, and mingle in proximity to the opposite sex, all without the heavy hand of administrative oversight. In a 1981 profile of Sam’s Quik Shop in The Chronicle, owner Sam Boy spoke fondly of current Duke students who tell him that their parents “came a courtin’” to the Blue Light years earlier.

While the basement boomed, the ground floor Blue Light Cafe thrived as well, with locals and students alike lining up for the drive-up food delivery. During the annual Joe College celebration, a mainstay of every Duke students’ social calendar in the 1950s, students found the time between scheduled events for a trip to the Cafe. “At 5 the lawn concert breaks up . . . a quick stop at the Blue Light for an in-car supper,” reads a poetic homage to Joe College weekend in the 1955 Chanticleer. The in-car service was so popular that by the 1960s local police were required to direct traffic on busy weekends. “Cars were lined up outside looking for a place to park,” Sam Boy remembered. In 1974, Sam and his wife Gerry converted part of the business into a convenience store, changing the name to Sam’s Quik Shop, while retaining the neon Blue Light sign that adorned the facade.

The Quik Shop became a one-stop establishment for anything one might need. From convenience store staples to automotive supplies, the Quik Shop had it all. However, alongside the self-serve carwash, books and newspapers, and VHS rentals (over 3,400 titles!), beer was the most prominent feature of their offerings. Sharing shelf space with standard brands like Miller, Budweiser, and for those with an aversion to beer, Bartles and Jaymes and a large selection of wines, the Quik shop also stocked less familiar names and imports like Old Peculiar, Glacier Bay, Chihuahua, and Sol. “That’s our drawing card as opposed to the supermarkets,” noted a prescient Sam Boy in 1981. Sam’s found its niche.

By 1984, a legal drinking age of 21 put beer drinking by law-abiding college students out of reach. However, thanks to advances in home computing technology and photo editing software, a surfeit of fake IDs hit the nightlife scene in the late 1990s. During this scourge of lawlessness, many Durham drinking establishments reported an increase in fake ID confiscation—IDs most easily identified by their atrocious quality. Sam’s on the other hand reported a decline in the number of fake IDs. “Usually we have a whole wall full by the end of the semester,” exclaimed Robert Clark, a Sam’s clerk in 1999. “Right now, we only have four or five.” (If you were one of those lucky students publicly shamed on the walls of Sam’s circa 1999, let us know!).

Sam’s Quik Shop ad from the November 11, 1988 Chronicle

“It has been said that one cannot stand in the way of progress,” began an editorial by student Marc Weinstein in the October 5, 1990 issue of The Chronicle. The extension of the 147 Expressway to the west turned the area around Sam’s Quik Shop into a construction and traffic nightmare that affected the livelihood of the family-owned business. While approving of necessary infrastructure improvements, Weinstein went on to say that he equally liked Sam’s Quik Shop. “I like being able to snatch a 6-pack of Colt 45 . . . rent Breakin’ II: Electric Boogaloo, and grab some hot pork rinds at 10 on a Friday night,” said the Trinity senior. Weinstein vowed to contribute in some small way to ensuring the survival of this “shoppers paradise” by making extra trips to the Quik Shop each week. His fear, surely shared by many, was that the institution would go the way of Pete Rinaldi’s Chicken Palace, a beloved eatery on 9th Street.

Alas, progress has finally caught up to Sam’s Quik Shop. As another Durham landmark is swapped for clean, commodious living, let us—Durhamites and Duke students alike—mourn the loss of one of the city’s most enduring locales . . . over a beer, of course.

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Green Book Provides Guide to a Bygone Era

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 07:58

Post contributed by Bennett Carpenter, PhD Candidate in Literature and African and African American Studies Intern 

The movie Green Book, in theaters now, has garnered both acclaim and criticism for its depiction of the African American pianist Don Shirley’s 1962 tour through the Jim Crow South. But it has also engendered newfound interest in the original Green Book, a vital resource for African American travelers in the early- to mid-twentieth century.

Car travel appealed to many African Americans in the Jim Crow era, both for the sense of freedom it engendered and as a means to escape the segregation and discrimination experienced in public transportation. But travelling by car presented its own difficulties. In addition to the pervasive threat of police harassment on the road, many hotels, restaurants and even gas stations refused to cater to Black customers—not only in the overtly segregated South but also in the nominally integrated North. As a result, Black travelers had to plan ahead.

1962 Green Book Cover

First published in 1936, the Negro Motorist Green Book provided African Americans with an invaluable guide to relatively safe stopping points along the road, along with a list of local businesses that would provide food, gas, a place to sleep and a warm welcome. The book was created and published by New York City mailman Victor Green, who tapped into a network of Black postal workers across the country to provide him with information about local conditions.

Here at the John Hope Franklin Research Center, we hold a copy of the Green Book from the same year that the film takes place—1962. A glance through its pages grants many insights into African American life in the mid-20th century. The entry for Durham, North Carolina, for instance, lists two restaurants, a hostelry and a hotel—all located in the historic Black neighborhood of Hayti.

1962 Green Book, pp. 74-75

Founded by freedmen in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, Hayti was an important center of Black life for the better part of a century. It attracted such famous visitors as Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois, who called it “the Negro business mecca of the South,” recommending it as a model for other African American communities to follow.

By the time the 1962 Green Book appeared, however, the community was on the verge of precipitous decline. That same year, the city voted to build Highway 147 through the middle of the neighborhood, dividing the community and destroying hundreds of homes and businesses. Federal money promised for rebuilding failed to materialize. The community would be further torn apart by additional attempts at so-called “urban renewal”—famously dubbed “Negro removal” by James Baldwin for its disastrous impact on Black communities.

Today, none of the four Durham businesses listed in the 1962 Green Book remain. Two—the Bull City Restaurant and the Biltmore Hotel, both on Pettigrew Street—have been torn down, the once bustling businesses replaced by parking lots. DeShazor’s Hostelry has also been demolished; a strip mall now occupies the spot where it once stood. At 1306 Fayetteville Street, the former College Inn Restaurant has been replaced by the New Visions of Africa Community Restaurant. Opened in 2004, it provides free daily snacks to children and sells low-cost, healthy meals, with an emphasis on community self-sufficiency.

Left: 1956 Travelguide cover, Right: Travelguide, p. 5

The Green Book was not the only such travel guide available to African American motorists. A 1956 booklet in our holdings, simply titled Travelguide, also promised to help Black travelers experience “Vacation & Recreation Without Humiliation,” as a caption on the cover put it. Inside the booklet, an inset note predicted that “the time is rapidly approaching when TRAVELGUIDE will cease to be a ‘specialized’ publication,” envisioning “the day when all established directories will serve EVERYONE.”

That day was not far off. In 1964, the passage of the Civil Rights Act ended legal racial discrimination in hotels, restaurants and all other public accommodations, muting the need for specialized travel guides. Within a few years, publication of the Green Book and other Black travel guidebooks would cease. The Travelguide’s optimistic proclamation had thus proved prophetic.

On the top of the same page from the 1956 Travelguide, however, another inset sounded a different note. “Many of the N.A.A.C.P. Presidents in southern states have been removed from this issue,” it announced, “due to the danger of increased violence by those individuals who are opposing the Supreme Court and the Interstate Commerce Commission in respect to segregation in travel.”

In the gap between these two insets—the one prophesizing an end to racial discrimination, the other warning of increasing racist violence—can be read both the triumphs and tribulations of the Black freedom struggle across the twentieth century.

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Percy and Ella Sykes: A Photographic Journey Through Chinese Turkestan

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 10:08

Post contributed by Paula Jeannet, Visual Materials Processing Archivist

This post is part of “An Instant Out of Time: Photography at the Rubenstein Library” blog series

A recently acquired photograph album offers a study of the landscape, culture, and the realities of travel in a remote region in the steppes of Central Asia, through the camera of British Army officer Sir Percy Molesworth Sykes.  Charged as acting Consul-General in Chinese Turkestan, now Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, Sykes had to travel from England to the capital city of Kashgar.  In an unusual turn of events for the time, he was accompanied on this arduous overland journey by his sister, Ella Constance Sykes, also a Fellow of the Geographical Society and a well-regarded writer on Iran.

In March 1915, when the two set off for their arduous nine-month journey, World War I was in full tilt, thus their northerly route through Norway.  Meanwhile, in Central Asia, after decades of conflict which included the Crimean War, Russians, Turks, English, Chinese, and British Empire troops from India, were still grappling to extend their control over these strategically important regions.  Lieutenant Colonel Sykes’ camera recorded the presence of these nationalities.

 

In researching this collection of photographs, I discovered that brother and sister also recorded their experiences in a co-authored travel memoir, Through deserts and oases of Central Asia (1920, available online); it includes many of the photographs found in the album.  To find a written companion piece to a photograph album is a stroke of luck, as with its help I could confirm dates, locations, and a historical context for the photographs found in the album.

Ella Sykes wrote Part I of the memoir, which describes the journey in vivid detail, and her brother, Part II, which focuses on the region’s geography, history, and culture.  In her narrative, Ella occasionally recounts taking photographs of various scenes, such as the image on page 92 of women at a female saint’s shrine.  A note in the image index states that “The illustrations, with one exception, are from reproductions of photographs taken by the authors” (emphasis mine); clearly, some of the book’s illustrations are her work.  The question arises, did she take any of the images found in the album?

Of the photographs in the album that also appear in the Sykes’ book, several are found in the section written by Ella, leading one to think perhaps she took them, including a different version of this group, found in the album:

However, the title of the photograph album, handwritten in beautiful calligraphic script, states: “Photographs taken by Lt. Col. Sir Percy Sykes to illustrate Chinese Turkestan, the Russian Pamirs and Osh, April-November, 1915.”

With this title in hand and my cataloging hat on, and without firm evidence of Ella’s hand in the album’s images, I officially record Sir Percy Sykes as the album’s sole creator.

Through researching the context for Percy Sykes’ photograph album (a copy of which is also held by the British Library), I learned a bit about the history of the region and of his role in the administration of British affairs.  I was also serendipitously introduced to Ella Sykes.  Even though in her fifties when she traveled, she clearly had great stamina as a horsewoman and adventurer, and was a keen observer of the people, landscapes, and animals she encountered.  Sir Percy writes in the book’s preface: “To my sister belongs the honour of being the first Englishwoman to cross the dangerous passes leading to and from the Pamirs, and, with the exception of Mrs. Littledale, to visit Khotan.” (p. vi)  Ella Sykes was a founding member of the Royal Central Asian Society and a member of the Royal Geographical Society as well.  She died in 1939 in London, while her brother Percy died in 1945, also in London.

For more information about the photograph album, see the collection guide.  The album is non-circulating but is available to view in the Rubenstein Library reading room.  It joins other Rubenstein photography collections documenting the history of adjacent regions in the Middle East, Central Asia, Russia, India, and China.

Additional links:

Photograph portrait, reportedly of Ella Sykes, from the Long Riders Guild of travel narratives.

Some biographical information was taken courtesy of:  Denis Wright, “SYKES, Ella Constance,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2008, viewed December 10, 2018, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/sykes-ella-constance

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Applications Now Accepted for the 2019-2020 Travel Grant Program

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 07:32

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is now accepting applications for our 2019-2020 travel grants. If you are a researcher, artist, or activist who would like to use sources from the Rubenstein Library’s research centers for your work, this means you!

The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, the History of Medicine Collections, the Human Rights Archive, and the Archive of Documentary Arts, will each award up to $1,500 per recipient ($2,000 for international applicants to the Human Rights Archive) to fund travel and other expenses related to visiting the Rubenstein Library. The Rubenstein Library also awards up to $1,500 for individuals who would benefit from access to our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender history collections through the Harry H. Harkins, Jr. T’73 Travel Grant.

The grants are open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, independent scholars, artists, and activists who live more than 100 miles from Durham, North Carolina, and whose research projects would benefit from access to collections held by one of the centers listed above.

More details—and the grant application—may be found on our grants website. Applications must be submitted no later than 5:00 PM EST on January 31, 2019. Recipients will be announced in March 2019.

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126 Years of Fascination with Lizzie Borden

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 15:24

Post Contributed by Michelle Runyon, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture Graduate Intern.

On August 4, 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden were found after being murdered with an ax. Andrew’s daughter Lizzie was immediately suspected and she was subsequently tried for the couple’s murders. The public was entranced with the grisly crime and Lizzie Borden’s trial. Many were unpleasantly surprised when she was acquitted of her father’s and stepmother’s murders. Lizzie Borden continued to live in her hometown of Fall River, Massachusetts, until her death even though she was ostracized by the community.

Even since her death in 1927, Lizzie Borden has continued to catch the public imagination. In the 126 years since Bordens’ murders, there have been books, podcast episodes (for example, Unsolved Murders Episode 23), movies, and even an opera which tells the gruesome story of the the Bordens’ murders. The Duke Libraries holds dozens of works inspired by the story of Lizzie Borden.

Here at the Rubenstein Library, we have a few different items related to Lizzie Borden and her trial, including a two-volume scrapbook that details Lizzie Borden’s trial through contemporary newspaper clippings. Although we are not certain who compiled the scrapbooks, their existence is evidence of the public’s fascination with the Borden murders from the beginning and the attention that was paid to Lizzie’s trial.

Clippings in the Lizzie Borden scrapbooks, Rubenstein Library

The Lisa Unger Baskin Collection includes a brief manuscript relaying events in Fall River surrounding the two murders  and an autograph album collected by Jennie Nuttall, a resident of Fall River, MA, which includes a verse and signature by Borden from before the murders took place. This volume will be included in 500 Years of Women’s Work: the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection exhibit opening at the Rubenstein on February 27, 2019.

We also have an album in the Bobbye S. Ortiz Papers featuring a song about Lizzie Borden, as sung by the Chad Mitchell Trio!

Front and back cover “The Best of Chad Mitchell Trio,” from the Bobbye Ortiz collection

As evidenced by the release this year of film entitled Lizzie inspired by her story, Lizzie Borden continues to be a figure of macabre fascination to many. Her story and the stories of the murders are retold time and time again.

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Movember Adventures in the Archive

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 09:46

Post contributed by Zoë Eckman, PhD Candidate in English and Research Services Intern.

At the beginning of this month, I became intrigued by the event called “Movember” or “no-shave November.”  It’s an awareness-raising charitable event in which mustaches are grown over the month to spark conversations about men’s health and encourage donations.  Inspired by this event, I decided to delve into the resources of the Rubenstein to research the simple topic of facial hair.  What I discovered spanned centuries, genres, materials, and occasionally conflicting opinions about beard and mustaches.

Because the Rubenstein’s collections are so expansive, it may seem intimidating to begin a research project – but experience in libraries will hone your research skills and introduce you to new tools which are advantageous no matter what subjects you’re fascinated by.  The most important thing to bring with you are questions – what could I discover about the way facial hair has been viewed over time?  What importance (if any) did facial hair have in the past?  There was a lot of material to wade through, but I chose things which seemed interesting to me and might help me answer my questions.

The first was a play written in 1707, Colley Cibber’s “The Double Gallant”. While the play itself isn’t about facial hair, it contains the brilliant quote:  “Modesty’s a starving virtue, madam, an old threadbare fashion of the last age, and would sit as oddly upon a lover now as a picked beard and mustachios” (p. 30).  Clearly, in the eighteenth-century in Britain, growing facial hair was not the route to choose when attempting to choose a paramour.

Not so in France in 1842, when Eugène Dulac’s “Physiologie et Hygiène de la Barbe et des Moustaches” [image 2] encouraged young men to grow beards and mustaches because they were a visual symbol of male dominance – something women, in the author’s opinion at least, found extremely attractive.

After this, I discovered a comedic song from 1931 called “Put Away the Moustache Cup” in a book of music called “Soft boiled ballads : a collection of heart-wrecking songs.”

Wanting to know what a “mustache cup” was, I searched the library and found a physical example of one in the Richard Pollay ACME Advertising Collection  which advertised hair dye (so if you think branded giveaways like coffee mugs or water bottles are a modern trend, think again).

Also not a modern trend, I discovered, was the removal of beards and mustaches considered unattractive.  A book from 1906 encourages the removal of “unwanted facial hair” on women through the hot, new medical procedure of electrolysis!  One hundred years later, the feminist magazine “Bitch” included an article in their essay collection titled, “Beyond the Bearded Lady:  Outgrowing the Shame of Female Facial Hair.”

Perhaps one of the most famous mustaches in the world belonged to the artist Salvador Dalí, whose facial hair was so iconic that it was given its own book, “Dalí’s Mustache.”  The book is a “photographic interview” in which short questions are posed to the artist, he responds in his iconoclastic style, and a picture is featured in which his mustache is styled to match his answer.  When the question, “What do you see when you look at Mona Lisa?” is asked, he responds like this:

Facial hair also has local historical significance:  in 1953, to celebrate Durham’s centennial, a group of 3,093 men paid a $1 membership fee, got a button, and pledged to maintain facial hair of some sort (you can learn more about that here, in a previous intern’s blog post).  “Grow a ‘Mo, Save a Bro” is one of Movember’s mottos – the Durham men called themselves “The Brothers of the Brush.”  On the opposite end of the spectrum, a Winston-Salem man was, in 1974, required by his employer to shave off his mustache and remain clean-shaven.  He filed a lawsuit with the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and we have the records of his struggle to maintain his personal facial hair and insure the rights of others to do the same (he was going to lose his case, unfortunately, so settled out of court).

So, researching something as simple as facial hair has lead us from the 18th century through the 19th, 20th, and into the 21st.  We’ve encountered fictional texts, medical treatises, musical ballads, advertisements, surreal art, historical events and lawsuits, and feminist journalism.  The Rubenstein is a research tool which contains a wealth of items touching diverse and seemingly disparate subjects.  All you have to do, no matter what you’re interested in, is dive in.

 

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Your Obedient Servant: Hamilton and Burr Letters at the Rubenstein Library

Wed, 11/21/2018 - 10:36

Post contributed by Kate CollinsResearch Services Librarian

The opening of the hit musical Hamilton at the Durham Performing Arts Center has meant letters we have from Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and other figures in the musical have been getting some attention on campus, in the press, and in our reading room. We’re always excited to share our collections, especially when they relate to a musical that grapples with questions of whose voices are included in history and how historical narratives are constructed.

Want to hold and read a letter that Hamilton or Burr wrote? These collections are available in our reading room and open to all, so come visit us.

Alexander Hamilton Letters, 1780, 1791

In November 1791, Hamilton, then Secretary of the Treasury, wrote to Abisha Thomas and James Taylor, treasury agents for North Carolina, trying to find out if North Carolina had ever issued its own debt certificate in exchange for those of the United States. This may seem like one of the more technical provisions in the Funding Act of 1790 (which Jefferson complains in the musical has “too many damn pages for any man to understand”), but it relates to one of the most important pieces of Hamilton’s financial plan for the new nation: the federal government’s assumption of debts incurred by individual states during the Revolutionary War. The vigorous debates that surrounded Hamilton’s economic vision for the US were re-imagined in Hamilton as a rap battle in “Cabinet Battle #1.” Hamilton, of course, did succeed in getting congressional support for his financial system, thanks to the deal he made with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the Compromise of 1790.

The letter was likely written by a clerk (Hamilton was a busy guy!), but it does bear his signature, just below the closing “Your Obed. Servant.” This was a common closing for letters between elite men in the 18th century. Burr and Hamilton both used it (if not sincerely) during the heated exchange of letters that led to their duel, earning the phrase a prominent spot in the musical.

This collection also includes a newspaper clipping of a republished letter, 1780, from Hamilton to Elizabeth Schuyler concerning the Benedict Arnold affair and the death of Major John André.

Burr, Aaron. Letter, 1793, Dec. 24 : Philadelphia, to Mrs. Burr.

In this letter, we see side of Burr only hinted at in the musical. Here he’s not Hamilton’s political adversary, but a devoted husband trying to find his wife, Theodosia, relief from her “distressing illness.” Theodosia and Aaron Burr’s relationship gets only a couple of lines in the musical, but as is alluded to, Theodosia was married to a British officer when Burr began courting her during the war. Theodosia and Aaron did eventually marry in 1782, following the death of Theodosia’s first husband. The Burrs’ marriage was one built on affection, friendship, and respect for one another as intellectual equals. 

Theodosia had been ill for much of their life together and by 1793 was in severe pain. Aaron Burr writes this letter to Theodosia from Philadelphia, where he was serving in Congress, on Christmas Eve, 1793 to say he had consulted with Dr. Benjamin Rush, the prominent Philadelphia physician, and Rush advised she take hemlock. Burr had not told Rush Theodosia was already taking hemlock and is pleased that Rush’s opinion aligned with the medical advice they’d already received. He closes his letter saying he hopes the hemlock “may restore you health and to your affectionate, A. Burr. ” Sadly, Theodosia was likely suffering from cancer, and died just five months after this letter.

Otis, Harrison Gray. Letter, 1803. (from Alexander Hamilton)

Hamilton wrote this letter to Harrison Otis, another prominent lawyer and Federalist, advising on whether a particular document would be admissible as evidence in an ongoing lawsuit related to an insurance claim following the seizure of a trade ship by the Portuguese off the coast of Brazil. Otis was one of the lawyer’s representing Hamilton’s brother-in-law, John B. Church (with whom Burr had previously dueled!), in the case.

Van Ness, William Peter. Letter, 1805. (from Aaron Burr)

Following his duel with Hamilton and the end of his term as Vice President, Burr went on a seven month trip through the western states and territories, making his was all the way down to New Orleans. Van Ness served as Burr’s second in his duel with Hamilton, and as this letter shows, Burr continued to rely on Van Ness. Burr writes Van Ness from Chillicothe, Ohio, the state’s capital at the time, asking Van Ness to meet him in Berkeley Springs, Virginia (now West Virginia) “as soon as may be possible (I don’t say convenient),” and instructing Van Ness to contact some of his supporters: the physician and editor “Dr. I” (Dr. Peter Irving) in New York, and the Philadelphia merchant Charles Biddle.  Burr also mentions plans to meet his daughter Theodosia Burr Alston and son-in-law “Mr. A” at the Springs on November 4th.

Schuyler, Philip J. Letter, 1801, May 2 : Albany, to Thomas Barclay, Esq.

Philip Schuyler was Hamilton’s father-in-law and served as one of New York’s senators in the First United States Congress. A Federalist, Schuyler lost his re-election to Aaron Burr, who ran as a Democratic-Republican, in 1791. Schuyler regained his senate seat from Burr in 1797, before resigning the next year due to poor health. In this letter, Schuyler, a chronic sufferer of gout, gives his case history and writes of Samuel Stringer’s prescribed treatment against gout, the inhalation of oxygen.

 

Bibliography

Goebel, Julius, Jr., ed. The Law Practice of Alexander Hamilton; Documents and Commentary. New York: Columbia University Press, 1964.

Nancy Isenberg. Fallen Father: A Life of Aaron Burr. New York: Viking, 2007.

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Providing Access to Radio Haiti Through Multilingual Metadata

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 11:12

Post contributed by Maggie Dickson, Metadata Architect, Digital Collections and Curation Services

As the metadata architect in the Digital Collections and Curation Services Department at Duke University Libraries, I have the opportunity to work on the design and development of many fabulous digital collections. This includes the Radio Haiti Archive, which has been one of the most interesting—and challenging—projects I’ve worked on throughout my 10+ years of working with digital collections.

Over the past few years, we’ve been standardizing our metadata practices across digital collections so that they will be more scalable and sustainable—we’ve learned the hard way that the more specialized a collection is, the more prone it is to breakages and difficulties over time. The Radio Haiti project needs are really specialized, and the metadata (description) is rich, granular, and multilingual. So, striking the right balance between standardization and specialization is definitely a challenge.

One of the foundational goals of the NEH grant we received for our work with Radio Haiti is to make sure that the collection is accessible to people in Haiti as well as the Haitian diaspora, and therefore we needed to provide description in three languages: English, Haitian Creole, and French. While we’d worked with metadata in multiple languages before, we’d never worked with trilingual content, and the technology we use to present and manage our digital collections doesn’t accommodate multilingual metadata in a sophisticated way. To get around this, rather than create lots of custom metadata fields just for this collection, we decided to use our standard fields, such as title, description, and subject, to store the multilingual content. The metadata displays in the item record and is keyword searchable and, in the case of subjects and formats, faceted. This isn’t the most elegant solution, but it works, and when the digital library community develops support for multilingual content, we will be ready!

Example multilingual subject headings.

 

Beyond figuring out how to present the metadata to users of the archive, it has also been an ongoing challenge to figure out how to manage the workflow for the development of the metadata—not only is it complex, it is voluminous! Created iteratively by project archivist Laura Wagner and her team of intrepid translators, the metadata passes through several hands and undergoes quite a few transformations before it is ready to go live on the website. Therefore, it has been critically important that we continuously review and revise our process to make sure nothing gets lost or distorted along the way. So many spreadsheets!

An example snapshot of one of our many spreadsheets.

Through much careful consideration and many meetings with project staff, I think we’ve achieved a good balance between meeting project needs and being responsible to the long-term health and sustainability of this and other digital collections. That being said, we still recognize the inherent limitations to providing broad accessibility to this important content—despite the inclusion of multilingual metadata in the digital collection, it is still embedded in a predominantly English language website for an academic research institution located in the United States. And as project archivist Laura Wagner stated in an earlier blog post, “Radio Haiti’s digital archive is not only for scholars writing about Haiti; it isn’t even principally for them. It is for everyone.”

We’re experimenting with a few options to try to address this limitation, including engaging in ‘digital repatriation’ by distributing flash drives loaded with content to cultural heritage organizations in Haiti, standing up pilot collections of the content to reach a broader audience using YouTube and the Internet Archive, and improving the performance of the digital collection in low-bandwidth environments.

Working on the Radio Haiti Archive has been a challenge both in technological ways as well as how we think about collections, collecting, and access. Providing broad, equitable access to our digital collections, through our use of metadata and otherwise, is an intense and critical challenge, but one which we are beginning to tackle with intentionality and enthusiasm.

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“Since the war began ‘times ain’t what they used to be:’” Life at Trinity College During the Great War

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 10:45

Post contributed by Mandy Cooper, PhD, exhibit curator, former Research Services Graduate Intern, and Duke History PhD.

One hundred and one years ago, the doors to the East Duke Parlors were “thrown open” and “tables and machines [were] hauled in” along with “oilcloth, bleaching, hammer and tacks.” Led by Trinity College’s newly established branch of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), the women at Trinity College and in the surrounding community turned the East Duke Parlors into a Red Cross room. According to Trinity’s YWCA president Lucile Litaker, the room was now “splendidly equipped” and “great bundles of material began to appear.” Throughout the next year, women at Trinity were joined by women from Durham to roll and send bandages overseas. The Red Cross room was officially open every Tuesday and Friday afternoon from 2:00-4:30, with the Trinity Chronicle reporting in February 1918 that between forty and fifty women had worked in the room the previous Friday. The women at Trinity were determined to do their part for the war effort.[1]

Photos of the Student Army Training Corps at Duke in the University Archives Photograph Collection, Box 72.

They were not the only ones. By the 1917-1918 school year, the United States had officially entered World War I, and Trinity was feeling its effects. The impact on enrollment was immediate. Trinity saw a decrease of over 100 enrolled students from 1916-1917 and 1918-1919. President William P. Few was alarmed and attempted to boost enrollment in multiple ways: he encouraged current students to remain at Trinity until they were drafted; he toured North Carolina to promote the need for college-educated men to rebuild a war-ravaged Europe; and, like many other North Carolina universities, he started a Student Army Training Corps (SATC) unit on campus. The young men who enrolled in the SATC officially joined the US Army, but remained students at their institutions and were protected from the draft while receiving the training necessary to be considered for officer positions after graduation. Special classes were established for the SATC to ensure that those enrolled received the necessary training. The War Department required that Trinity create a course for the SATC that covered the “remote and immediate causes of the war and on the underlying conflict of points of view.” This course was intended to enhance the SATC’s morale and help them understand the “supreme importance to civilization” to the war.[2]

Few’s worries that Trinity would lose many students “to government service of one kind or another” proved apt. Although Few tried to dissuade freshman Charlton Gaines from leaving Trinity when he heard of his plans, Gaines enlisted and was sent to Camp Meigs for training. He apologized to Few shortly after arriving at Camp Meigs for leaving “without giving you notice of my departure.” Gaines served throughout the war, attaining the rank of Sergeant in the Quartermaster Corps, and never returned to Trinity College.[3]

Even those students who remained at Trinity felt the effects of the war. Friends and former students who had joined the military often returned to campus to visit on the weekends. The Chronicle reported in January 1918, that there would be no Chanticleer for the 1917-1918 largely because of the war. In addition to financial woes carried over from the previous year, the editor-elect had failed to return to Trinity in fall 1917—presumably because he joined the army. As the Chronicle writer reported, though, Trinity was not the only college (even just in North Carolina) that had been forced to cancel the yearbook for the year. In the end, the writer told students that they must “patriotically adapt” themselves to this situation because “since the war began ‘times ain’t what they used to be.’”[4] The Chanticleer returned in 1919 as a special edition. It was issued at the end of the war, published as Victory, 1919, and highlighted the victory of the United States and its allies in the war.

The war had some unexpected effects on Trinity as well. Football had been banned at Trinity since 1895, and in 1918 students petitioned for its return. They argued that a football program would help build a manly physique during a time when there was “a distressing need for physically well-developed men.”[5] As the war was ending, the administration lifted the ban and football returned to Trinity.

Trinity’s connection to the war was never more clear than in the masses of letters that alumni and former students sent to friends still at Trinity, to President Few or other faculty, to the Trinity Chronicle, or to the Alumni Register. Lt. R.H. Shelton wrote to Duke Treasurer D.W. Newsome from the front in France, telling him that he had seen “some of the worst over here.” Shelton continued, “Sherman certainly knew what he was talking about, but his was an infant.”[6] Alumni like Shelton made the horrors of war clear to everyone still at Trinity.  The pages of the Alumni Register for the war years are filled with letters from the front, placed in the same volumes as the President’s updates on the war’s effect on the college.

Captain Charles R. Bagley (’14, A.M. ’15) wrote multiple letters from the front that were published: one in the Alumni Register in April 1918 and one in the Chronicle in December of the same year. Photo of Captain Charles R. Bagley, ’14, A.M. ’15, Camp Jackson. In the Trinity Alumni Register, Vol. 4, No. 1, April 1918, p. 48. Available digitally at https://archive.org/details/trinityalumnireg04trin

 

The Alumni Register and the Chronicle both regularly reported on the service of Trinity alumni and students overseas, including the first alumnus killed in action. First Lieutenant Robert “Kid” Anderson was among the first wave of American soldiers sent overseas. Part of the class of 1914, he was killed in action on May 29, 1918, at the Battle of Cantigny in France—the first major American engagement in the war. The news of Anderson’s death was sent both to his family and to President Few. The Alumni Register announced that Anderson had been killed in action in its July 1918 issue. The Register profiled his time at Trinity and his military service before reprinting an account of the memorial service held in his honor in his hometown of Wilson, North Carolina, a letter to Anderson’s parents from a fellow soldier that described his, and portions of Anderson’s letters to relatives and friends.[7]

To honor the centennial of the end of the First World War, selected items from the Duke University Libraries are on display in the Mary Duke Biddle Room as part of the exhibit “Views of the Great War: Highlights from the Duke University Libraries.” In addition to the impact of World War I on Trinity College and other people back home, the exhibit highlights aspects of the Great War and tells the personal stories of a few of the men and women (whether soldiers, doctors, or nurses) who travelled to France with the American Expeditionary Force during the “war to end all wars.” “Views of the Great War” is on display through February 16, 2019.

Footnotes

[1] Lucile Litaker, “The Year with the Y.W.C.A.,” The Alumni Register, Volume IV, No. 2, July 1918; 148-149. Available digitally at https://archive.org/details/trinityalumnireg04trin. For the Chronicle article, see: “Red Cross Notes,” The Trinity Chronicle, Vol. 13, No. 19, Wednesday, February 6, 1918. Available digitally at https://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/dukechronicle_dchnp83014/.

[2] Memo from the War Department Committee on Education and Special Training to Institutions where Units of the Student Army Training Corps are Located, September 10, 1918. Wartime at Duke Reference Collection, World War I – Student Army Training Corps, Box 1.

[3] For Few’s statement about losing students, see: William Preston Few to Benjamin N. Duke, July 16, 1917, Few Papers, Box 17, Folder 210. For the Charlton Gaines’s letter, see: Charlton Gaines to President Few, February 19, 1918, Few Papers, Box 19, Folder 235.

[4] “No Chanticleer for 1918.” The Trinity Chronicle, Vol. 13, No. 17, Wednesday, January 16, 1918. Available digitally at: https://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/dukechronicle_dchnp83013/.

[5] Statement from the Student Committee on Football, May 14, 1918. Trinity College Yearly Files, 1918. Board of Trustees Records, Box 5, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[6] Lt. R.H. Shelton to D.W. Newsom, June 25, 1918. Trinity College (Durham, N.C.) Office of the Treasurer Records, Box 1, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[7] The Alumni Register, Volume IV, No. 2, July 1918; 98-104. Available digitally at https://archive.org/details/trinityalumnireg04trin.

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Researching Migrant Exclusion in the Human Rights Archives

Tue, 10/30/2018 - 09:00

Post contributed by Llana Barber, Associate Professor of American Studies at the College at Old Westbury (State University of New York) and author of Latino City: Immigration and Urban Crisis in Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1945-2000She was a recipient of a 2018 Marshall T. Meyer Research Travel Grant.

National Coalition for Haitian Rights Collection

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that all people have the right to emigrate – to leave their country. There is, however, no corollary right to immigrate – to enter another sovereign nation – inscribed in international law. I wondered what it means that people have the right to leave their country of origin, but all other countries have the right to deny them entry? Does that effectively just give people the right to die at sea, as thousands of migrants do each year, or in treacherous desert borderlands?

I am a historian of migration to the United States, but it has become clear to me through my research that U.S. immigration and border policies are actually designed to keep most of the world out. To truly understand those policies and practices, it isn’t enough to study the history of those small numbers of people who immigrate; we must write the history of those turned away.

My current research explores the incarceration, interdiction, repatriation, and deportation of Haitian migrants, including asylum seekers, from the 1970s to 1990s. I argue that this militarized migrant exclusion was central to the formation of the U.S. as a nativist state – a political economic system centered on controlling human mobility across national borders – beginning in the 1980s. Other nations adopted similar policies of excluding or periodically expelling Haitian migrants in this era, particularly the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic. In concert, these practices functioned to deny most Haitians the fundamental right to emigrate.

Haitians watch anxiously as INS agents and USCG personnel from cutter Chase board their 35-foot craft on 25 October 1981, Caribbean Sea Migration Collection

A generous Marshall T. Meyer Research Travel Grant enabled me to begin exploring several relevant and rich collections at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University. While I was only able to spend a week at the Rubenstein Library on this initial visit, I plan to return for another month of research, and it will take even longer to work my way through the stunning digitized Radio Haiti and Caribbean Sea Migrations collections.

A major strength of these collections, from what I have seen so far, is that they cross national and linguistic borders. The National Coalition for Haitian Rights collection, for example, contains activist records and investigative reports from Haiti, the U.S., the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and an array of other countries. Material is in English, French, Haitian Creole, and Spanish. Research in this collection truly gives a sense of how central Haitian asylum seekers became to global political struggles around racism, imperialism, and migrant rights in the late 20th century.

Most importantly, the voices of individual Haitians on the island and in diaspora resonate clearly in these collections.

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