Post contributed by Kate Collins, Research 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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Today, The National Archives launches A Year in Archives 2018.
The publication celebrates innovative and exciting work from across the archive sector and copies will be available at the Discovering Collections, Discovering Communities (DCDC) conference, currently taking place in Birmingham.
A Year in Archives explores how archive services have delivered on the themes of the strategic vision, Archives Unlocked. This vision aims to release the full potential of archives by embracing current challenges and opportunities such as openness, impact and digital development.
Dr Valerie Johnson, Director of Research and Collections at The National Archives said:
‘A Year in Archives demonstrates that the archives sector continues to work hard in demonstrating the importance of archives through innovative ways of collecting and making collections accessible, preserving our past for the future.’
This year, six case studies have been selected to feature in the publication, including Amnesty International’s agile response to changing digital technologies and increasing amounts of digital data. Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives has also been recognised for its Women’s Hall project, which explores lesser-known suffrage stories from East London.
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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Today, we announce a major, international symposium ‘Dominus Hibernie / Rex Hiberniae: pre-modern Ireland, 1200-1801’ which will take place from 21-23 March 2019 here at The National Archives.
From the late-twelfth-century conquest to the union of the kingdoms, Ireland was a key constituent element of the dominions of the monarchs of England and Great Britain, their royal title and identity. Over six centuries institutions, policies and attitudes developed to enable the crown to tackle the challenges of governing Ireland and its inhabitants. The records which such processes generated contain rich, insights into the administration of pre-modern Ireland and all areas of its society. As the custodian of government records, The National Archives arguably holds the world’s most important collection of records on the history of pre-modern Ireland. In bringing together historians of medieval and early modern Ireland, this symposium will discuss continuity and change across six centuries of Irish history and consider the archival context of the collection.
The symposium will be opened by Jeff James, CEO and Keeper of The National Archives and Adrian O’Neill, Ambassador of Ireland to the United Kingdom with keynote addresses given by three exceptional scholars of pre-modern Irish history:
- Professor Robin Frame, Durham University
- Professor Patricia Palmer, National University of Ireland, Maynooth
- Professor David Hayton, Queen’s University Belfast.
For more information and to register please use this link
The National Archives will implement new charges in our visitor car park on 3 January 2019.
The new controlled car parking will be administered through an ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) system, with visitors paying before departure at a pay point located inside The National Archives building. Charges will apply to all visitor parking. ‘Blue Badge’ holders will continue to be able to park without charge, in designated parking bays. (The ‘Blue Badge’ scheme helps you park closer to your destination if you’re disabled: find out more.)
We have introduced new car park charges for two key reasons. Firstly, we want to ensure that the option to park on site continues to be available for as many of our visitors as possible. By introducing charges, we hope to be able to deter parking unconnected with our organisation so that we can accommodate more of our own visitors. We have benchmarked our new car park charges with those of comparable heritage and cultural destinations in the local area.
Secondly, we find it difficult to justify offering a free car park in a location where parking is generally offered on a charged-for basis. We have maintained a free car park over many years and through this time, we have been one of few national, cultural organisations to offer this facility without charge. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost to us and we have now reached a point where we need to balance the needs of a minority of visitors who arrive by car against our need to invest in services for the majority who arrive by public transport or use our services online. We will review the impact of the new scheme during its initial period to ensure it meets its objectives and to assess the impact on visitors.
The new parking costsUp to two hours £2.50 Up to four hours £4.50 Over four hours £7.00
Under this scheme, ‘Blue Badge’ holders will continue to be able to park without charge, in designated parking bays.
How to use our new parking system:
- Enter the car park by approaching the barrier, which will open automatically. Make a note of your registration plate number before leaving your vehicle
- After your visit to The National Archives, go to one of our two pay point machines (located in The National Archives’ foyer), and enter your vehicle registration
- The pay machine will calculate your car parking charge based on registration recognition. Payments can be made by either cash or chip and pin/contactless payment (with a credit or debit card)
- Return to your vehicle and leave the car park via the exit barrier within 20 minutes of payment
Visitors must pay for parking before leaving the premises and will not be able to exit the car park if they have not done so.
For more information, read our frequently asked questions.
If you have any further questions or feedback about the changes to visitor car parking, please get in touch.
“Since the war began ‘times ain’t what they used to be:’” Life at Trinity College During the Great War
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.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.
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.
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.’” 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.” 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.” 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.
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.
 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/.
 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.
 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.
 “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/.
 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.
 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.
 The Alumni Register, Volume IV, No. 2, July 1918; 98-104. Available digitally at https://archive.org/details/trinityalumnireg04trin.
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, 1945-2000. She 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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