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Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University
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Come for the ad, stay for the history lesson

Mon, 2015-06-29 14:00
avondale mills 1948 crop

The Hartman Center houses a Vertical Files collection from Brouillard Communications, a division of the J. Walter Thompson Company advertising agency, with files on an extensive set of industry groups and individual companies. While processing this collection I came across this 1948 ad for Avondale Mills of Alabama. The ad celebrates graduates from an Avondale Negro School with a quote from Booker T. Washington (“Cast down your bucket where you are”) and encouragement to take advantage of the opportunities that education provides, whether in one of Avondale’s mills—the ad points out that 1 in 12 Avondale employees were African American, about 600 out of the 7,000 total workforce—or in any of a number of other professions. As a corporate public relations piece, it is effusively inspirational.

avondale mills 1948

We tend to think of Birmingham as the epicenter of the civil rights movement, a place Dr. King once called the most segregated city in America, where racial oppression was at its harshest. Bull Connor, the bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church, King’s letter from jail there.  History, however, is more complicated and more vexing.  In 1897 Braxton Bragg Comer (who would serve as Governor of Alabama from 1907-1911) established a mill in the Avondale neighborhood of Birmingham, not far from the city center.  Comer’s vision, carried out and expanded by his sons and other family members, was to create an ideal Progressive-era mill village, complete with schools, hospitals and dairy farms to serve the employees. Avondale employed men and women (and also some children, which brought sharp criticism from child labor reformers), white and black, and offered profit sharing and retirement plans, medical care, living wages, affordable housing, even access to vacation properties in Florida. By the time this ad ran in the Saturday Evening Post, the company had expanded to several mills and 7,000 employees who, as the ad proclaims “participate in Avondale’s ‘Partnership-with-People’.”

This all sounds very much like contemporary progressive economic and social rhetoric, and the list of Avondale’s employee benefits would be appealing today. The following decades, of course, would see the collapse of the textile industry in the U.S. South as production moved overseas (the Avondale Mills would themselves close for good in 2006), but here in this ad is a remarkable testimony to a social experiment that combined progressive social welfare ambitions with company town paternalism.

Post contributed by Richard J. Collier, Technical Services Archivist, John. W. Hartman Center.

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Transitions: From student to staff, from old stacks to new

Wed, 2015-06-03 14:04
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One of my most vivid memories of the Rubenstein Library is one of my first.  Shortly after starting to work as a student assistant in the fall of 2011, I entered the dark, dusty labyrinth of the library’s old stacks and grabbed an item to reshelve.  With great trepidation, I drew back both metal gates on the 1926 elevator, pushed the button for the fifth floor, and hoped that the creaky old machine would actually make it to our destination.  Once I got out of the elevator and my pulse had returned to normal, I found the item’s home on the bottom of a row of shelves, set it back in its proper place, stood up, and found myself eye-to-label with the Stonewall Jackson Papers.

As a lifelong history nerd, I had known that I would enjoy working in the Rubenstein, but it was not until that moment that I realized exactly how cool the Rubenstein was, and what a great resource it is for the Duke community.  That point was driven home even further when, as an undergraduate majoring in History and German, I used the Rubenstein frequently as a researcher.  Knowing how important the Rubenstein is to researchers in a wide variety of fields made it all the more exciting to sign on as a Senior Move Assistant during the transition from our old space to the new.

In the two weeks since I started working full-time, I have been busy measuring volumes to help figure out where items are going to be stored in our new space, and “linking” bound-withs to help ensure that items which are physically bound together actually show up that way in the catalog.  The move process is not simply moving items from point A to point B, and back to a refurbished point A.  It is also an opportunity to improve and simplify many aspects of the library, and it is very exciting to be part of that process.  Having worked and done research in both the old space and the temporary space, I can say that I am thrilled for the opening of the new Rubenstein Library.  The move process is making a great campus resource even better, and I can’t wait to see the final result of the next few months of work!

Post contributed by Michael Kaelin (T ’15), Senior Move Assistant at the Rubenstein Library. Michael worked as a Student Assistant for four years.  Originally from Wilton, CT, his interests include history and literature.

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Meet the Staff: Craig Breaden

Mon, 2015-06-01 15:14
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The Meet Our Staff series features Q&A interviews with Rubenstein staff members about their work and lives.

Craig Breaden joined the Rubenstein as our Audiovisual Archivist  three years ago. Prior to his time at Duke, he spent seven years at the Russell Library at the University of Georgia. He has a BA and MA in history from Texas Christian University and Utah State University, respectively, and an MLS from UNC .  He works on everything from small single-film collections to grant-funded preservation projects involving thousands of audiovisual items.  He facilitates preservation work, provides access to obsolete formats, processes (inventory and catalog) collections, and functions as the go-to oral history guy.

Tell us about your academic background and interests.

I started out interested in frontier history particularly, and how popular images of the American West inform the way Americans think about themselves, their creation myths, the rest of the world.  I’ve also had a lifelong love of music and a fascination with recorded audio and video.  Our audiovisual heritage provides a different, animated view of the past, and can carry a unique emotional weight.

What led you to working in libraries?

I’d had some experience working in a special collections library while in college, but it took a long while for me to come to the profession.  Some folks are late bloomers, I guess.  After years of working in corporate atmospheres unrelated to my academic background, I’d come to the point where I wanted to start making a difference and make a living.  It was the idea that work should mean something, make some kind of contribution to the society as a whole.  There are of course all kinds of ways to do this, but I thought I should play to my strengths.  I had a challenging and satisfying year of teaching 8th grade social studies, but knew that I could give more outside the classroom by focusing on what we might consider the raw materials of educators, those cultural heritage resources that give voice to the past.  It so happened that one of the best library schools in the country (UNC-Chapel Hill) was just down the road, and I applied and fortunately got in.  I decided to focus on my background and my interest in A/V, and while in school pursued audiovisual archiving as an emphasis of my library education.  I owe a big debt to the Southern Folklife Collection and its director, Steve Weiss, in helping me on my way, and to the great librarians at the University of Georgia for giving me a shot.

How do you describe what you do to people you meet at a party? To fellow librarians and library staff?

I usually tell people I’m an archivist in Duke Special Collections.  Sometimes that leads to further conversation, other times not.  I think in general there’s a real disconnect, a misunderstanding about what history really is.  It’s hard to say to most people that what we think of as history is what it is because of what we do in libraries and archives like the one here at Duke.  Colleagues get it, but I think usually the best introduction for them is when they get a CD or tape or film as part of a collection and wonder, at the very basic level, what to do with it.

What does an average day look like for you?

One of the great things about my job is that there aren’t many average days, but most days hold some combination of digital preservation, inventorying collections, answering reference questions via email, figuring out how to run a film or a video or audio tape so that we know what’s on it, and advising colleagues on portions of their collections that hold AV.  Then there are often questions related to policy creation and the changing landscape of digital preservation.  And let’s not forget the meetings….

What do you like best about your job?

I like figuring out problems that fall into my domain of expertise.  I do a ton of troubleshooting and tinkering to get AV to simply play back in a way that it can be accessed, and these nuts-and-bolts successes are always satisfying and really essential to what I do.  I also enjoy meeting donors and getting to know the personalities behind the stuff, just as it’s always great to help a researcher plug into something they might not have been aware of.  And of course my colleagues – every one of them brilliant in completely different ways.

CB devil's tale 013Craig with the Rubenstein’s newest flatbed film editing suite, the Steenbeck

What might people find surprising about your job?

The amount of time spent with spreadsheets and on email.  The first is part and parcel of what we do, that is, knowing what we have, the second is all about attempting to efficiently communicate (jury’s out on that, though).  Pleasantly surprising is that amazingly smart colleagues have something interesting to show or talk about every day.  Archives can be mind-blowing.

Do you have a favorite piece or collection at The Rubenstein? Why?

The H. Lee Waters Films for their big heart, the Frank Clyde Brown field recordings for all the secrets they hold in their wax cylinder and lacquer disc grooves (and that will soon be secret no longer), the home movie collections we have that tell a story beyond what’s happening onscreen, and all the fragile and forgotten bits of film and video that share our shelves equally and continue to have a voice.

Where can you be found when you’re not working? 

With my kids, cooking, strumming a guitar (sometimes all three at once).

What book is on your nightstand/in your carryall right now?

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro; The Innkeeper’s Song by Peter S. Beagle; Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go by Laura Wagner; and Haiti: The Aftershocks of History by Laurent Dubois.

Interview conducted and edited by Katrina Martin.

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Meet Our Staff: Liz Adams, Collections Move Coordinator

Mon, 2015-05-04 12:52
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LA - grin

The Meet Our Staff series features Q&A interviews with Rubenstein staff members about their work and lives.

Directly following the completion of her master’s studies in information science, Liz Adams joined The Rubenstein in 2013 as the Stacks Manager. Since January, she has served as the Collection Move Coordinator. She holds two degrees from the University of Michigan, a BA in English and an MSI.

We know you’re officially the move coordinator–what’s your unofficial title at the Rubenstein?

I’m a bit of a “gal Friday” in my attempts to alternately harangue or kindly beseech people to move forward on projects because collections can’t move without everyone’s involvement. No one would listen to me if I just said “move this!”

Tell us about your academic background and interests.

In undergrad, I worked in a public library. I couldn’t figure out what to do with my English degree and I knew I didn’t want to teach, but I liked books. I especially liked how tight-knit everyone in the library was and how we worked together to help people find what they needed. I went straight to grad school from undergrad, during which time I worked at a special collections library. Broadly speaking, my professional interests surround the idea of access and creating better, more useful access points for researchers and staff members alike. I think this can be accomplished through physical means—making things as physically accessible as possible– which is how my current job fits into that goal.

How do you describe what you do to people you meet at a party? To fellow librarians and library staff?

The people I meet at a party are generally familiar with the big construction project that’s happening on West campus and the Rubenstein. I tell them it’s my job to move our materials from temporary swing space to a permanent location and to figure out all that encompasses: good, bad, and ugly.

For people who might not immediately understand why there’s a whole position dedicated to this task, I’d highlight just how much material we have in our collection. Much like when you’re moving from one house to another, you find more things requiring your attention at every turn (and realize how much stuff you own!).  You have to decide what stays, what should move, and how you’re going to arrange things in a new space. No one likes moving and everyone else at The Rubenstein is so busy, there needs to be someone separate to help plot things out.

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What does an average day look like for you?

It’s a lot of Excel! One of the big headings under the umbrella of the move is the reclassification of all of our materials. We’re going from a system of 125 legacy call numbers (some more intuitive than others!) to Library of Congress. Part of what I’m doing now is sorting through a list of our 280,000 print materials that have been reclassified. I figure out which of those things should move on-site after being housed off-site during the renovation and before we had all this space. I ask questions like, which materials are high-interest? Which materials are high-use?

What excites you about the move?

When I was the stacks manager, I saw the confusion experienced by our student workers when retrieving materials.  At times, it really required a fine-toothed comb to find items. When the move is completed, everything will be in the same classification scheme and organized by size. Students and staff will hopefully be able to find materials more easily.

It’s also nice to think of moving into a brand new space that no one else has lived in. You get to really make your mark. In fact, you get to make the first mark, which as a competitive person, I love. I like to imagine that I’ll be the first person to walk in – my moon landing. Although I doubt it will be me!

What might people find surprising about your job?

I think my job is a lot of what people might expect. It’s a lot of organizing things, talking to people, and making sure things are done in a timely fashion.

Do you have a favorite piece or collection at The Rubenstein? Why?

I really like the Anna Schwartz collection. She was an economist who worked with Milton Friedman. It’s really interesting to see the personal and professional interplay of a female economist in the mid-twentieth century. She talks about comments made by a coworker and how she “took them to task” – you go Anna Schwartz!

Where can you be found when you’re not working? 

I enjoy a good picture show at the Carolina theatre. I can be found eating my way through the Triangle. You might see me huffing and puffing while running, and I sometimes pretend to be a yogi.

What book is on your nightstand/in your carryall right now?

In my bag I have New Introduction to Bibliography by Philip Gaskell.

On my nightstand, of a totally different flavor, is The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos.

The post Meet Our Staff: Liz Adams, Collections Move Coordinator appeared first on The Devil's Tale.

NEH grant will fund Voices of Change Project at the Rubenstein Library

Mon, 2015-04-27 13:28
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The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University has received a grant of $200,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support Voices of Change: Preserving and Presenting Radio Haiti.  This two-year project, set to begin in July 2015, will preserve and make widely available the written- and spoken-word archives of Radio Haiti Inter, the country’s oracle of democracy from the late 1960s until its closure in 2003. The announcement of the award coincides with the fifteen year anniversary of the assassination of the station’s owner and Haiti’s most prominent journalist, Jean Dominique, and amidst continuing news coverage about the ongoing trial of his accused murderers.

radio haitiJean Dominique and Michèle Montas at Radio Haiti Inter, 1995

 

The Human Rights Archive at the Rubenstein Library received the archives of Radio Haiti in late 2013 as a gift from Michèle Montas, the station’s co-anchor and widow of Dominique.  “To me, Duke University was the most welcoming environment for these unique archives, with knowledgeable teams of scholars and archivists able to preserve the past and help to use that recent past as a tool to re- imagine the future,” commented Montas about her decision to place the archives at Duke.

As evidenced in the more than 3,000 recordings and 70 linear feet of paper records comprising the collection, Radio Haiti distinguished itself from other media outlets in Haiti by covering not only events in Port-au-Prince but news from the rural areas of Haiti, including a grassroots democratic movement that eventually overthrew the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986. It was the first independent radio station in Haiti, and the first to broadcast in the language of the people, Haitian Creole, instead of the French spoken only by Haiti’s elite.

The collection is one of the most important and comprehensive resources available for studying and understanding the recent history of Haiti. Primary materials related to Haiti are relatively rare, and the archives of Radio Haiti are particularly distinct both for the depth and breadth of their coverage. According to Laurent Dubois, project advisor and Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke, “The Radio Haiti Archives represent a tremendous resource for scholars, educators, and the general public interested in culture and politics in Haiti from the late 1970s to the present. Under the leadership of Jean Dominique and Michèle Montas, the station served as a critical voice for reportage, debate, editorials, and news for several decades.” Access to these important primary materials will allow scholars to write the history of the country in nuanced and participatory ways.

beth doyleAs part of preparing the grant proposal, Library staff completed a pilot project cleaning and digitizing a selection of tapes from the Radio Haiti Archives.

 

Grant funding will support a full-time project archivist fluent in both Haitian Creole and French to oversee the arrangement, description, digitization and preservation of these materials. To support multilingual and international research, audio recordings will be described in French, Haitian Creole, and English, and will be made freely available online via Duke’s Digital Collections, the Digital Public Library of America, and the Digital Library of the Caribbean.

In order to promote easy access to these materials in Haiti, the Library will partner with the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke and FOKAL (La Fondation Connaissance et Liberté/Fondasyon Konesans Ak Libète), a community organization in Haiti, to place digital copies of the recordings in libraries throughout Haiti. The team will also explore creating podcasts from the recordings to allow for easier access in regions with intermittent internet connectivity.

The Radio Haiti collection is a singular resource supporting a nuanced and comprehensive understanding of the last 50 years’ of Haiti’s history. By preserving and making accessible these archives, Duke University Libraries seeks to advance the dialogue not only about Haiti’s past but also about its future.

Those interested in learning more about the archives of Radio Haiti are encouraged to visit the pilot site developed collaboratively between the Forum for Scholars and Publics and the Library at http://radiohaitilives.com/.   This site includes access in Creole and English to all the recordings reformatted as part of the planning phase of the grant.

Post contributed by Kat Stefko, Head of Technical Services. 

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“The Journey” of Reverend Jeanne Audrey Powers’ Papers at Duke

Wed, 2015-04-08 14:25
JAP19802

Since August, I’ve had the pleasure of arranging and describing the papers of Reverend Jeanne Audrey Powers. In 1958, Rev. Powers became one of the first women to be ordained in the United Methodist Church, and in 1995, she publicly came out as a lesbian in her most famous sermon, “The Journey.” The reactions she faced as a result of coming out were mixed. Many, like the GCCUIC (General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns) supported her unswervingly, while others, most notably the Institute on Religion & Democracy, campaigned against her, hoping to force Powers into an early retirement.

1980Interchurch Center Chapel in New York City, 1980

Reverend Powers was heavily involved in the “Goddess” Movement and the Re-Imagining Conference, which took place in Minnesota in November of 1993. Re-Imagining was a Christian feminist conference held in 1993 in Minnesota.  The “Goddess” movement surrounding the conference pictured God as a female entity called “Sophia.”  The movement had participants from both Methodist and Presbyterian churches.  (For more information about the Goddess Movement, check out this 1994 article in the New York Times about the conference and the controversy that erupted afterward.  )

JAP1989From a card distributed by OLOC, Old Lesbians Organizing for Change. Taken by Lynn Carpenter Schelitzhe in 2001 when Powers was 69. There is a quote on the back of the card by Gloria Steinem that reads, “One day, an army of grey haired women may quietly take over earth.”

The collection contains planning materials, conference recordings (on cassette tapes, which I hadn’t seen for years!), and material regarding the backlash from the conference by opposing groups. These materials are set aside as their own series within the collection because we already know of researchers who will want to use them.

JAP19802Riverside Church, from part of a “pre-article” for People Magazine, 1980

The collection documents Rev. Powers’ extensive professional accomplishments as well as personal materials. Photographs from her childhood, stories about her family, and even two locks of hair can be found within the 98 boxes of material. The materials about Rev. Powers’ activism, including her support for equal treatment for all persons in the church are my favorite feature of the collection.

In 1984, in response to “unwelcoming policies toward lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons,” a group called Affirmation: United Methodists for Lesbian/Gay Concerns “issued a call to local churches to reaffirm that their ministry was open to all persons, including gays and lesbians.”  The “Open the Doors” campaign was sponsored by the Reconciling Congregation group. The idea was to go to the United Methodist Church’s 1996 General Conference in Denver, Colorado and foster discussion to create a more welcoming atmosphere in the church for lesbian and gay members. The campaign had a moderate level of success, with several hundred people attending “Open the Doors” events at the General Conference.  However, the UMC policies discriminating against gays and lesbians were not changed.

untied methodists

Overall, the Powers Collection is a treasure of materials that I have greatly enjoyed processing.  It’s hard to believe that they will be ready for researchers to use quite soon—an exciting prospect!

2007Rev. Powers in 2007, age 75

Post contributed by Rachel Sanders, Technical Services Intern for the Sallie Bingham Center.

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Palette Play with Jennie Chambers

Tue, 2015-04-07 13:20
cropped page mahogany

Are you interested in painting but aren’t sure how to mix your colors? The Jennie Chambers Papers might be able to help. The Chambers family lived in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, in the mid-nineteenth century. Jennie Chambers was an author and amateur artist who went on to write for Harper’s Magazine, publishing “What a School-Girl Saw of John Brown’s Raid” in 1902 (still available online today). Duke has held the Jennie Chambers Papers for several decades, but I recently revisited the collection to enhance its online description and update its housing to our current standards. Most of the papers are letters between Jennie and her family or drafts of Jennie’s writings. But I most enjoyed finding this kind-of-grimy paper that includes all of her notes about mixing paint colors. It looks like she frequently used these notes for her paintings. I love the spots of paint and the smears of oil that stain the page, and it was really fun to see what sorts of things she painted. For foliage, mix deep green, Prussian blue, and yellow ochre. Do you want to paint mahogany? Mix Indian red, vermillion, and Vandyke brown.

cropped page mahogany
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My archivist’s heart also loves that she signed and dated the page. The only thing missing from the collection are her actual paintings.

signature

Post contributed by Meghan Lyon, Technical Services Archivist.

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Capturing the Duke Web

Thu, 2015-03-26 13:00
Duke University homepage, 2015

I can claim without controversy that the web is among the more popular avenues for communicating, publishing, and otherwise interacting with information. Although professionals involved in the creation of websites often have titles (engineer, web designer, information architect) that borrow the language of corollaries in the physical world, information on the web and how one experiences it is inherently ephemeral. Relics of the early web still extant online often owe their continued life to chance, such as the website for the 1996 film Space Jam or the long-thought-lost-until-a-copy-was-discovered-on-a-floppy-disk first website.

In order to preserve Duke’s web presence, in 2010 the University Archives partnered with Archive-It, a service of the Internet Archive, to take snapshots of various websites. In the five years since we have captured close to 500 Duke-related websites. Comparing a site’s evolution over time can be striking. This portal allows one to compare Duke homepages at different times. For example:

Duke University homepage, 2010Duke University homepage, 2010

 

Duke University homepage, 2015Duke University homepage, 2015

 

The following screencaps are for the Duke Chapel’s website.

Duke University Chapel homepage, 2010Duke University Chapel homepage, 2010

 

Duke University Chapel homepage, 2015Duke University Chapel homepage, 2015

 

While the above examples are changes that are, at least in part, cosmetic changes to information, capturing web content allows us to preserve and provide access to the social and intellectual conversations on campus. We have had success capturing Develle Dish in both DukeGroups and their more recent Sites.Duke iteration.

Because the Duke Fact Checker was not officially associated with the university, his blog went down after his passing in early 2014. Though its no longer available at its original URL, we were able to get annual captures of his commentary between 2012 and 2014.

All of this is great but was previously difficult to access without knowing how to use the system. As of February 2015, there are two easy ways to browse and search through the Duke Web Archives. First, the University Archives created a collection guide to the Duke-related websites. The 500 or so URLs are arranged loosely by organizational type and can be browsed here.

Because of the way the web is crawled, some sites may have been crawled that don’t appear in the collection guide. To help address this problem as well as provide another avenue into the collection, there is a search function provided by Archive-It and their Wayback Machine here. Using the Wayback search, one can search for any URL. If the site appears in our collection, even if only partially, the search will return it.

We are currently at work to address Social Media, so look for future posts around that subject.

Post contributed by Matthew Farrell, Digital Records Archivist.

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