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Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University
Updated: 2 hours 25 min ago

New Acquisitions Roundup: Trinity College female basketball player poster

Tue, 07/12/2016 - 20:00

This week we’re continuing last week’s celebration of the beginning of a new fiscal year by reviewing some notable items and collections that arrived here at the Rubenstein Library in the past year.

The University Archives acquired a variety of exciting materials during this past year, including lemur behavior data, early planting plans of Duke Gardens, and social media created during campus protest. Today, however, we are highlighting one of our smallest accessions this year, a single poster of a young woman playing basketball, given to us by an alumna whose family business was given the poster some years back.

A note that accompanied the poster says, “Picture that hung on the dorm room wall of Alton Monroe Cameron and J. O. Renfro, class of 1914 at Trinity College, Durham, North Carolina.” This poster is one that was issued in 1911 to depict a generic player, but someone along the way decorated the player to be a Trinity College student, using blue ink.

It’s hard to know what to make of this depiction. In the early 1910s, there were no “official” women’s sports teams, although they did take physical education classes. A short article in the 1912 yearbook, The Chanticleer, suggests that such a team would have been a hilarious joke in its time, resulting from “stages of acute Woman’s Suffrage, and Literary Society agitation.”  Why the accompanying photo of a group of women was taken, and why they are holding a football, is anyone’s guess.

In many ways, the poster raises more questions than answers. Was there actually a women’s basketball team at Trinity then? Did Cameron and Renfro like the idea, or mock it? What did female students at the time think? And why didn’t they cut a hole in the net for the basketball to fall out?

Even without knowing the answers to these questions, the poster is enchanting to us today. We hope it did reflect Trinity women’s participation in athletics, sixty years before a recognized women’s basketball team would be formed at the school. It may have been a joke in its day, but now it tells us how deep the roots of women’s athletics at Duke truly are.

Post contributed by Val Gillispie, University Archivist

The post New Acquisitions Roundup: Trinity College female basketball player poster appeared first on The Devil's Tale.

Documenting the Duke/Durham LGBTQI Community with Oral Histories

Tue, 07/12/2016 - 13:00

Oral histories are often fantastic, and fascinating, resources: first-hand accounts of lives and events, communities and histories, told with immediacy and giving a direct connection to the narrator, and thus to the story. They are rich and compelling, and are powerful tools in documenting those who are under-represented by the types of documentation traditionally found in archives. For these reasons, we were very excited to work on two recent oral history collections related to the local LGBTQI community: the Duke Alumni LGBTQ Oral Histories and the Rainbow Triangle Oral History Collection (RTOHC).

Materials from the Rainbow Triangle Oral Histories Collection.

Both collections offer first-hand accounts the LGBTQI experience at Duke and in the Triangle area. The Duke Alumni oral histories include individual Duke community members relating experiences from the 1970s through early 2000s, while the RTOHC materials come from individuals throughout the Triangle region and relate stories from the 1960s to the 2000s. As one can imagine, the stories in both document a large variety of experiences. Since some oral history subjects overlap in terms of years and environs covered, it is possible to compare multiple accounts of isolated, annual events like Blue Jeans Day; national crises like the AIDS epidemic; and ongoing struggles such as anti-LGBTQI persecution and community-building.

Similar to archival collections made up of paper and photographic-based materials, oral history collections pose significant challenges stemming from volume and format, as well as rights and content sensitivities. Close to 80 interviews are represented across these two collections. Interviews in the Alumni LGBTQ collections were conducted in 2015 and 2016 straight to digital recorders in formats supported by modern computing environments. Interviews conducted by the Rainbow Triangle Oral History project were conducted over a span of years in the 1990s and early 2000s on a variety of physical media and will require digital reformatting for use and preservation. Additionally, oral histories may have been recorded without the narrators giving explicit permission as to who can access the recordings, or under what circumstances, or what researchers can do with the information in the recording. Many projects and interviewers prepare forms for just this purpose, but not every form makes it into the archive with the recording. Finally, describing the contents, and the narrators, in ways that are sensitive to the narrator’s wishes, and concisely but accurately convey the topics covered in the recordings, can be complicated. Oral histories are often intensely personal and revelatory, and a wide range of subjects, persons, places, and events can be covered in a short period of time. We were lucky in that the alumni included either transcripts or interview summaries to aid in their description, and many of the RTOHC interviews included transcripts and/or biographical information.

Although these collections presented some complexities during processing, we were proud to work on preserving and providing access to these materials. Both collections are now available for use in the reading room.

Post contributed by Matthew Farrell, Digital Records Archivist, and Tracy Jackson, Technical Services Archivist for the Duke University Archives.

The post Documenting the Duke/Durham LGBTQI Community with Oral Histories appeared first on The Devil's Tale.

Archiving Social Media about Duke Activism

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 13:00

At the University Archives, we work hard to dispel the stereotype that we are merely reactive documenters of Duke’s history, that we wait to receive evidence of activity reflected in the records of the offices, organizations, and bodies that donate or transfer materials to us. We pursue student organizations‘ materials and meet regularly with representatives from both transitory and permanent bodies active in the Duke community. Since 2010, we have selectively crawled websites related to Duke.

The recent activism on campus has given us the opportunity to try new methods of documentation. Students and protesters disseminated much of the information related to the Allen Building Sit-In staged by Duke Students & Workers in Solidarity (DSWS) and ongoing tenting on the Abele Quad on Twitter, Instagram, and other web platforms. The Chronicle published a lot of coverage in print issues of the paper, but created multimedia presentations online and on Twitter. What follows are some of the methods we used to approach capturing online materials related to student activism, brief summaries of how well we did, and some early thoughts on what our responsibilities are with respect to access and re-use of this material.

We used three tools to primarily collect web materials, each with its own strengths. The Rubenstein Library subscribes to the Internet Archive’s Archive-It web crawler, which allows us to execute captures of web pages. I wrote about our broader efforts around Archive-It and Duke History last year on this blog. Archive-It is best suited for more static websites, and is less effective at capturing dynamic conversations. For the recent student activism, Archive-It came in handy when capturing the website of the DSWS, as well as the ongoing, related criticism of campus culture at Duke by the #DukeEnrage collaborative.

Archive-It has some capability for capturing Twitter, but it’s Twitter as viewed on Twitter.com: it’s a flat presentation of a Twitter feed or search. Here is a comparison of a tweet presented by Twitter, and what it looks like in its raw form.

This lack of flexibility influenced our decision to look elsewhere for capturing Twitter. We settled on two applications: Social Feed Manager and Twitter Archive Google Spreadsheet (TAGS). Both tools, once configured, query the Twitter API, retrieve tweets in their native form, and do some level of processing on them. Social Feed Manager stores tweets and allows the user to export them as a CSV or Excel file for offline storage. TAGS parses tweets into a Google Sheet, which can be downloaded for offline storage. For logistical reasons, we chose to use Social Feed Manager in the rare occasion of attempting to capture the tweets of an entire account—in this case, the @dsws2016 account.

@dsws2016, viewed in the Social Feed Manager web application

 

An Excel export from Social Feed Manager of @dsws2016 tweets

We used TAGS to crawl hashtags. Since November, we had been capturing tweets related to #DukeEnrage, #DUBetter, and #DukeYouAreGuilty. Once the Allen Building Sit-in began, we added #DismantleDukePlantation and #DukeOccupation2016. Most of these were relatively low-use hashtags, with one exception: use appears to have coalesced around #DismantleDukePlantation, resulting in around 7000 unique tweets from the week of the sit-in, and another 2000 from the time since.

TAGS summary dashboard

 

#DismantleDukePlantation tweets captured by TAGS

This work is still ongoing. So far, I think of our efforts as a modest success. The web, and especially social media, is ephemeral (although, oddly and wonderfully, aspects of the web we thought would disappear have persisted). That said, these efforts represent only one or two angles into the online conversation. Newer platforms like Yik Yak and Snapchat are either location based or expose content only temporarily. The tools available to capture Instagram are not as developed as those for Twitter. We cannot, nor do we want to, capture everything.

There are also questions of ethics and access. We received (enthusiastic, as it happens) permission from students associated with DSWS to capture their Twitter feed*. It would be impossible to seek permission from each individual Twitter user who tweeted using #DismantleDukePlantation. Although everything we targeted is still currently available through Twitter, the users who created it likely did not expect it to be re-contextualized—even if they fully understood the terms of service they clicked through when they signed up for the service. Twitter would frown upon us releasing material we captured through the API on the open web. For the time being, we tentatively plan on making the Twitter content available in our reading room, though we would need to consider anonymizing the data first.

This is by far not the only arm of our effort in documenting recent and ongoing student activism on campus. We fully expect for administrative records from relevant University offices to be transferred to the University Archives. We have been in touch with classes interested in further documenting the student voices involved. Selectively capturing Twitter and crawling static web pages allows us to capture student activists and their activities in the moment

*A former University Archives student worker was heavily active in DSWS, and was enthusiastic in our capturing the group’s online materials.

Post contributed by Matthew Farrell, Digital Records Archivist.

The post Archiving Social Media about Duke Activism appeared first on The Devil's Tale.

Opening a Durham Time Capsule: New Exhibit

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 13:00
Postcard of the Washington Duke Hotel.

In the University Archives, we have seen a few time capsules in our day. More often than not, they end up being a bit of a letdown. Newspaper has crumbled, cloth has mildewed, and time has taken its toll on these relics of the past. This year, however, we were fortunate enough to be the recipients of a time capsule that, while modest from the outside, has preserved its remarkable contents in mint condition.

The time capsule was laid in the cornerstone of the Washington Duke Hotel in 1924. The hotel was the first to be built in Durham, and was the product of a fundraising campaign by many leaders of industry and other interested parties, including Duke University administrators. The hotel was a glamorous destination for many years, but by the 1970s the gleam had faded. In 1975, the hotel was imploded. The site today is a plaza, best known for its bull statue.

Someone thoughtful apparently removed the time capsule, and many years later delivered it to the new Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club, adjacent to Duke’s West Campus. The staff of the Washington Duke Inn kindly took care of this time capsule until this year, when it was gifted to the University Archives, and we have an opportunity for the first time to highlight this fascinating collection in a new exhibit, on display outside the Biddle Rare Book Room.

The time capsule. Photo by Mark Zupan.

The time capsule itself appears to be made from recycled printing plates, and was soldered by hand. Inside were examples of the products produced in Durham in 1924: cigarettes, tobacco bags, cotton cloth, hosiery, and socks. Also included were a photo of John Buchanan, the Chairman of the Executive Committee tasked with raising funds for the venture, and a photo Washington Duke, the hotel’s namesake. A key, possibly added to the time capsule many years later, is a reminder that this was a hotel from another era—no key cards here! A prospectus for the dazzling new hotel promises, “that Durham will have a real civic, social, and commercial center, for around the new Hotel will radiate every big function that transpires in our city.”

Durham-made hosiery from the time capsule.

The exhibit will be on display outside the Biddle Rare Book Room until mid-June and is available during the general library’s open hours.

Post contributed by Val Gillispie, Duke University Archivist.

The post Opening a Durham Time Capsule: New Exhibit appeared first on The Devil's Tale.