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Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University
Updated: 20 min 24 sec ago

Now We Are Six!

Thu, 10/08/2015 - 11:00

Guess what? Today, this blog turns

Designed and photographed by Katrina Martin

We figure that blog years are roughly equivalent to dog years, so . . . we’ve been around a while. Around for 826 posts, to be exact.

Armfuls of thanks to our tireless and creative blog editors, our gracefully articulate and fascinating co-workers, and—most of all—our luminous and supportive readers.

And HT to Beth at Preservation Underground (our delightful and beloved partner blog), who always remembers our birthday. We love blogging with you!

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Coming Soon! Pop-Up Displays on Student Organization History

Wed, 10/07/2015 - 12:55

With so many meetings, events, exhibits, performances, and games each day, it might seem difficult to set aside time to learn about your Duke student organization’s history. The University Archives, which collects student organization materials, knows how busy you are and we want to help!

Starting on October 20th, we’ll be holding a series of pop-up displays on student organization history, featuring historical materials from our collections. We’re calling this YOLO@UA: Your Organizations Live on @ the University Archives.

Each Tuesday, you’ll find us at a table just outside the Von der Heyden Pavilion from 2-3 PM, ready to show some cool stuff and answer your questions about student organization history.

We’ll be changing the display focus each time, so here’s the schedule:

October 20: Cultural Groups

October 27: Arts Groups

November 3: Student Government & Political Groups (Happy Election Day!)

November 10: Sororities, Fraternities, & Living Groups

November 17: Student Publications

Don’t worry if your organization isn’t covered with this schedule. We’ll plan more pop-up displays with different focuses during the spring semester. And you’re always welcome to get in touch with us to discuss how you can research your organization’s history at the University Archives!

P.S. Do you have student group materials that you’d like to archive at the University Archives? Learn more, and complete a form to let us know about your materials, here!

Cast of “The Womanless Wedding,” ca. 1890s

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The Noise in the Silence: Radio Haiti During the Coup Years

Mon, 09/28/2015 - 17:36

What can we learn from the gaps, absences, and silences in an archive?  What are the stories that are hidden between the lines?

From September 1991 to October 1994, Haiti was ruled by a military junta that overthrew the democratically-elected government only a few months after it came into power.  The military regime was a particularly unjust and brutal era in Haiti’s unjust and brutal history, in which dissidents, pro-democracy and human rights activists, and journalists were beaten, raped, imprisoned, and killed by military and paramilitary forces.  The politically-engaged poor were especially targeted, and subjected to physical and psychological terror.  The US responded by imposing a trade embargo on the de facto regime, in the hope that economic sanctions would force the coup leaders from power, but the embargo hurt the poorest and most marginalized Haitians the most.  Fearing political persecution and struggling under a suffocated economy, tens of thousands of people fled on boats seeking refuge in the United States.  Much as Reagan had done in the early 1980s, the Bush administration claimed that the Haitian refugees were not victims of human rights violations, and therefore the US would not grant them political asylum.  Many died at sea; others were incarcerated at detention camps at Guantanamo; most were repatriated to Haiti (where some were indeed killed for their politics).

Radio Haiti stopped broadcasting on October 4, 1991, five days after the coup d’état, after the military regime cracked down on independent media.  Soon after, Jean Dominique and Michèle Montas went into exile in New York for the second time.  The station did not open again until 1994.

Jean Dominique uses his famous pipe to point to the bullet holes in the façade of the Radio Haiti building. Washington Post, October 25, 1991. Radio Haiti Collection, paper archive.

We have no tapes from that time, save one – a recording of the July 1993 meeting at Governors Island in New York, where US officials attempted to broker an agreement between deposed president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and junta leader Raoul Cédras.  When Radio Haiti was on the air, the paper materials reflect the audio materials: on-air scripts and journalists’ notes, and printed material from Haitian organizations.  By contrast, the paper archive contains no notes and no scripts from the coup years, except for Jean Dominique’s assiduously detailed handwritten chronology of the Governors Island meeting.

The first page of Jean Dominique’s notes on the 1993 Governors Island meeting. Radio Haiti collection, paper archive.

But it is not a passive silence; it is a fraught and frustrated silence, an absence that draws attention to itself.  Radio Haiti’s paper archive gives us a glimpse of Jean Dominique’s experience of exile – of a time when he, like the Haitian masses, could not speak freely in his homeland; of a time before the Internet and long before social media, when reliable firsthand information coming from Haiti was scant, terrifying, and tragic.  For a Haitian in exile from Haiti, a journalist exiled from his microphone, the distance must have been unbearable.

The volume of secondary printed material from 1991 to 1994 testifies to an archive passionately and scrupulously amassed.  There are several fat, overstuffed folders filled with tightly-bound news clippings, most of them from American media – the New York Times, Newsweek, the Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post the Nation.  We have several artifacts from the reliably nuanced and thoughtful New York Post.

New York Post, October 6, 1991, Radio Haiti collection, paper archive.

There are also clippings from smaller publications, such as college newspapers and newspapers of the Haitian and Caribbean communities in New York.   There are in-depth articles, photo spreads, short op eds, brief marginal asides.  They were cut out of newspapers, mailed by friends and family (often with notes attached).  These articles detail the mounting violence in Haiti, the effects of the embargo, the plight of refugees at sea and incarcerated at Guantanamo, the Bush administration’s refusal to grant asylum, and pro-Aristide demonstrations in New York, Miami, Washington DC, and elsewhere.

The collection features some rather extraordinary documents. There is this acerbic fax from pro-democracy activist Antoine Izméry, dripping with unconcealed disdain, congratulating Bush on his loss in the 1992 presidential election.  “You failed all over,” Izméry declares.  He decries the Bush administration’s racism, hypocrisy, and self-interest and blames the US for engineering the 1991 coup, before wishing the departing president a “peaceful and repentant retirement.”

Antoine Izméry’s fax to George H.W. Bush, November 4, 1992. Radio Haiti collection, paper archive.

Also in the archive is a copy of this press release from Father Gérard Jean-Juste, a liberation theology priest and prominent Aristide supporter.  Jean-Juste, “in hiding in Haiti,” refers to Bush’s “skinhead policy,” suggests that Bush’s sudden illness at a state dinner in Japan earlier that year was the result of a
“voodoo curse,” and implores him to “BE A GENUINE AMERICAN, Mr. BUSH.  Get your perceived KKK titles off.  Work your way to HEAVEN as being a christian.”

Gérard Jean-Juste press release, November 3, 1992. Radio Haiti collection, paper archive

Haiti’s beleaguered pro-democracy movement was hopeful that the election of Bill Clinton would lead to more just and humane policies toward Haitian refugees and the restoration of the Aristide government.  But Clinton ultimately did little to improve conditions for Haitian refugees, and Aristide would not return to power until nearly two years later, after armed intervention by the United States.  By then, Antoine Izméry would be dead.  He was dragged from Sacre Coeur church by plainclothes police and shot dead in the street on September 11, 1993 in full view of parishioners and human rights observers attending a commemoration of the 1988 St. Jean Bosco massacre.

In late 1994, after Aristide was restored to power, Radio Haïti reopened.  The three years of radio silence were broken by a new series of jubilant jingles and slogans: Nou tounen!  Nou la pi rèd!  [We’re back!  We’re here stronger than ever!]  But the damage wrought by the coup years and the conditions of Aristide’s return was enduring; the pro-democracy movement would never again possess the same momentum or clear emancipatory promise that it had in 1991.

Post contributed by Laura Wagner, Ph.D.,  Radio Haiti Project Archivist. 

The post The Noise in the Silence: Radio Haiti During the Coup Years appeared first on The Devil's Tale.

Symposium: Vesalius and the Languages of Anatomy

Tue, 09/15/2015 - 13:36

Please see details below about an upcoming symposium related to Vesalius and the exhibition Languages of Anatomy: From Vesalius to the Digital Age.

Symposium: Vesalius and the Languages of Anatomy Organized by Valeria Finucci, CMRS, Romance Studies and Theater Studies Thursday Sept. 17 and Friday Sept. 18, 2015


THURSDAY, September 17, 2015, Carpenter Room Rubenstein Library #249, 2nd Floor Opening Session, 4:00-4:15

Naomi Nelson, Director, Rubenstein Library

  • Welcome Remarks: Today at the Rubenstein”

Valeria FinucciCenter for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and Romance Studies

  • “Introduction: Vesalius and the Languages of Anatomy”
SESSION I: Visualizing Vesalius, 4:15-6:15

Moderator: Valeria Finucci, Romance Studies, Duke University

Eugene FlammNeurosurgery, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center

  • “Illustration of the Brain in Pre- and Post-Vesalian Publications of the 15th and 16th Centuries”

Margaret BrownExhibit Librarian, Duke University

  • “Collecting and Exhibiting the History of Medicine at Duke University Libraries”

Rachel IngoldCurator, History of Medicine Collection, Duke University

  • “Vesalius in the Trent Collection”

Visit Exhibition, 6:15

“The Languages of Anatomy: From Vesalius to the Digital Age”

  • Chappell Gallery and Trent History of Medicine Room

Welcome Reception, Gothic Lounge, Rubenstein Library, 2nd Floor, 6:45

FRIDAY, September 18, 2015, Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library #153

8:30-9:00 Coffee, tea, pastries, fruit

SESSION II: Vesalius’ Hands-On Knowledge,  9:00-10:45

Moderator: Thomas Robisheaux, History, Duke University

Cynthia KlestinecEnglish, Miami University

  • “Vesalius and the Works of the Hands”

Pablo MauretteComparative Literature, University of Chicago

  • “The Organ of Organs: Vesalius, Casserio, Crooke, and the Wonders of the Human Hand”

10:45-11:15 Coffee Break

SESSION III: Vesalius and Padua, 11:15-1:00

Moderator: Elvira Vilches, Romance Studies, Duke University

Hélène Cazes, French, University of Victoria

  • “The Anatomist, the Butcher, and the Cannibal: the Fabric of Scandal

Maurizio Rippa-BonatiHistory of Medicine, University of Padua, and

Valeria Finucci, Romance Studies, Duke University

  • “Vesalius’ Padua”

Lunch Break, Rubenstein Library, 1:00-2:00

SESSION IV: Vesalius and the Female Body, 2:00-3:45

Moderator: Jehangir Malegam, History, Duke University

Jennifer KosminHistory, Bucknell University

  • “Vesalius’ Midwives: Authority, Gender and Generation in the 1543 Frontispiece of De humani corporis fabrica

Lucia DacomeInstitute for the History & Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto

  • “Through the Glass Womb: Anatomy and Midwifery in 18th Century Bologna”

Coffee Break, 3:45-4:15

SESSION V: Vesalius’ Legacy, 4:15-6:00

Moderator: Valeria Finucci, Romance Studies, Duke University

Jonathan SawdayEnglish, Saint Louis University

  • “‘But Yet the Body is his Book’: Books of the Body in England After Vesalius.”

Fabrizio BigottiWellcome Trust Centre for Medical History—University of Exeter

  • “Vesalius’ Legacy and its Development in the Medico-Philosophical Contest of the Renaissance”
Contact: Rachel Ingold, (919)684-8549 or

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SFWA Southeast Reading Series: Storytelling and Migration, September 17th

Thu, 09/03/2015 - 15:13

Date: Thursday, September 17, 2015
Time: 4:00pm
Location: Bays 4 and 5, Smith Warehouse, Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University
Contact: Sara Seten Berghausen,

In collaboration with Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and the FHI Story Lab, Duke Libraries presents a panel of SFWA Southeast member authors speaking on the theme of Storytelling and Migration.

Authors Gail Z. Martin, Alyssa Wong, Ursula Vernon, Delilah Dawson, and Monica Byrne will be on the panel, and the discussion will be moderated by Jaym Gates.

This event is free and open to the public. More information on Facebook.

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Meet the Staff: Megan Ó Connell

Wed, 09/02/2015 - 14:43

Megan Ó Connell is the Rubenstein’s Reproduction Services Manager.  Megan has been a part of the Duke library system since 2006, when she served as a University Archives intern. She joined the library full-time in 2009.

Tell us about your academic background and interests.

I have always been interested in the cultural record left by humans. I studied Anthropology, with a focus on American archaeology, and I worked in Southeastern and Gulf Coast archaeology for many years. After studying what can be learned from the unintentional record left by artifacts, I wanted to interact with the intentional/communicative record, as it was left in the past and continuing into the “futurepast,” that is, the present. Rare books and archives satisfied that wish.

What are the main projects you work on at the Rubenstein?

I manage the patron reproduction requests, including those made by both onsite and remote researchers, ensuring that the most appropriate technology is used based on the specific items and desired output; liaise with onsite and offsite services; and deliver requests as efficiently as possible while maintaining high quality and providing RL’s acclaimed customer service. Exponentially increasing numbers of library users want digital versions of our materials, and these researchers often cannot do the reproductions themselves, so I help ensure that they get what they need for their research, whether they live in Durham or Durban.

What does an average day look like for you?
On most days I log new reproduction requests; route materials to be used in requests; examine materials for reproduce-ability; discuss options and approaches with technical specialists, RL staff, and my student assistant; and communicate with staff and patrons about technical considerations and goals. I may do some reading on specific media types, technologies, or techniques; troubleshoot imaging equipment maintenance issues; train staff on processes; or communicate with vendors. I assist researchers about 12 hours a week on the Reading Room desk, and also work on general reference questions, many of which  lead to reproduction requests.

What do you like best about your job?

I love seeing (and hearing) the panoply of treasures we hold at the Rubenstein — pamphlets, photographs, beautiful bound volumes, maps, vintage sound and film recordings, broadsides, artists’ books, zines, ads, papyri… and I enjoy learning about how researchers are using this richness to ask intriguing questions and shed light on cultural phenomena. People might be surprised to know that our library is so busy that we produce around 20,000 digital reproductions per year for patron requests! I enjoy helping our diverse researchers, from students to professors to authors to genealogists, and working with people all over the globe, learning about their lives – and often connecting with them on a personal level. It is gratifying to be able to be a part of so many efforts to illuminate aspects of human existence.

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

I love the H. Lee Waters films because while Waters intended to create a record, unlike most documentaries, the intended audience was the subjects themselves. The films’ subjects were caught in their everyday activities, yet they were very aware of the camera’s presence, and many behaved as if they were amusing their friends, rather than consciously creating a historical record. It’s just fun to watch the subjects ham it up, although the quick cuts can be a bit dizzying after a while.

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

I enjoy nature walks, photography, reading, hiking, canoeing, gardening, fishing, and playing music.

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

The John McPhee Reader.

Interview composed and photographs taken by Katrina Martin. 

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Praline Thumbprint Cookies (1989) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen:

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 13:00

Now that we’re all moved into our new building, we’re excited to bring back our test kitchen series! New here? On the fourth Friday of every month we share a recipe from our collections that one of our staff members has found, prepared, and tasted.

The Campus Club has been around since 1914, starting out as a social and educational group for the wives of faculty members. Open to all women of Duke, the Campus Club is a social and activity group that hosts a wide variety of events and interest groups. Interest groups meet regularly, allowing members to explore new foods, drink, activities, and culture. A long-lasting and highly active group within the Campus Club is the Morning Gourmet group, which selects a particular topic or theme and invites members to prepare a dish related to the topic or theme, bring the dish, and share the recipe with the group.

Processing a recent accession from the Campus Club, I was distracted again and again by the many intriguing recipes this group has tried over the years. Some themes were related to national or cultural cuisines, others to parts of a meal or an ingredient. But when I stumbled across the Praline Thumbprints, I found my personal winner.


This is a very recent recipe from an archivist’s perspective, appearing in a 1989 Southern Living (I was actually alive when this recipe was published, so: recent). It seemed very simple and straightforward, with modern measurements and guidance, and seemed like no problem at all. I’ll admit here that the above image is a photocopy I made of the original item in the collection, which is itself a typed version of the recipe as it appeared in the magazine. After a bit of digging, I discovered the recipe appeared in the May 1989 issue of Southern Living, in an article titled “Moms and Daughters Bake Cookies,” and you can see a PDF copy of the original through Duke’s subscription to the electronic version of Southern Living here (libraries hooray!). This also led me to discover that the version in the Campus Club records includes comments, recommendations, and modifications by the person who typed it up, and which were very helpful.

I got my ingredients together and got rolling. The first thing I needed to do was grind up some pecans nice and fine. I bought some pecans in bulk at Whole Foods (this is cheaper than buying pre-ground or bagged pecans, but requires an extra step) and put them briefly through the food processor to get them finely ground.

Then I mixed together the cookie ingredients and got a pretty sticky dough, with lovely bits of pecan mixed in. I rolled it up into balls as instructed, but I am not so good at accurately replicating the size mentioned in recipes. I also only have one cookie sheet and a very tiny oven, so the shaping and baking part took me a while.

Eventually I shaped, placed, pressed, and baked the cookies until I had many scooped cookies. I ended up with probably close to the 4-5 dozen described in the recipe (I didn’t count, but it seemed like a lot). I don’t have a picture of the plain baked cookies, but it should be noted that since they do not contain any egg, they are a little powdery and can crumble very easily.

Due to underestimating the amount of time it would take me to actually get all the cookies finished, I didn’t get a chance to make the praline topping until two days later, at which time I had several fewer cookies to fill. I added the ingredients to a pan I usually use for candy-making (a regular, good-quality pan with a thick bottom).

The praline filling is essentially a candy, and candy-making can sometimes be tricky. I have a candy thermometer, but I recommend in this recipe paying a little more attention to the time passing than to the precise temperature. I was very concerned with getting to the recommended temperature, which took waaaaaay longer than the prescribed two minutes, and the candy set up before I could finish scooping it onto the cookies, leaving me with a pan like this:

Luckily, it’s pretty much just sugar and will dissolve in hot water. But even though it set sooner than I expected, it didn’t get really hard and I could still cram it into the cookies. And it was SO. WORTH IT. This stuff is AMAZING. All those little crumbly bits at the bottom of the pan were extra; the recipe even notes you’ll make more filling than cookies. Maybe I was supposed to make three batches of cookies and two of filling? LOL, no. That’s too much work and the extra filling was crazy good on its own. I recommend putting it on ice cream or just eating it with a spoon (no judgments).

I ended with some pretty nice looking and definitely delicious cookies. They were very popular when I brought them to work (safely quarantined from the materials) and had some friends take some home, which is the only thing that prevented me from eating them all myself. As mentioned above, the cookies are a bit crumbly and I accidentally made the praline a bit crumbly as well, so be warned: just put the whole thing in your mouth at once.

More recipes tried by the Morning Gourmet group and lots of other information about the Campus Club can be found in the records described in this collection guide.

Post Contributed by Tracy Jackson, Technical Services Archivist for University Archives

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Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush on the quality he values “more than all things”

Mon, 08/24/2015 - 18:34

While processing the Benjamin Rush papers, which will soon be digitized and available online, Alice Poffinberger, Archivist/Original Cataloger, came across a letter from Thomas Jefferson to fellow Founding Father Dr. Benjamin Rush. The letter, dated January 3, 1808, requests that Rush grant Jefferson’s teenage grandson his “friendly attentions” when he moves to Philadelphia the coming autumn.  Though unnamed in the letter, the grandson in question is Thomas Jefferson Randolph, who attended the University of Pennsylvania from  1808 to 1809.

Stating that he is “without that bright fancy that captivates,” Jefferson hopes the fifteen-year-old “possesses sound judgment and much observation” in addition to the quality he values “more than all things, good humor.”  Jefferson goes on to list the qualities of the mind he appreciates as good humor, integrity, industry, and science. Following this list, he claims “The preference of the 1st to the 2nd quality may not at first be acquiesced in, but certainly we had all rather associate with a good humored light-principled man, than an ill-tempered rigorist in morality.”


Randolph would go on to serve six terms in the Virginia House of Delegates and manage his grandfather’s sizable debts as the sole executor of his estate.

Post contributed by Katrina Martin, Technical Services Assistant. 

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Move Diary: Week 6

Sun, 08/16/2015 - 23:02

Dear readers, take note: it’s now the end of Week Five of the move, and we’re pretty sure we’re all going to have massive and amazing biceps come Winter Break.

This is because our manuscript collections are taking up residence in our new compact shelving. This kind of shelving moves on rails, so the shelves can slide together (in a safe and controlled way) or be cranked apart to access the shelves’ contents.  Here’s a video of Kat Stefko, our Head of Technical Services, demonstrating how they work.

So we’ll be cranking these shelves, filled with boxes of manuscripts, open and closed several times each day, to retrieve materials for patrons, to find materials to answer reference questions, to reshelve things, to pull materials for class visits . . . .

We hereby promise that we will not challenge any visiting researchers to arm wrestle. Unless they want to.

Onto other things! We have—and we really can’t believe this—ONE WEEK until we reopen. Over the course of the week, several things have been checked off the reopening “to do” list, and many more are on their way to being completed.

Our talented exhibits staff worked on the installation of one of our opening exhibits, “Languages of Anatomy: From Vesalius to the Digital Age,” which will be on display in the Chappell Family Gallery and features materials from our History of Medicine Collections.

Display case showing 3-D printed prosthetic hand made by DukeMakers. Photo by Amy McDonald.

Books were returned to the refurbished bookcases in the beloved Biddle Rare Book Room.

Photo by Amy McDonald.

And we finished moving our flat files (an enormous amount of work) and started moving historical medical instruments from the History of Medicine Collections, as well as our early manuscripts.

Moving HOM’s medical instruments. Photo by Rachel Ingold.


Moving HOM’s medical instruments. Photo by Rachel Ingold.

In the photo above, the long box at the right holds HOM’s late 16th or 17th century amputating saw. Here’s what it looks like out of the box, in case you’re curious:

What else did we do? We practiced our teamwork by forming a bucket brigade to shelve manuscript collections.

University Archives staff bucket brigade! Photo by Amy McDonald.

We discovered, to our dismay, that we are not the most interesting people in the Rubenstein.

He is SO INTERESTING. Photo by Tracy Jackson.

And we found new challenges to test our librarian skills. This one is called “can we get all of the foam book rests to the new reading room in one trip?” (We did.)

Photo by Amy McDonald.

Look at these empty stacks in our temporary 3rd floor space! August 24th, here we come!

Photo by Meghan Lyon.


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Duke Alumni Reception at NC Gay & Lesbian Film Festival

Tue, 08/11/2015 - 15:15

Date: Monday, August 17, 2015
Time: 6:00-8:00 PM
Location: The Carolina Theatre of Durham (309 West Morgan St., Durham, NC 27701)
Contact: Tori Crowley, 919-681-1940 or Laura Micham,

Attending the North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival? Please make plans to attend this inaugural reception hosted by the Duke Heritage Society and the Office of Gift Planning!

Gather with friends and learn about a few of the ways that Duke is active with and supportive of its LGBTQ student and alumni community:

  • Bernadette Brown, the new director of Duke’s Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, will be introduced.
  • Kristen Brown Smalley of the Office of Gift Planning will share more about Duke’s activities in the LGBTQ community and our growing affinity network across the country.


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Move Diary: Week 5

Sat, 08/08/2015 - 22:27

Week 5 feels  like it’s been a big one. The stacks are filling up with manuscript boxes and books and feel less cavernous and more cozy. By the numbers it’s been a big week too.  On Tuesday we hit an important milestone: 10,000 manuscript boxes landed in their new homes in the stacks.  It’s been a good week for our books too.  We’ve moved, Library of Congress-ified, and shelved nearly all 4,000 of our folios and all 20,000 duodecimos; octavos and quartos are next on our list.  Some new formats started moving this week as well: 100 drawers worth of oversize flat files moved and about half or our papyrus collection made the journey too.

We also want to invite everyone to our open house on September 10th!  You’ll have a chance to tour the new spaces and exhibits, meet and mingle with library staff, and learnhow the Rubenstein Library can support your research.  Check out the details here.


Archival collections back from offsite and awaiting their new homes. Photo by Tracy Jackson. Photo by Meghan Lyon Sums up the Rubenstein move pretty well. Photo by Meghan Lyon. New exhibit on Duke University history! Exhibit cases have been installed in the Rare Book Room. Henry’s been on the job in Conservation Services for five days and he is already on Rubenstein Library move duty. Here is he helping move the papyri. From The Book of the Home. Photo by Kelly Wooten. Some of those big flat files. Photo by Meghan Lyon. Inlaid leather cover on Slapstick and Dumbbell : A Casual Survey of Clowns and Clowning.

‘Til next week!

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Profiles in Research: Dr. Jaime Cantrell on Southern Lesbian Literature

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 14:26

My current book project, Southern Sapphisms: Sexuality and Sociality in Literary Productions 1969-1997, considers how queer and feminist theories illuminate and complicate the intersections between canonical and obscure, queer and normative, and regional and national narratives in southern literary representations produced during a crucial but understudied period in the historical politicization of sexuality. The advent of New Southern Studies has focused almost exclusively on midcentury texts from the Southern Renascence, largely neglecting post-1970 queer literatures. At the same time, most scholarship in women’s and feminist studies continue to ignore the South, or worse, demonize the South as backward, parochial, and deeply homophobic. Southern Sapphisms argues that we cannot understand expressions of lesbianism and feminism in post-Stonewall era American literature without also understanding the explicitly southern dynamics of those writings—foregrounding the centrality of sexuality to the study of southern literature as well as the region’s defining role in the historiography of lesbian literature in the United States.

Vital archival work completed at the Sallie Bingham Center this past May strengthened my arguments about the formations of lesbian identity and community in the North Carolina lesbian-feminist journal Feminary (1969-1982). Feminary has been lauded by one scholar as “the source and backbone of contemporary Southern lesbian feminist theory,” due in part to the forum it provided for southern lesbians to voice their inimitable outlooks on race, regionality, and social justice[i]. At a local level, Feminary forged and grounded a community of Durham/Triangle feminists, lesbians, and women writing and printing as a collective. At a national level, I show how the women of this journal were actually inspired by the increasingly turbulent battles over civil rights in the South. This revelation upends prevailing notions that the Stonewall riots in New York were the watershed that changed lesbian and gay politics and culture in the nation. My work on Feminary recasts dominant national narratives about queer lives, histories, and activism in the region by illustrating how lesbian feminist politics gained their inspiration and momentum not only from Stonewall, but also from the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and massive resistance against civil rights and gay and lesbian rights in the South. Access to rare archival documents—only available at Duke University’s Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library—prove that Second Wave feminism and modern lesbian politics have extensive southern roots. To ignore the distinctly regional dynamics of those roots is to misunderstand the complexity of those movements across the nation and beyond.

Feminary collective (left to right, top to bottom row): Helen Langa, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Eleanor Holland, Cris South, and Mab Segrest. Photo by Elena Freedom, 1982. From the Minnie Bruce Pratt Papers.

I am grateful for the support of the Mary Lily Research Grant, which enabled my research at the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture. I was able to consult materials from the Minnie Bruce Pratt Papers and the Dorothy Allison Papers, and was honored and humbled to use the Mab Segrest Papers.

I was fortunate to consult early drafts of works that would later develop into an impressive body of southern lesbian literature. Many literary productions made their first appearances in Feminary, namely volumes of poetry including Dorothy Allison’s The Women Who Hate Me (1983), Minnie Bruce Pratt’s The Sound of One Fork (1981), and Mab Segrest’s Living in a House I Do Not Own (1982); Pratt’s and Segrest’s essay collections, Rebellion (1991) and My Mama’s Dead Squirrel; Cris South’s novel, Clenched Fists, Burning Crosses (1984); and Allison’s first work of fiction titled Trash (1989). Beyond these advancements, Feminary functioned as more than a print culture space for literary circulation and consumption—it flourished as a galvanizing force through which southern lesbians might engage in coalition politics at a crucial time in the 1970s and 1980s, or, as Pratt recalls, “we talked about race and racism, so-called race, racism. We had really interesting conversations about the intersections, what later got called the intersections. But that’s what we were doing. We weren’t just being lesbians.” (Minnie Bruce Pratt interview, Voices of Feminism Oral History Project, Sophia Smith Collection).

In an effort to add texture and depth to this research narrative, I want to share some of my personal notes scribbled down while in the reading room (see below). Here I seek to articulate my own experience of doing research at the Sallie Bingham Center — how it felt to do queer archival research at that very moment in the archive. Engaging in archival research offers a profoundly queer temporal experience — and temporary existence. Research within the archive necessitates a dissociative shift in being and thought: scholars become lost in the present, enveloped into the past. This is why we often feel a disturbing vertigo upon exiting the archive — a separation in our being and thinking with the past. Part of this vertigo is the experience of handling material artifacts that carry with them an aggregate, temporal stickiness that accrues through each reading and interpretation: then, now, and all the intervening, cataloguing years. I am grateful for these affective memories — a surprise here and there, upon finding something you didn’t know existed, the sound of discovery piercing the hallowed silence of the reading room — small pleasures I carry with me long after my research is done:

Mab Segrest Papers
Box 3_Writings_2
Folder entitled “Mab’s Book, 1982” : this are materials from LIVING IN A HOUSE I DO NOT OWN. Ditto papered poems, arrangements of poem form on page, scraps of paper with thematic resonances.
SEE SCANS. Film negatives of cover; four. Gorgeous and haunting.

Minnie Bruce Pratt Papers
Box 30
Feminary IX.2, Summer 1978, cover image of full roses. About to break for lunch. Can’t help but notice that Duke has tons of honeysuckle. Both seem apt images for the journal.

[i] Tamara M. Powell, “Look What Happened Here: North Carolina’s Feminary Collective,” North Carolina Literary Review 9.1 (2000): 92.


Post contributed by Dr. Jaime Cantrell, Visiting Assistant Professor of English,The Sarah Isom Center for Women’s and Gender Studies faculty affiliate, The University of Mississippi

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Move Diary: Week 4

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 16:11

Today marks the end of week 4 of the move, a week that marked the move’s halfway point!

The Rubenstein staff and the team of movers we’ve contracted have been sorting print materials into LC order as they move to their new, permanent homes. From the tiniest 12vos to behemoth folios, thousands of books are now on the new shelves.

One of the highlights of the move is getting to see such a large swath of our collections at once. From books that carry history in their margins to those with covers that are just plain pretty, it’s stunning to see the range and depth of our print collection passed in front of us day in and day out.

Here are some highlights from team #movenstein this week:

Photo by Meghan Lyon A prize find- photo by Meghan Lyon All the pretty dragons, photo by Kelly Wooten Photo by Tracy Jackson Plant history from 1644, photo by Katrina Martin


Manuscripts from all of our collecting areas are making their way onto the shelves, too. The Aleph Dream Team has been busy sorting boxes and flipping call numbers as the boxes move.

Katrina and The Boxes Tracy Jackson and Matthew Farrel troubleshoot some finicky shelves

The stacks aren’t the only place that saw some updates this week. The Gothic Reading Room is now outfitted with its tables and chairs. We can’t wait for August 24th when this place is full of researchers enjoying the new space.

Until next week!

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Onè! Respè! (Honor! Respect!)

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 19:39

The Radio Haiti archive project is underway! We’ve spent the first couple weeks creating a behemoth database…

…assigning each and every tape a unique ID number, and putting the tapes in nice new comfortable bar-coded boxes. This means that an archive which arrived looking like this…

Radio Haiti boxes arrive in North Carolina after a long voyage

… now, happily, looks like this.

AV archivist Craig Breaden with some newly-boxed Radio Haiti tapes


We are incredibly fortunate that the former Radio Haiti staff and friends and family in Port-au-Prince (you know who you are!) sent the tapes with a detailed inventory — it makes our job so much easier.

We are also inspecting the tapes for mold (and we have found mold aplenty).

¼ inch tape with mold on it ¼ inch tape with mold on it


We are also keeping track of which tapes are going to require a little extra TLC.

We’re creating rather sweeping controlled vocabulary — describing subjects, names, and places that appear in the archive. Once we’ve put in all this metadata, we can send the more than 3500 tapes off to be cleaned and digitized.

These tasks (organizing, typing in data, cross-referencing, labeling, bar-coding, describing, mold-noting), while arguably unglamorous, are necessary groundwork for eventually making the recordings publicly accessible, ensuring that these tapes can speak again, and that Radyo Ayiti pap peri (Radio Haiti will never perish).

We’ve only listened to a small sampling of the recordings so far, but the tapes themselves, as physical objects, tell a story. Even the mold is part of the story. That white mold on the tapes and the dusty dark mildew on the tape boxes tell of the  Radio Haiti journalists’ multiple exiles during which the tapes remained in the tropics and the future of the station was uncertain.

To glance over the titles of the recordings — the labels on their spines, lined up in order, row upon row — is to chart the outline of late 20th century Haitian political history — a chronology of presidencies, coups, interventions, massacres, disappearances, and impunity. The eighty-nine tapes chronicling the Raboteau trial of 2000, in which former junta leaders were tried for the 1994 torture and massacre of civilians, take up an entire shelf.

And then there is the long, long sequence of recordings after the April 3, 2000 assassination of Jean Dominique, when the center of the station’s orbit violently and irrevocably shifted.

It is uncanny to look at the tapes with hindsight and see the patterns emerge. Here is the political landscape of Haiti, from the 1970s to the 2000s, from dictatorship to the democratic era: The same impunity, the same lies, the same corruption, the same suffering, the same mentalities, the same machinations. Chameleons change their color, oppressors repaint their faces, state-sanctioned killings become extrajudicial killings, and the poor generally come off the worst.

The journalists who did these reports and conducted these interviews experienced these events in real time. They could not yet know the whole story because, in each of these moments, they were in the middle of it. For them, the enthusiasm of 1986 (after Duvalier fell, and Radio Haiti’s staff returned from their first exile) and of 1994 (when Aristide was reinstated, and Radio Haiti’s staff returned from their second exile) was unfettered. Likewise, for them, the struggle against impunity and injustice was urgent.

There is a recording labeled “Justice Dossier Jando Blocage 4.9.01” — “Justice Jean Dominique case blocked investigation.” Those short words contain a saga: by September 2001, a year and a half after Jean Dominique and Jean-Claude Louissaint were murdered, Radio Haiti was already reporting on how the investigation had stalled. In 2001, perhaps, justice appeared attainable, just out of reach. Now, fourteen years later, the case remains unsolved.

Back in 2011, I attended a talk by Haitian human rights activist Jean-Claude Bajeux in Port-au-Prince, where he said, “gen anpil fantòm kap sikile nan peyi a ki pa gen stati.” (“there are many ghosts wandering through this country that have no statue”). He was speaking of those who were disappeared under the Duvalier regime. But he could have been speaking, too, of innumerable others who have died and been erased – those who were killed by the earthquake, under the military regime, through direct political violence and through the structural violence of everyday oppression.

This archive is not a statue or a monument, but it is one place where the dead speak. Sometimes the controlled vocabulary feels like an inventory of ghosts.

Sometimes I think I am working on an archive that was never meant to be archived, something that was supposed to remain an active, living struggle. I think of how far these clean cardboard storage boxes and quiet temperature-controlled spaces are from the sting of tear gas, the stickiness of blood, the smell of burning tires, the crack of gunfire, the heat and noise, the laughter and fury of Haiti.

But salvaging and preserving is part of the struggle; remembering is, itself, a political act.

Post contributed by Laura Wagner, Radio Haiti Project Archivist.

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Move Diary: Week 3

Fri, 07/24/2015 - 20:00

We’re 1/3 of the way through the move, huzzah! Here’s a look at what week 3 brought.

Books have been getting new labels to show off their new Library of Congress call numbers:

Cataloger Lauren Reno scans books from our History of Medicine Collections. Photo by Rachel Ingold.


We’ve been finding lots of beautiful books during the process:

Photo by Kate Collins Photo by Kelly Wooten Photo by Kelly Wooten Photo by Meghan Lyon

As well as fun doodles in the margins:

Photo by Amy McDonald

There were some more amusing finds as well:

Reliving the early 2000s with an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog. Photo by Meghan Lyon The wrong kind of sports in The Mother’s Encyclopedia, 1942. Photo by Kelly Wooten Bad Girl and Good Girl in juxtaposition. Photo by Kelly Wooten. True Blue Soda! Photo by Tracy Jackson

Archival collections continued to fill our new shelves:

Collections from the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture. Photo by Kelly Wooten. Boxes of University Archives material. Photo by Liz Adams

Our collections weren’t the only thing moving this week. Portraits of Duke presidents and other figures in Duke History moved back to the Gothic Reading Room.

Portrait of Terry Sanford leaving our temporary space for the Gothic. Photo by Amy McDonald Horace Trumbauer, Campus Architect for East and West campus. Photo by Beth Doyle. The Duke Family is back in the Gothic Reading Room! Photo by Val Gillispie Last portrait being hung in the Gothic Reading Room–President Douglas Knight. Photo by Val Gillispie

We also got to see others spaces in our new home come together:

Work area for Research Services Staff. Photo by Amy McDonald Cute little bench nook. Photo by Amy McDonald.

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ABC’s of John Hope Franklin (P) – President’s Initiative on Race

Wed, 07/22/2015 - 15:00

In June 1997, President Bill Clinton announced the creation of “One America in the 21st Century: The President’s Initiative on Race,” a 15-month initiative that was established to encourage community dialogue on race relations in the United States. Through the development of guidelines to promote national dialogue, the Board hoped to bridge racial divides and calm tensions, increase understanding about racial issues, and develop concrete solutions to racial challenges.

One America Pamphlet

John Hope Franklin was appointed Chairman of the seven member advisory board whose members included: William F. Winter (former Democratic Governor of Mississippi), Linda Chavez-Thompson (Executive Vice-President, AFL-CIO), Robert Thomas (President and CEO of Nissan Motor Corporation, USA), Angela E. Oh (attorney), Susan D. Johnson Cook (Senior Pastor, Bronx Christian Fellowship), and Thomas H. Kean (former Republican Governor of New Jersey).

John Hope Franklin’s annotated meeting agenda.

The President’s Advisory Board on Race faced intense public scrutiny and was widely criticized by civil rights activists, who felt that the Board did not have a tangible end goal, and could not adequately represent the interests of the entire population on race matters. Critics also felt that dialogue was not sufficient for addressing serious race related problems in the United States.

In spite of the negative press the initiative endured, Franklin felt the work of the board was a  much needed step in having a national conversation on race.

This series is a part of Duke University’s John Hope Franklin@100: Scholar, Activist, Citizen year-long celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. John Hope Franklin

Submitted by Gloria Ayee, Franklin Research Center Intern

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Move Diary: Week 2

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 15:32

Week 2 is wrapping up and we are all counting down to our first (but definitely not last) Rubenstein Move Happy Hour this evening!

What have we been up to this week? Well . . . .

First things first, literally. Here’s a video of Kat Stefko, Head of Technical Services, placing the very first archival box in our new stacks.

The shelves have started to fill up pretty quickly over the course of the week. And then it’s Technical Services’s turn to update the location information in our catalog.

Photo by Tracy Jackson.

We have found a couple of ways to keep ourselves motivated.

NUMBER ONE: So. Much. Candy.

Photo by Megan O’Connell.

Of course, we wash our hands carefully before we handle books or archival materials.

NUMBER TWO: Pieces of flair for our move aprons.

Photo by Matthew Farrell.

Made with the Duke Libraries’ very own button maker! (And thanks to our student worker Elizabeth George for making these excellent buttons!)

Our move brain trust, led by indefatigable move coordinator Liz Adams, keeps us all on task.

Photo by Amy McDonald.

Nooooooo, bad shark! Don’t eat the rare books!

Photo by Meghan Lyon.

Seriously, this place is pretty cool and shiny. We can’t wait for everyone to come and visit in August!

Stop back next Friday for more photos!

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Move Diary: Week 1

Sat, 07/11/2015 - 18:54

We made it through week 1! Here are some sights spotted by our staff as we got down to work:

The first truck of books returning home from offsite storage. We brought 9800 print items back this week. Our old now empty hold shelves. We miss our researchers and can’t wait to see them again in August in our new space. One of our archivists, spotted through a tunnel of new compact shelving. Bevy of walkie-talkies. 10-4. Our move coordinator/book cart whisperer channels Chris Pratt. We’re glad they’re just book trucks and not velociraptors. A little Robert Frost on the book trucks. Color coded boxes, ready to move. No detail is too small as labels were peeled off our new shelving and replaced with stickier ones. With new super-sticky stickers, we labeled roughly 1000 bays on three different levels in the new space, ensuring every box will have a clearly labeled place to live. Someone had a little fun with the (admittedly Carolina Blue) protective film on our new elevator.


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ABC’s of John Hope Franklin – (O) Orchids

Fri, 07/10/2015 - 15:00

One of John Hope Franklin’s most well known hobbies was growing orchids and he had a prized collection, which included over 1000 orchids of different varieties, shapes, and sizes. In 1959, while teaching in Hawaii, Franklin became fascinated with the precious flower.

John Hope Franklin tending to his greenhouse. 1960’s


Many of Franklin’s orchids were acquired during his travels around the world, and he built greenhouses in his homes in Brooklyn, Chicago, and Durham to cultivate and house his special collection of orchid specimens and hybrids. Franklin’s custom-built greenhouse at his home in Durham measured 17 x 25 feet.

John Hope and John Whittington Franklin in the family Greenhouse, 1960’s


In 1976, John T. Wilson, president of the University of Chicago named an orchid hybrid in honor of Franklin, the Phalaenopis John Hope Franklin. The flower, which is white and red in color, is recognized by Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society. Another species of orchid was named in honor of Aurelia Franklin after her passing in 1999.

Phalaenopis John Hope Franklin


The Franklin family was renowned for their orchid collection, and frequently showed them off to visitors to their home; John Hope frequently referred to them as his “babies.”

This series is a part of Duke University’s John Hope Franklin@100: Scholar, Activist, Citizen year-long celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. John Hope Franklin

Submitted by Gloria Ayee, Franklin Research Center Intern

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Come for the ad, stay for the history lesson

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 14:00

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.

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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