Crazy Smart / Doris Duke

Crazy Smart Doris DukeWho was Doris Duke?

In 1925, the press dubbed her "the richest girl in the world" when she inherited a fortune from her father, Duke University benefactor James B. Duke, at the mere age of 12. Later she made more headlines as the glamorous, eccentric heiress who named her butler the executor of her estate.

But Doris Duke's papers reveal a more complex picture of an adventurous, intelligent and independent woman who refused to be defined by wealth or social expectations.

In 2009, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation transferred Doris Duke's personal papers to Duke University. It is a collection that has enduring value to the university, its community and researchers.

Recently, we delved into those archives to assemble an interactive timeline of Doris Duke's life — with links to actual letters, photos, memorabilia and other documents. You can follow the paper trail on your computer, iPad or smart phone as Doris Duke travels around the world, supports the war effort, develops a passion for Islamic art, becomes a major philanthropist and picks up a couple of camels along the way. There's even a quiz to test your Doris Duke knowledge.

These are just a few of the tools we're developing at Duke University Libraries for researchers to tap into archival materials in ways that earlier generations could only dream of. 

That's not just smart. That's crazy smart.

To learn more about Doris Duke, visit the interactive timeline of her life, or visit the online version of our recent exhibit Philanthropist, Environmentalist, Collector: Doris Duke and Her Estates.

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