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The Multiple Lives of the Rubenstein Library's Collections

August 11, 2023 – February 3, 2024
Sponsor(s): Manuscript Migration Lab

Treasured objects like manuscripts connect people’s lives and memories across generations and geographies. As they move from home to home and place to place, manuscripts collect stories of belonging as well as dislocation, fragmentation as well as repair, and gain as well as loss. In honor of the Duke’s mission to foster “knowledge in service to society” and the University’s “commitment to learning, freedom, and truth,” researchers at the Manuscript Migration Lab (Franklin Humanities Institute) are working to uncover pertinent facts about the early manuscripts in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library and to make these facts public. Reckoning with the complex past lives of these precious items, Lab affiliates confront troubling legacies of cultural heritage acquisition while also gaining a deep appreciation for human curiosity, creativity, and resilience.

This exhibition is a collaborative effort of the students, faculty, and affiliates of the Manuscript Migration Lab. The Manuscript Migration Lab is an inter-disciplinary hub sponsored by the Franklin Humanities Institute where scholars and students investigate the complex lives and afterlives of the manuscripts held by Duke’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

The exhibit was curated by the lab’s directors, Andrew Armacost, William Johnson, and Jennifer Knust, and the lab’s coordinators, Michael Freeman and Hen Kennett. A number of graduate and faculty affiliates contributed to the exhibit, including Gay L. Byron, Abigail Emerson, Arif Erbil, Michael Freeman, Brogan Hannon, Maroun El Houkayem, Jennifer Knust, Elizabeth Schrader Polzcer, Nathan Tilley, Nicholas Wagner.

4 strips containing manuscript fragments in each
Manuscript fragments from the Rubenstein Library