Mary Duke Biddle Room

“To Stand by the Side of Freedom”: Abraham Lincoln and Nineteenth-Century America

Selections from the David M. Rubenstein Americana Collection

November 16, 2021 – May 14, 2022


The Mary Duke Biddle Room was officially named in November of 1971, but originally built during the 1948-49 expansion and at that time called “The Rare Book Room.” In the room’s earliest formation it was adjacent to the Trent Room, the Flowers Room and the Dalton room. In 2015 all of these rooms were renovated a process that included refreshing the Mary Duke Biddle Room with updated furnishings and adding state of the art exhibition cases to better display library materials, as well as combining the Trent, Flowers and Dalton rooms into two exhibition spaces: The Michael and Karen Stone Family Gallery and the The Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room.


This room, located just inside the main entrance of the Perkins Library, is approximately 50 feet x 24 feet with one 21 foot long exhibit case, and two 6 foot exhibit cases. Two table cases permanently house the Audubon elephant folios (these cases are never available for other uses.) The majority of the room is covered in book cases that permanently house Rubenstein Library collection materials.

Policy information

This room is open to the public during open hours. It will rarely be available for public events, unless related to exhibitions and has no IT or AV equipment available for public use; for information about using this as an event spent, contact Katie Henningsen. The exhibition space is primarily for displaying Rubenstein collection materials. Anyone is welcome to apply to curate an exhibition in this space; for more information please see the application page.

Donor Information

This room, designed to exemplify a “gentleman’s library” is named after Mary Duke Biddle, born in Durham to Benjamin Newton and Sarah Pearson Angier Duke. Educated in the public schools of Durham, she graduated from Trinity College in 1907. Continuing a philanthropic tradition begun by her paternal grandfather, Washington Duke, and long sustained primarily by her father, she began making substantial benefactions to Trinity College in the 1920s. In 1938, Mrs. Biddle gave the Sarah P. Duke Gardens of Duke University as a memorial to her mother, and shortly after World War II she met an especially critical need of Duke University with a gift of $1.5 million for expansion of the main library. In 1956 she established the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation in order to continue to support, those institutions and activities in North Carolina and New York that had long been of interest to her; by her will she left her residuary estate to the foundation. She directed that at least half the income of the foundation should go to Duke University. Between 1956 and 1972, the foundation disbursed nearly $5.6 million for projects at Duke University, elsewhere in North Carolina, and in New York.

Past Exhibits from the Mary Duke Biddle Room


A Survey of the Rubenstein Library’s Photobook Collection

Views of the Great War

Highlights from the Duke University Libraries


Political Cartoons from Late Ottoman and Republican Turkey

I Sing the Body Electric

Walt Whitman and the Body

Royal India and The British

The Photography of Samuel Bourne & Raja Lala Deen Dayal

The Common Ground We Meet Upon

Music Collections in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Faith in Action

In the Footsteps of Abraham Joshua Heschel

Malignant Fever

Benjamin Rush and the 1793 Yellow Fever Epidemic in Philadelphia

Dreamers and Dissenters

Selections from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library