A primary mission of the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is to provide support and instruction for students at Duke University and other area institutions. Our librarians and archivists are delighted to introduce students to rare books, manuscripts and other media — such as photographs, film and digital media — that relate to their coursework and research projects. Below are some examples from our librarian and archivists of classes they have recently worked with and how they approached the class's visit to the Rubenstein Library.
If you're interested in having your class visit the Rubenstein Library, please contact us. We'll pair you with a librarian or archivist who can work with you to tailor the instruction session's focus to your course's subject matter and learning objectives.
Food, Culture, Community (Writing 101)
This class explored the origins of food beliefs and the individual, cultural, and communal influences that affect food choice. Before the class visit to the Rubenstein, the instructor and librarian met to talk about the scope and content of the Rubenstein's advertising collections and how they could be used for the class. The instructor worked with his class and together they came up with several themes that were relevant to their interests and potential research topics. The instruction session was organized around the three themes the students came up with: health/diet food advertising and body image, the history of fast food advertising, and advertising to children. Because of the scope of the Hartman Center's collections students were able to analyze groups of ads from similar product categories covering a broad range of dates, from the early 20th century to the present, allowing them to approach questions like: What are the similarities and differences in the imagery, messaging, and tone of diet drink advertisements from the 1950s compared to the 1990s? Or, how did fast food advertisers adjust their appeal based on what publication the ad was to appear in? During the session, the students also had a chance to share their paper topics with the librarian so he could chat with those students whose topics connected with the advertising collections' strengths. The students were engaged, asked a lot of insightful questions, and several returned to the Rubenstein to use material in support of their research project.
Queer Writing Practices (Writing 101)
A Writing 101 instructor asked for an instruction session using LGBTQ zines (self-published, low-circulation, photocopied pamphlets, primarily from the 1990s-present) for her course called Queer Writing Practices. As a course assignment, the students were asked to choose one zine from our collection to read closely and write a paper responding to a prompt about how the text reflects or mediates changing ideas about queer identity and community. The librarian developed a think-pair-share exercise that asked students to focus on the format and layout of zines, then compare zines and discuss similarities in format with a partner. Each pair reported what they found to be characteristics of a zine in order to generate a group definition of what makes a zine. The students then changed zines and partners to focus on the content of the zines, and were asked to "introduce" their partner to the author of the zine. After this exercise a few pairs reported highlights from their conversations.
In the assessment at the end of class, students were asked to list two things they learned, two things they still had questions about, and how the activities made them feel. Sample comments: "I felt very engaged and involved; I felt like I was exploring my zine in an innovative way; Today's activities made learning about zines more fun and they made me happy; I really enjoyed this class, a refreshing new format and a great introduction into an invaluable library resource." The librarian compiled the questions students still had about using the library and responded to them in an email which the instructor shared with the class.
The Global Sixties (History 160S)
Taught in the fall of 2013, "The Global Sixties" was a Gateway Seminar designed to introduce sophomore and junior history majors to the skills needed to engage in primary source research and the analytical reading of historical texts. In order to introduce his thirteen students to the primary sources available in the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library and to provide practice in document analysis, the faculty member scheduled a visit to the Rubenstein classroom on October 3. This date was chosen with care: late enough in the semester so that the students, through course readings and lectures, had a basic understanding of the general context of the period, but early enough so that the documents might provide inspiration as they chose topics for the long paper that was to be the culmination of their work for the seminar. The librarians working with the class selected an array of items representative of the period. A few examples: The Port Huron Statement (Students for a Democratic Society); Revolution in Mississippi (Tom Hayden); Mad Magazine (to show the "Spy vs. Spy" cartoons that parody U.S./Soviet Cold War relations); Duke University's Fallout Preparedness Committee Records; print advertisements illustrating changing cultural norms; comic books (e.g. Wonder Woman and Ricky Nelson); documentation of Duke student protests related to the Vietnam War, race relations, and labor issues. After a brief introduction to the material, each student selected a single document and completed a worksheet whose questions helped them "interrogate" the piece. This formed a basis for a short response paper, which was due at the next class.
Mad Men/Avant Poets (English 90S)
This English course explored the intersection of consumer culture and the poetry counter-culture of the 1950s and ‘60s. This undergraduate class visited the Rubenstein for one class session, which was divided into two distinct parts. The first half of class was a close look at the magazine advertising world of the American 1950s and ‘60s. Glossy, mass media advertisements were selected from the vast collections of the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History. Advertisements for clothing, food, perfumes, even airlines generated brief but important discussions around race, gender, and class. In the second half of the class, the students examined and discussed the small press publications of innovative poets like Robert Creeley, Allen Ginsberg, LeRoi Jones, and Denise Levertov. The students, faculty member, and librarians discussed the meaning of physical media — how a mimeographed or hand-bound chapbook sends a different message than a glossy, newsstand magazine — as well as distribution networks, alternative economies, and "little" magazines.
Community History and Memory (Writing 101)
The 1969 Allen Building Takeover was a watershed moment in Duke University's history—one that brought long-simmering issues of race and the students' role in shaping their campus culture to the fore and that echoed other similar protests at universities and colleges across the country. Our fully-digitized Allen Building Takeover Collection contains ephemeral documents generated during the course of the takeover and its after effects and includes perspectives on the event from participating students, students who supported or did not support the action, administrators, faculty, and staff. During the class session, students received an orientation to both the Rubenstein Library and the digitized materials, followed by a group exercise focused on analyzing a single document from the Allen Building Takeover Collection. Students are often surprised to realize that Duke University's undergraduate classes were integrated only as recently as 1963 and frequently engage in fruitful discussions of then-and-now comparisons of student apathy and activism, student body diversity, and the role of students in the university community.
A follow-up class assignment (a research paper, an online exhibit or timeline of the event, etc.) allowed the students to continue to work with the digitized materials or brrought them back to the Rubenstein Library to consult additional non-digitized resources. Upon student request, University Archives staff were available for beginning research consultations and ongoing guidance.
Students studying Duke University buildings (perhaps for a digital modelling project), architecture, Duke University or Durham history, or the practice of local history have participated in walking tours of West Campus led by the University Archives staff. These one-hour tours can be customized to fit the topic(s) of the course, and can be concluded with a visit to the Rubenstein Library reading room to discuss University Archives collections and resources for further research.
For those faculty members who advise Duke University student organizations, the University Archives staff can lead sessions for members about the history of their group and/or the history of student organizations, student activism, etc. at Duke, complete with a fun display of pertinent historical materials. Additionally, the University Archives staff can talk with members about the organization's own historical records and the steps they can take to add them to the University Archives.