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If you would like to plan an online or in-person session with a Rubenstein Librarian, please fill out this instruction request form.

We require at least two weeks' notice for classes. A staff member will confirm your session within two business days. We'll also ask you for a copy of your syllabus and/or assignment to help us plan your class's session.

We are excited to welcome Duke classes into our classrooms, and look forward to having students get hands-on experience with rare books, manuscripts, photographs, and other media in our collections. Or, if an online visit would work best for you and your students, we can help you design meaningful online sessions, activities, and/or assignments that use our digitized and born-digital collections.

To start planning a Rubenstein Library instruction session, please submit an instruction request. After we've received your request, 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. Because of the amount of staff time required to prepare for our instruction sessions, we require at least two weeks' notice for classes.

Learn more about our approach to classes at the Rubenstein Library and what we ask of students in all of our sessions.

Digital Activities & Assignments

Create Your Own Cabinet of Curiosity

For centuries, Cabinets of Curiosities, or Wunderkammer, have offered glimpses of collected items from the natural world. Animals, plants, and minerals were displayed along with other objects reflecting a history that included colonization and misappropriation. This guide includes details to complete a remote learning exercise in materiality and helps students gain a sense of the physical nature of objects.

Teaching Materiality Online

In the special collections context, materiality means the physical qualities of books, manuscripts, objects, and other primary sources, and the information we glean, including sensory experiences, from handling these items in person. This guide offers creative activities to offer students embodied, physical experiences with the books, artifacts, papers, and objects in their own spaces while introducing them to the possibilities and limitations of the archives.

Visualizing the Feminine Mystique: A Mini-Exhibit Assignment

This assignment is designed as the penultimate or final project in an upper-level undergraduate course.  It's designed for a women's history course, but can be adapted to other topics quite easily.  The assignment asks students to find primary sources and correlate their themes to the present day.  In creating their presentation they have to analyze advertisements, connect them to context, and synthesize them with contemporary texts.  Students will then carry their story up to the present day by locating a current advertisement that fits their analytical theme.

Digital Teaching Modules 

These modules are designed to build students’ primary source literacy skills and are ready to be used in your course. Each module is centered on a set of digitized sources from the Rubenstein Library and comes with a lesson plan.

American Airline Companies and South America 

Through an analysis of U.S. airline advertisements for industry, business, and leisure travel students will trace the evolution of depictions of the people and places in Central and South America from the 1930s into the Cold War. Students will explore advertisements from the AdAccess digital collection.  This collection contains advertisements from a number of American airline companies including United, Delta, Trans World, and American Airlines, Inc.

American Slavery Documents

This class session encourages learners to engage with the American Slavery Documents Collection. The collection contains an assortment of legal and personal documents related to slavery in the United States. Nearly all of the documents are singular and otherwise unrelated to the other, but as a composite, the collection brings to light the details of the lives and deaths of free and enslaved African Americans during the Antebellum and early Reconstruction Eras. It is one of many collections in the Rubenstein Library documenting African American life in the American South.

The Death Penalty

The Rubenstein Library’s Human Rights Archive contains extensive primary sources on the death penalty, also known as capital punishment, and its impact on individuals, families, and communities. Collections include post-conviction case files as well as the historical files of anti-death penalty advocacy groups. This session introduces students to the issues surrounding the death penalty by exploring and critically analyzing a set of these sources.

Desegregating Durham

Following the end of the Civil War in 1865, freed African Americans in North Carolina began to settle into an enclave sandwiched between Wake and Orange Counties affectionately called Hayti (pronounced Hay-tie). Even after it became of the incorporated into the city of Durham, Hayti served as a beacon where black-owned businesses thrived and developed its own "Black Wall Street" as the nineteenth century transitioned to the twentieth century. The African-American community proved a shining example of social, economical, educational, and cultural prominence in the Jim Crow New South. With the emergence of the modern Civil Rights Movement in the mid-20th century, Durham was also a home of activism and advocacy for social justice and equality. In this lesson, students will explore primary sources from the Rubenstein Library's collections that document black life under Jim Crow and desegregation in Durham, NC.

The Emancipation Act and the Emancipation Proclamation

This class session encourages students to engage with three primary documents: two legal documents and one persuasive speech. Edward Henry Rollins' speech in favor of the Abolition Act was scanned from an original print copy in the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.  The texts of the Emancipation Act and the Emancipation Proclamation are typed transcripts made available from the National Archives.

The Eugenics Movement in North Carolina

This class session encourages students to engage with the history and the lasting legacy of the eugenics movement in North Carolina during the 20th century through a critical analysis of primary sources. This session includes many different types of primary sources—such as pamphlets, newspapers, government reports, and more—as well an activity to guide document analysis and class discussion.

Exploring the Chanticleer

This class session encourages learners to engage with the Chanticleer, Duke University’s student yearbook, which was first published in 1913. As most, if not all, students would have owned a copy of the yearbook, it is a centralized history of an academic year—but, as with all histories, that does not mean that it is comprehensive in its depiction of Duke student life, nor that it is without bias in its choices of what to depict and what to exclude.

Gender & Anatomy

In studying the history of medicine, we learn how medicine is a social construct and how medical education reflects certain views in a culture and society. The representation of women in Western anatomical and medical textbooks from the past to today has at times included provocative or unsettling imagery. This session encourages students to explore and engage with visual representations of gender in the history of medicine through critical analysis and discussion using primary sources.

Gender, Culture, and the Economy

This teaching module explores the intersection of gender and consumer culture during the postwar period in the United States.  Through an analysis of Ford Motor Co. print advertisements students will explore the shifting economic, cultural and social landscape in the United States in the decade immediately following the conclusion of the Second World War.

Hayti and Urban Renewal in Durham

This teaching module looks at the history of Hayti, a historically Black neighborhood in Durham, focusing on an urban renewal project which was promoted as a benefit to the neighborhood but displaced many residents and Black-owned businesses. Students will use a range of primary sources to understand the perspectives of residents, government officials, and other local stakeholders, and work together to begin to put together a history of Hayti.

Labor Rights/Human Rights: Organizing Food Workers

The Rubenstein Library's Human Rights Archive contains extensive primary documents on labor activism and worker’s rights in North Carolina, throughout the south, and across the United States. Collections include organizational records and individual activists’ papers. This session asks students to consider working conditions, labor policy, and organizing strategies through the analysis of such documents and to discuss the connections between labor, work, and human rights.

Migration I: Exploring Migration Through Photojournalism

The Rubenstein Library’s Human Rights Archive contains extensive primary sources on migration and displacement and how it shapes communities, families, and individuals’ lives. Collections include the historical records of non-government organizations who assist and advocate for migrants and refugees, art and journalistic photography, NGO and INGO publications and reports, as well as oral histories with migrants and refugees. Session I focuses on photojournalism, learning to analyze photographs, and exploring how migration is represented in the media.

Migration II: Exploring Migration Through Oral Histories

The Rubenstein Library’s Human Rights Archive contains extensive primary sources on migration and displacement and how it shapes communities, families, and individuals’ lives. Our collections include the historical records of non-government organizations who assist and advocate for migrants and refugees, art and journalistic photography, NGO and INGO publications and reports, as well as oral histories with migrants and refugees. Session II focuses on oral histories and testimonials and how documentary practices can add to our understanding of the immigrant experience.

Studying Duke and Durham's LGBTQIA+ History

This session traces the rich history of LGBTQIA+ communities at Duke and in Durham. From the formation of the Duke Gay Alliance in 1972 to the ongoing work of Southerners on New Ground (SONG), queer people on and off campus have created socially, spiritually, and politically active communities for many years. Students will explore these communities through their newsletters, magazines, and other publications.

Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

This module focuses on the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the system which forced the enslavement of Africans who were transported to the western world. These documents reflect only a limited look into the Rubenstein Library's archives of the trade but provide an important window into understanding the legacy of the trade and the people involved.

Visual Analysis of Nazi Propaganda

When historians explore the success of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter-Partei or Nazi Party, they often point to its ubiquitous and effective propaganda.This learning module gives students practice in analyzing visual propaganda created by the Nazi Party, deepening their understanding of some basic principles of persuasion that are applicable to other persuasive media.

Women as Marketing Moving Targets

This session requires students to explore advertisements in the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History digital collections that highlight gender. Students will then engage in a structured debate that discusses their findings. Following the debate, students will submit a 500 word "reflection paper" summarizing the content of the debate and whom made the most persuasive argument for conveying whether single women, mothers, or married women were targeted most consistently and effectively.

Women's Liberation, 1970

This activity highlights selected primary documents from the year 1970 across the Rubenstein Library’s collections representing a variety of viewpoints, issues, and historical events related to women’s history. Students will closely examine one document with a series of guiding questions in order to discuss and compare materials. Students will choose an issue represented in one of the items and work together to identify ways to research more about that topic.

Women's Suffrage in the United States

This teaching module considers the history and legacies of the U.S. Women’s Suffrage movement. The campaign for women’s voting rights lasted almost eight decades. Considered the largest reform movement in United States history, its participants believed that securing the vote was essential to achieving women’s economic, social, and political equality. In this session, students will use a range of textual and visual primary sources to understand the perspectives of activists, politicians, and others for and against suffrage through a critical analysis of primary sources.

Yellow Fever in the 18th Century

In the late 18th century, yellow fever spread quickly in the eastern United States. The disease, although now known to be a mosquito-borne virus, was poorly understood at the time. When major cities, like Philadelphia and New York City, saw large outbreaks of the often deadly disease, local leaders and medical professionals struggled to treat the sick and control the epidemic. Through the lens of 18th century yellow fever epidemics, this module introduces students to multiple types of primary sources, including digitized resources, and provides activities designed to guide the critical analysis of primary sources.

Video Tutorials

We’ve created these videos to introduce students to the Rubenstein Library and its resources. We may use them in sessions we teach, and you should feel free to incorporate them into your course on your own. Browse all of our videos on Warpwire.