Students Refresh the Archive for Duke History Revisited
Eight Duke undergraduates spent six weeks at the beginning of last summer doing intensive research in the Duke University Archives as part of Duke History Revisited. The program, directed by University archivist Valerie Gillispie and assistant archivist Amy McDonald, gave students an opportunity to conduct intensive mentored research. For the archive, it was an opportunity to fill in a few narrative gaps.
“It’s really important that the archives reflect the university in all its dimensions and gather this kind of historical information that may have been ignored in the past,” Gillispie said. “It’s allowed students to better understand the power of what documents we do have and build on them for future research scholarship.”
Supported with funding from Humanities Writ Large and Valerie Ashby, dean of the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, Duke History Revisited has combined independent research with weekly gatherings to discuss projects and hear from speakers. Presentations have ranged from how to record oral histories and the role of the press to hearing from Duke community members like William Turner Jr., a professor of the practice at Duke Divinity School and one of the early African-American students enrolled at Duke. Duke Libraries has offered guidance and support through classes, presentations and meetings.
The program culminated recently with an evening of student presentations. According to Kenrick Cai of the Duke Chronicle, the students' projects that ranged from
the proposed Richard Nixon presidential library—which never actually came to fruition—to the first-generation college experience. The presentations also spanned different media forms, including online exhibits, research papers and podcasts.
“The whole purpose of the program was to reveal stories that were untold,” senior Jesse Remedios, who studied the La Unidad Latina fraternity, told The Chronicle. “At a school where we have a lot of scandals and tension, it’s good to find out about the stories of these different communities.”
Students were attracted to the summer program for a variety of reasons. Remedios said he wanted a flexible but intensive research experience that was relevant to his interests. He created a podcast as his research project and explained that he hopes to work in media after graduating.
“I want to go to grad school, so I particularly wanted some experience in taking research and turning it into a long paper,” senior Elizabeth George told The Chronicle. George wrote a nine-page research paper entitled “Success of the Second Sex: Duke University’s Demonstrated Efforts to Empower Women.”
Some students selected their research topics for personal reasons. Senior Paul Popa, who looked into the University’s history of accommodating first-generation undergraduates, is a first-generation student and son of Romanian immigrants.
Sophomore Alan Ko presented his findings on the history of the Asian-American experience at Duke, which included an interview with an alum who felt pressured to “hide her Asian-ness” during her time at the University.
Senior Lara Haft—who created a zine about student-worker solidarity at Duke—was a member of the Duke Students and Workers in Solidarity protesters last Spring. Her aunt was also a member of the Allen Building sit-in in 1969, and Haft explained that parts of the narrative of the 1969 events had been lost over time.