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Exploring the Rubenstein

Henry David Thoreau's drawing of Walden pond is just one of many cool documents within the Rubenstein Library.
Henry David Thoreau's drawing of Walden pond is just one of many cool documents within the Rubenstein Library.

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library is home to more than just dusty books. Behind a glass wall lie rows upon rows of filing cabinets containing artifacts such as documentary films, ancient medical tools, comic books and sheet music dating back to the Middle Ages.

With 350,000 print materials and more than 10,000 individual manuscript collections, researchers from all over the world visit Duke to use the Rubenstein. Several dense collections ranging from Women’s History to the Center for Sales, Advertising and Marketing History—one of the most extensive archives for advertising in the United States—are not only incredibly valuable resources for research, but also incredibly interesting to those who might stumble across the collections serendipitously.

What's more is that undergraduates, graduates and community members alike are free to request access to hese collections at any time.

Towerview journeyed to the Rubenstein's temporary location on the third floor of Perkins Library to find some of the most unique and interesting pieces from the library’s collections. But this is merely scratching the surface of all that the Rubenstein has to offer. The materials lie waiting to be uncovered, whether to be used for a paper, a project or to satisfy a history junkie's curiosity.

Henry David Thoreau made a major contribution to the Transcendental movement when he wrote "Walden: Life in the Woods" after staying in Ralph Waldo Emerson's cabin near Walden pond for two years. Go to the Rubenstein to see the front page of Thoreau's first edition copy of "Walden."

Special to the first edition printing of "Walden" is a map created by Thoreau of the area where he explored the woods.

Zines—a small circulation of works that contain images and texts, usually reproduced via a photocopier—became popular in the 1980s and '90s as a way to distribute feminist thought. Here, "Action Girl" takes on the idea of what a female superhero would be like.

Below is a copy of one of Langston Hughes' famous poems "Shakespeare in Harlem" corrected. This copy is thought to have been used in public readings.