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Outrageous Ambitions: How a One-Room Schoolhouse Became a Research University

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Outrageous Ambitions: How a One-Room Schoolhouse Became a Research University

When a tiny schoolhouse in Randolph County, North Carolina opened in 1838, it launched an educational institution that grew to become today’s Duke University. This exhibit traces the history of the institution as it transformed from Brown's Schoolhouse to Trinity College to Duke University, and moved from Randolph County to Durham.

Each page focuses on a different theme: foundations, academics, student life, student activism, athletics, presidents, the Duke family, women at Duke, and the architecture of campus. Materials are drawn from the holdings of the University Archives (except where noted), and include objects, photographs, textiles, documents, and ephemera—all of which give us a glimpse into the life of Duke University over time.

Every day, Duke students, faculty, staff, and alumni make history in their own way and continue to write the story of Duke. The items showcased here represent just a selection of events in Duke's history. 

The exhibit was curated by Maureen McCormick Harlow, 175th Anniversary Intern in University Archives, and Valerie Gillispie, University Archivist. Special thanks to Meg Brown, Mark Zupan, Beth Doyle, the University Archives staff, and the staff of the Conservation and Digital Production Departments in the Duke University Libraries.

Outrageous Ambitions: How a One-Room Schoolhouse Became a Research University