Philanthropist, Environmentalist, Collector: Doris Duke and Her Estates

About Archives

What is an Archival Repository?

Archives are responsible for providing long term preservation and access to documents and other materials that have lasting value to an institution and its researchers. In the case of Duke University, the University Archives ensures that historical records, such as original documentation establishing the university, are not lost and destroyed over time. By preserving these types of documents and other artifacts, archives provide a place for students, professors, historians, researchers, genealogists and the general public to study history first hand from the documents that shape the important events of the university.

In order to properly preserve documents and other materials, archivists organize  records and describe them in a finding aid. A finding aid is a guide to a collection, describing its origins, background information regarding the people or organizations that created the records and a general list of the contents of the collection. To see an example of a finding aid, click here and review the Duke Family Papers.

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives is an example of a collection that has enduring value to Duke University, its community and researchers. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation transferred their archives to Duke University in June 2009. The total collection is 800 linear feet in size, which means  it contains approximately 600,000 documents or the equivalent of 1,200 reams of paper. The collection takes up hundreds of boxes, so physically relocating the collection from New Jersey to North Carolina in August of 2009 was no small task; pictures of the move can be seen below.  The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives contain a rich array of materials including paper documents, photographs, architectural drawings, and even home movies. [link to home movie]

Currently an archivist is organizing and creating finding aids for all the content transferred to Duke University. Some of the records are already available for public access. There are lists of the finding aids for materials currently available. Also, some materials are on display at the Perkins Gallery January 13th – April 3rd, and digitized content is available on this virtual exhibit space.

To learn more or start working with the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives, please visit or contact the Duke University Libraries' Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collections reading room on the Duke University Campus. Friendly and helpful staff are available to assist you!

How can I preserve my documents?

If you want to create an archive of important documents for your family, organization, student group, book club or anything else, start by gathering your records and keep them in a cool, dry and dark place. Paper documents also last longer if they are in acid free folders and acid free boxes. This means you should not re-use those moving boxes from the grocery store, instead use bankers’ boxes from an office supply store or invest in any kind of archival storage (and acid free) container.  

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