The Construction of Memory at Duke and in Durham: Using Memory Studies (2016-2017)

Most universities have yet to engage in a deep examination and public acknowledgement of their complex histories. Duke could be among the leaders in this area, fostering a deep and broad rethinking of the past and a positive plan for establishing a fuller physical and interpretive account of its history. What stories are missing from campus and should be told?

This Bass Connections project team examined the societal, cultural and neurological challenge of memory, social justice and memorialization at Duke. Team members mined memory studies to ask how, why and where people use the past for contemporary meaning and how lasting memories are created in the brain. Using the Duke campus and the city of Durham, the team investigated how we can incorporate difficult stories of slavery, segregation and inequality into new memory sites and interpretive plans.

Team members researched Duke and Durham history, mapped current history sites and collected untold stories. Using archives, students created a story bank of little known stories, including protests, notable alumni of color and LGBTQ students, faculty and staff. The team worked with a map maker to create a digital representation of existing sites of memory at Duke, including statues and portraits. Team members integrated the digital map and story bank into a draft proposal on how to expand and create new sites of memory at Duke as well as a draft interpretive plan for inclusion of untold stories into classes, campus tours and orientations.

The team also contributed to an interpretive plan for Pauli Murray’s childhood home in Durham’s West End and hosted the Dangerous Memories speaker series addressing the challenges of dealing with difficult or hidden histories on American university campuses.


Fall 2016 – Spring 2017

Team Outcomes

Memory Bandits Campus Tour

Monuments Should Reflect Duke’s Full, Complicated History (opinion piece by Helen Yu, Mary Aline Fertin and Christine Kinyua, Durham Herald-Sun, April 26, 2018)

Activating History for Justice at Duke (report)

Activating History for Justice at Duke (website)

Dangerous Memories: Conversations around the Past, Social Justice and Constructing University Memory:

Human Rights Research Slam, March 29, 2017

Constructing Memory at Duke: How Do We Create a More Inclusive Physical Campus That Reflects Both the Degradation and the Dignity of Our Duke Ancestors?

Constructing Memory at Duke: Duke’s First Labor Union

Family-oriented activities at Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS) Discovery Day (April 9, 2017)

This Team in the News

The History of Craven Quad’s Namesake, a Slaveowner and Confederate Supporter

Largely about Building Names': Former Student Member Criticizes Mission of Committee on Duke History on Its First Year

Easing into Digital Humanities: DH Week 2019

New Trinity Publication Makes ‘Visible’ Exceptional Undergraduate Research 

Constructing Memory at Duke and in Durham

Duke Announces Members of Committee Set to Review Carr Building's Name

Committee Selected to Review Department of History Proposal to Rename Carr Building

After Silent Sam’s Fall, Calls to Rename a Building at Duke Grow Louder

One Year Later: The Empty Space on the Chapel Steps

Where a Statue of Robert E. Lee Once Stood, Duke's Chapel Will Have an Empty Space

President Price Announces Space Where Robert E. Lee Statue Stood Will Remain Empty

President's Message on Duke Chapel Space

Exploring the Ways We Document History through Statues

Bass Connections Team Issues Recommendations on How Duke Can Engage with Its History

Robin Kirk Wins Distinguished Teaching Award

Top Student Scholars: Independent Studies of Neutrinos, Medicaid Policy and African Feminism

Bass Connections Report Recommends That Duke Should Engage with Its History, Ties to Slavery

Finding Your Way: Cultivating Humanistic Versatility

Dangerous Memories: Facing the Past, Making the Future Series

Diana Dai and Matthew Sebastian Receive Human Rights Center Grants

Constructing Memory at Duke and in Durham

This project was selected by the Franklin Humanities Institute as a humanities-connected project.

Team Leaders

  • Robin Kirk, Arts & Sciences-Cultural Anthropology

/graduate Team Members

  • Matthew Sebastian, Cultural Anthropology-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Christine Kinyua, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Helen Yu, Int Comparative Studies (AB), Asian & Mid East Studies (AB2)
  • Elle Winfield, History (AB)
  • Jair Oballe, Cultural Anthropology (AB)
  • Hadeel Abdelhy, Gender Sexuality & Fem St(AB)
  • Mumbi Kanyogo, Gender Sexuality & Fem St(AB)
  • Mary Aline Fertin, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Catherine Farmer, Mechanical Engineering (BSE)
  • Natalia Espinosa, Neuroscience (AB)
  • Madeleine Cochrane, Public Policy Studies (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Barbara Lau, Franklin Humanities Institute
  • Amy McDonald, Duke Libraries
  • Patrick Stawski, Duke Libraries
  • Alison Adcock, School of Medicine-Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Pauli Murray Center for Social Justice
  • Tim Stallmann, Counter Cartographies/SAVAS