Philanthropist, Owner of Magna Carta, Donates 13.5 Million to Duke Libraries Rare Books

Press Release: Duke University

Duke University trustee David M. Rubenstein will give $13.6 million to the Duke University Libraries in support of the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, President Richard H. Brodhead announced Wednesday.

In December 2007, Rubenstein purchased the last privately owned copy of the Magna Carta at Sotheby’s auction house in New York and, since then, has loaned it to the National Archives in Washington D.C., to allow the public to view the document. Earlier this year, Rubenstein donated $13.5 million to the National Archives for a new gallery and visitors center.

The donation is the largest ever to the libraries. In recognition of Rubenstein’s gift, the special collections library will be renamed the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, following approval by the Board of Trustees.

The gift is the largest commitment Rubenstein has made to Duke. In 2009, he donated $5.75 million to help the Sanford School of Public Policy meet a $40 million fundraising target for its transition from an institute to Duke’s 10th school. In 2002, he contributed $5 million toward the completion of Sanford’s Rubenstein Hall.

“A great library is central to the university’s transmission of knowledge,” said Brodhead. “Nationally, David Rubenstein has been a strong supporter of libraries and archives, and of the way the preserved past can increase present understanding. We at Duke are grateful for this magnificent gift, which will ensure access to documents that are part of our shared intellectual and cultural heritage.”

The Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library is central to Duke’s teaching and research mission. Its collections, which range from ancient papyri to the records of modern advertising agencies, number more than 350,000 printed volumes and more than 20 million items in manuscript and archival collections. All told, its holdings document more than 20 centuries of human history and culture. Like all Duke libraries, it is open to the public.

The special collections library is also home to the University Archives and several research centers, including the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture; the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture; the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History; the Archive of Documentary Arts; and the Human Rights Archive.

“The Rubenstein Library will be a distinguished, enduring institution that will collect, protect and make accessible rare and unique documents, satisfy intellectual curiosity, stimulate learning and facilitate the creation of new scholarship,” said Deborah Jakubs, the Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and vice provost for library affairs. “David Rubenstein’s generosity enables us to create the kind of home for special collections that Duke deserves, designed with the students and scholars of today in mind. Researchers well beyond our campus will also benefit from this gift.”

“Libraries are at the heart of any great educational institution,” said Rubenstein. “This renovation and modernization program will help ensure that the Rare Book and Manuscript library’s priceless collection is preserved and accessible to scholars and the public for decades to come.

“When I was a student at Duke I worked at the library, so this gift also reflects my appreciation for that opportunity and the important role it played in my academic experience,” Rubenstein added.

The special collections library, housed in the original West Campus library, is scheduled to be renovated in the final phase of the Perkins Project, a multi-year library renovation project that began a decade ago. The renovation will transform one of the oldest and most recognizable buildings on West Campus into a state-of-the-art research facility where students, faculty and visitors can engage with the libraries’ collection of rare and unique scholarly materials.

The Perkins Project began with the construction of Bostock Library and the von der Heyden Pavilion, both completed in 2005, followed by the renovation of Perkins Library between 2006 and 2008. The final phase is slated to begin in 2012 and will focus on the original 1928 West Campus library building and its 1948 addition.

This portion of the library complex is at the very heart of the campus designed by the Horace Trumbauer architectural firm; the cornerstone for the university is visible on the façade of the 1928 library building. Situated at the intersection of the West Campus quadrangles, it is easily accessible to scholars, students and visitors.

The planned renovation will increase the research, instruction, storage and exhibition capabilities of the special collections library. It will also address the need for a secure stack area where special collections can be shelved in an appropriately controlled environment. The entire stack core will be removed — from basement level to roof — and replaced with a new floor structure that will support high-density shelving.

Updates will also extend to the Mary Duke Biddle Rare Book Room and the Gothic Reading Room. The charm and character of these signature Duke spaces will be preserved, but their finishes, furnishings, lighting and technology infrastructure will be enhanced.

Finally, the library’s main entrance will be redesigned with new doors, windows and lighting to give the entire library complex a more unified and welcoming presence on the historic West Quad.

Construction work is expected to take place in phases beginning late in 2012. In the meantime, Duke officials are developing plans to relocate library services and staff during the renovations, which are expected to take several years.

A Baltimore native, Rubenstein is co-founder and managing director of The Carlyle Group, a global alternative asset manager. He graduated magna cum laude from Duke in 1970 and serves as vice chair of the university’s Board of Trustees.

Rubenstein is an active civic leader and serves on numerous boards, including those of the Smithsonian Institution, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Chicago, The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

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