Sneak Peek: The Creighton-Danby Collection at the Gregg

This post is written by Margie Stevens. Her research on death certificates has been featured on the site. She was also instrumental in building the Khayrallah Center’s digital archive. Keep an eye out for the newest addition to our online digital archive after the holidays! Last week, we visited the Gregg Museum of Art & Design at NC State to scan a scrapbook of photographs taken in Lebanon from 1928-1929. The scrapbook was gifted to the museum by Phyllis Creighton Danby in 2004. As a part of NC State, the Gregg Museum houses collections related to the history of the University providing unique sources for education and research. The museum is currently located at a temporary space near the J.C. Raulston Arboretum while they raise money to build an impressive new facility in conjunction with the historic Chancellor’s Residence at 1903 Hillsborough Street near Pullen Park. In contrast to the majority of the Khayrallah Center’s collections, our newest addition does not come from a family of Lebanese-Americans but rather from a family of Americans who lived in Lebanon. Roy Creighton, originally from Arizona, earned an architectural degree from Harvard and dedicated his life to missionary work for the YMCA. A diary, part of the Creighton-Danby Collection, portrays the epic journey of Roy’s fiancee, Clara Linn also a YMCA missionary, from Boston to Kuling, China for their marriage in 1916. The family lived abroad until 1949 mostly in China but they spent two years in Beirut, Lebanon from 1928 to 1929. Mr. Creighton taught Western construction methods, such as reinforced concrete, to foreign workers and oversaw the construction of YMCA, missionary, and university buildings. Throughout their travels, the Creightons amassed a large collection of foreign goods but a scrapbook is almost all that remains as evidence of their time in Lebanon. Many photographs in the scrapbook depict the American University of Beirut as it appeared in 1928 and 1929. As part of his work, Roy Creighton oversaw the construction of new buildings on AUB’s campus during this period. Pic4 Pic1 Building Site Likely Overseen by Roy Creighton: Without more information it is hard to identify which building this is at AUB. It bears resemblance to Van Dyck Hall completed in 1931 according to University records. Notice the workers and donkey with cart in the foreground! Pic4 Pic2 Western Woman on Camel: For Westerner’s in the Middle East, a camel ride was an exotic treat certainly worthy of capturing on camera. Pic3 Men and Women Working: Many pictures in the album show that both men and women labored on the construction site. Pic4 Athletic Fields: View overlooking the tennis courts towards the Mediterranean Sea. Athletic fields and a track, still in existence today, can be seen at the top left. Pic5 Observation of the Site: Western children (possibly the Creighton children) watching production at the construction site. Pic6 Children on a Donkey: Creighton children posing with a donkey in front of the traditional garden pool (birki) at their Beirut home. While in Beirut, the Creighton children attended a Western school and played and socialized with the children of other missionaries. Their lives would have been separate from and yet influenced by the culture surrounding them in Lebanon. Watch for the addition of the Creighton-Danby photos to the online archive after the holidays! In the meantime, take a peek at the Gregg Museum’s collections.    

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