Brown University Library Special Collections

Archive for the ‘University Archives & History’ Category

For those interested in the history of Brown University, founded in 1764, the seventh oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.

Special Collections Hours during intersession 2015

Posted by Ann Morgan Dodge on December 9, 2014

The Special Collections Reading Room of the John Hay Library will be closed from December 24, 2014, thru January 9, 2015. From January 12 to January 20, 2015, the Special Collections Reading Room will be available by appointment only from 10am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. To request an appointment, please e-mail Hay@brown.edu prior to 12 noon on Friday, January 9. Please specify the date(s) and time(s) you plan to arrive at the reading room to work with Special Collections materials.

Please note that the John Hay Library will be closed on Monday, January 19, 2015, for the Martin Luther King Day holiday.

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Student Life exhibit at Maddock Alumni Center

Posted by Jennifer Betts on May 23, 2013

Faunce (e)In a continuing effort to showcase student life at Brown University, the University Archives has created an exhibit of photographs and museum objects in the lobby of the Maddock Alumni Center.

Since Brown University was founded in 1764, student life has undergone dramatic social, academic, cultural, and political changes. The exhibit provides a glimpse of student life through a variety of photographs, a fan and dance card from 1914, a mug from 1942, a freshman beanie from 1958, and a commemorative Faunce House mail box.

Collecting and preserving a diverse and fascinating student history is part of the mission of the University Archives. The University Archives welcomes donations from alumni who have historical materials on student life that can be preserved and made available to future students and researchers. Please contact the University Archives at archives@brown.edu or (401) 863-2148 for additional information.

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Special Collections Senior Open House, May 22, 3 pm - 5 pm

Posted by Jennifer Betts on May 22, 2013

Bicycle club 1886The John Hay Library will host a Senior Open House on May 22, 3 pm – 5 pm. On display will be Orwell’s 1984, The Great Gatsby (first-edition), Vesalius (first-edition), Copernicus (first-edition), Shakespeare’s First Folio, Kelmscott Chaucer, Eliot’s Bible, Newton’s Principia (first-edition, first printing), Double Elephant folio volume of Audubon’s The Birds of America, Dance of Death bound in human skin, and artists books. University Archives will feature photographs of dorms, classes, buildings, and athletics, and humor publication the Brown Jug. The Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection will display 6,000 miniature soldiers.

The Hay’s Senior Open House follows on the heels of Professor Jane Lancaster’s 2 pm lecture on the history of Brown students’ college experience. The lecture will be in the Petteruti Lounge, Faunce House.

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ATTN: Faculty and Students, Special Collections Deadline Approaching!

Posted by Jennifer Betts on March 15, 2013


The Brown University Library is excited to announce the launching of the John Hay Library renovation project. Revitalization of this historic landmark will include a refurbishment of the magnificent first floor reading room into an open, welcoming study space for students; the creation of a new state-of-the-art special collections reading room in the area which formerly housed University Archives; improvements to the service and exhibit areas in the Central Hall of the first floor; addition of a student lounge and conference room; handicapped access to the front of the Library and code compliance and fire safety improvements throughout the building.

To accommodate the extensive work involved in the renovation, the John Hay Library will close beginning June 1, 2013, and will remain closed through the duration of the construction project until Fall 2014. During the construction project, there will be no access to the building, and access to Special Collections & Archives materials by faculty, students, and other researchers will be limited.

We will be able to pull a limited amount of Special Collections & Archives materials from the Hay Library stacks prior to the Library’s closing on June 1, 2013. These materials will be shelved elsewhere temporarily for access by classes and researchers during the renovation period. We are asking faculty and others to help us identify Special Collections & Archives materials that will be needed during the period that the Library will be closed. This input must be provided no later than April 5, 2013.

Specifically, faculty who will be teaching a course during Fall 2013 or Spring 2014 that will utilize Hay Library materials must contact the Library at HayRenovation@brown.edu by April 5, 2013.

Also, graduate students or undergraduate honors thesis students planning to do research using Special Collections & Archives materials during this period (June 2013 thru Fall 2014) must contact the Library at HayRenovation@brown.edu by April 5, 2013.

Please note that any Special Collections & Archives materials located at the Library Collections Annex (as denoted in the Josiah catalog record) will continue to be available throughout the renovation period. These materials may be used at the Annex (10 Park Lane, Providence) or requested for use on campus.

A temporary special collections reading area will be established in the Rockefeller Library to consult Special Collections & Archives materials retrieved from the Annex or that have been requested in advance of the Hay Library’s temporary closing. In addition, the Library encourages use of its digitized Signature Collections (selected Special Collections materials which have been digitized for public use) during the renovation period.

The John Hay Library renovation project is scheduled to be completed by the start of the Fall 2014 semester. With the capable guidance of Seldorf Architects, known for their elegant treatment in designing and renovating cultural institutions, the renewal of this space not only will fulfill important scholarly and programmatic needs of the Library and campus. The project’s completion also will serve to honor the John Hay Library’s founding donor, Andrew Carnegie, whose philanthropy was intended to do “real and permanent good,” benefitting Brown both today and tomorrow. We are most grateful to our generous donors for making this wonderful project possible. The results promise to be a space that will better protect and service the Library’s unique Special Collections, and open both the Library and its collections to inspire Brown students today and for generations to come.

We greatly appreciate the cooperation of all Brown faculty and students and other researchers and friends of the Hay during the period that the Library will be closed. We will provide regular updates on the progress of the John Hay Library renovation throughout the project. Additional information will be available at the project web site (coming soon).

Contact: Daniel O’Mahony

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Rhode Island Slavery and the University

Posted by Jennifer Betts on August 31, 2012

September 3 – October 5, 2012
John Hay Library

An exhibit in support of the First Readings 2012 program for the Class of 2016, which focuses on Charles Rappleye’s Sons of Providence.

Using materials from the Brown University Archives and the Hay Library’s extensive holdings of primary sources on Rhode Island history, the exhibit provides an overview of how slavery, the slave trade and emancipation functioned in the politics and social life of early Rhode Island, and the manner in which attitudes toward slavery shaped the founding and growth of Brown University in its first century.

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James Manning

Posted by Karen A. Eberhart on May 8, 2012

This week, as we look forward to the 242nd Commencement, we provide you with a glimpse into the early days and struggles of this venerable institution to gain respect and scholars.  During the first 3 years, 1764-1767, James Manning was not only the first President but also the only faculty member.  The first commencement was held in 1769 at which time 7 young men graduated and 21 men of distinction were awarded Honorary Degrees.  On November 12, 1772, James Manning wrote to his friend John C. Ryland in England with the happy news that John C. Ryland, Junior had received his degree from Rhode Island College that same spring.  He also took the opportunity to comment on the political situation affecting the ability of the school to attract students.

James Manning to John C. Ryland, 12 Nov 1772, James Manning papers, MS-1C-1, Brown University Archives

“With this I send you a Catalogue of those who have received the honours of the College, from the first [to] our last Commencement, I believe, acquired us considerable Reputation amongst the Literate in N. England and had we not to combat with the inveterate Enmity of the N. England Clergy, it would have added to the Number of our Scholars, but they take unwearied pains to prevent any from coming, if possible, and don’t  [?] at the Methods of carrying their Points: but, thank God, they don’t govern the World.”

James Manning was clearly able to overcome the clergy that worked against him.  A total of 40,244 scholars applied to be admitted to Brown University for the 2011-2012 academic year. Of that number a total of 8,454 students began their studies in September 2011.  James Manning would no doubt be flabbergasted by those numbers and extremely pleased.

You can learn more about James Manning’s experience as the first President of Brown University by visiting the Guide to the James Manning Papers (MS-1C-1).  Digital copies of all his correspondence can be viewed by clicking on the link for each item in the inventory.

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120 Years of Women at Brown

Posted by Jennifer Betts on May 5, 2012


May 3 – June 29, 2012
John Hay Library

The exhibit chronicles the experiences of women during their years on campus and beyond. Drawing on materials from the University Archives, Christine Dunlap Farnham Archives, and Feminist Theory Archives, the exhibit illustrates the evolution of women’s education at Brown. On display are photographs, letters, papers, published materials, and artifacts that narrate personal reflections of women at Brown and the University policies that shaped their lives on campus over the past twelve decades.

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University Archives Orientation

Posted by Jennifer Betts on February 21, 2012

Are you in the midst of researching a paper and don’t know how to begin using sources in the University Archives? Register for University Archives Orientation on Wednesday, March 7 at 4 pm in the John Hay Library. This course will explain how to navigate the University Archives’ resources through the use of paper and online sources. A selection of resources from various collections will be on display in the Lownes Room of the John Hay Library.

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University Archives Renovation

Posted by Jennifer Betts on February 6, 2012

The University Archives’ public space is closed for a renovation project. Please contact the Archives staff for access to archival materials or for research assistance: archives@brown.edu. Researchers will need to request in advance the Brown Daily Herald, Brown Alumni Monthly, and yearbooks.

We appreciate your patience and cooperation during this time. Please contact us with any questions you have regarding the University Archives: archives@brown.edu or (401) 863-2148.

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University History: Founding of Brown University

Posted by Jennifer Betts on November 4, 2011

Brown University traces its origins to 1764 with the granting of the Charter by the Rhode Island General Assembly.  The founding was promoted by Reverend Morgan Edwards, moderator of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, in 1762.  Under Edward’s leadership, Rhode Island was selected as a likely site, since the colony had been settled by Baptists, was still largely governed by Baptists, and had no college.  A representative of the Association, James Manning, visited Newport in July 1763, where he met with “about 15 gentlemen of the same denomination” at the home of Deputy Governor John Gardner.  The plan for a college was immediately accepted and in August, 1763, a Charter was presented to the General Assembly in Newport.  After postponement, a different charter was presented at subsequent sessions and granted on March 2 and 3, 1764, for the “College or University in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.”  James Manning went on to become the first president of Brown University, often referred to as “Rhode Island College” until 1804.

Primary sources:

Rhode Island College miscellaneous papers, MS-1C-1 (contains digitized materials)

James Manning papers, MS-1E-1 (contains digitized materials)

Secondary sources:

Guild, Reuben Aldridge. Early History of Brown University: Including the Life, Times, and Correspondence of President Manning. 1756-1791. Providence: [Printed by Snow & Farnham], 1897.

Bronson, Walter C. The History of Brown University, 1764-1914. Providence: Published by the University [Brown University], 1914.

Brown, Robert Perkins, et al. Memories of Brown: Traditions and Recollections Gathered From Many Sources. Providence, R.I.: Brown Alumni Magazine, 1909.

“Founding”, Encyclopedia Brunoniana

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