Announcement | Hortense J. Spillers Papers Open for Research

The Pembroke Center’s Feminist Theory Archive and the John Hay Library are proud to announce that the Hortense J. Spillers papers are open for research.

Spillers is an American literary critic, Black feminist scholar, and the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Chair in English at Vanderbilt University. Her research addresses literary criticism, race and gender; linguistics; the African diaspora; Black culture; and sexuality. She is best known for her 1987 article, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book,” one of the most cited essays in African-American literary studies today.

The Hortense J. Spillers papers include handwritten diaries and journals on topics ranging from critical race theory and Moby Dick to the assassination of Robert Kennedy and Spillers’ first trip abroad in 1968. The collection also includes personal and professional correspondence with scholars such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Gayatri Spivak; and drafts of her talks, articles, and books, including “Isom,” “Conjuring,” and “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe.” Materials in this collection date from 1966 to 1995.

Spillers contributed her papers to the Feminist Theory Archive in the name of the Black Feminist Theory Project, established by the Pembroke Center in 2016.

For information on how to access these collections, please contact the Pembroke Center Archivist at pembroke_archives@brown.edu.

Announcement | Digitization of Historic Campus Speeches with CLIR Grant

Speeches by Civil Rights leaders and other renowned public intellectuals will be preserved and made available for scholarship.

Providence, R.I. [Brown University] The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) has awarded the Brown University Library $23,215 from its Recordings at Risk program. One of 13 projects selected out of 34 to receive grants from the program, the Library’s proposal, “Brown University Archives Audio-Visual Collection: Global Perspectives from Campus Speeches,” will allow us to digitize and make available to the public a large selection of audio and video recordings of speeches by leading public figures invited to Brown between 1950 and 1995. 

Brown University students on the College Green, 1969

103 cassette tapes, 198 film reels, and 44 VHS tapes–345 items total–will be digitized through use of the funding. This substantial set of materials document changing intellectual and social currents across the United States and the world on topics including social justice, politics, education, and the media–all of which still resonate today. There is a particularly fascinating set of recordings from Civil Rights leaders, notably Ralph Abernathy, Shirley Chisholm, Martin Luther King, Jr., and A. Philip Randolph. 

Over the next nine months, outside vendor George Blood LP will convert the media into digital files. A team of Special Collections staff and students will review the digitized files and create accurate and complete descriptive information. The final content will be uploaded into the Brown Digital Repository, where it will be available for research in October 2020.

Exhibit | Paul Revere’s Buried with Him by Baptism, c.1770s

BUL Special Collections, Drowne Collection

Thought to be designed and engraved by Revere, this print depicts the baptism of Christ, by full immersion.  John the Baptist is shown holding Jesus in the Jordan River.  Interpreted as the 12 Apostles watch from the bank while two pairs of angels on clouds flank the top corners.  A sun with mirrored Hebrew lettering (Tetragrammaton) from which two rays of light emanate, a dove on left and on right the words “This is my beloved Son –hear ye him”, or scripture Luke 9:35 from the Christian Holy Bible.

There are 5 known original prints of this plate.  Found inside a medical book at Brown University in 2012, the rare illustration was part of a donation by physician Solomon Drowne, Brown class of 1773.  Among the surviving engravings, paper and sheet size vary; the Brown University Library copy on laid paper demonstrates the plate print slightly askew.   

Exhibit Dates: December 5, 2019 – January 31, 2020
Exhibit TimeJohn Hay Library Hours
Exhibit Location: Second Floor Landing, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Exhibit | Collecting with Distinction: Faculty Insights into Recent Acquisitions

Peruse the gallery and discover what is new and unique about Special Collections at the Hay Library.  Explore recent acquisitions from the 14th century to the present through the lens of renowned Brown faculty, and gain insight into the place where the past, present and individual connect.

Opening reception:  Friday, November 22nd, 4-6 PM

Dates: November 22, 2019 – February 14, 2020
Time: John Hay Library Hours
Location: Exhibition Gallery, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Exhibit | The Last Will of Walt Whitman

Camden, New Jersey: June 29, 1888
Brown University Library, Special Collections

In June of 1888, celebrated American poet Walt Whitman suffered a stroke, which left him partially paralyzed. Fearful he would not recover, Whitman drafted this will, which leaves the majority of his money to his sisters, his property to his brother, and names three literary executors. Whitman would survive for four more years, and go on to publish four more works, including his “Deathbed Edition” of Leaves of Grass.

This manuscript is just one of several thousand books and manuscripts recently presented to the library by Daniel G. Siegel ’57.

Exhibit Dates: October 4 – 31, 2019
Exhibit TimeJohn Hay Library Hours
Exhibit Location: Second Floor Landing, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Announcement | Network of Women Writers and Readers Crux of John Hay Library’s Janis Ian Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy


The John Hay Library is now home to renowned recording artist, writer, and activist Janis Ian’s collection of personally inscribed works of science fiction and fantasy, many by women and LGBTQ authors. 

Janis Ian holding guitar
Janis Ian

Providence, R.I. [Brown University Library] The John Hay Library at Brown University is delighted to announce the acquisition of Janis Ian’s personal library, including collections of books of contemporary science fiction and fantasy authors inscribed to her. Among these authors are Anne McCaffrey, George R. R. Martin, Mercedes Lackey, Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress, Neil Gaiman, Connie Willis, Harlan Ellison, Jane Yolen, Tanith Lee, Diane Duane, and many others. In all, the Library received approximately 200 volumes from Ms. Ian’s collection.

The John Hay Library is the Brown University Library’s repository for rare books, manuscripts, archives, and other special collections. Its holdings of U.S. and Canadian poetry, plays, and vocal music dating from 1609 to the present day are considered to be among the largest and most comprehensive of their kind in any research library, including significant clusters in women’s writings, LGBTQ literature, science fiction and fantasy, and modern first editions.

cover of The Dragonriders of Pern
Cover of “The Dragonriders of Pern” by Anne McCaffrey, part of the Janis Ian Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy at the John Hay Library

The Janis Ian Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy will take its place alongside unique items like the only surviving manuscript of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the preeminent collection of H. P. Lovecraft’s papers, and a robust array of writings by more recent masters of speculative fiction such as Caitlín Kiernan and Samuel Delany.

Heather Cole, Curator for Literature and Popular Culture at the Hay Library observed, “The Janis Ian Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy substantially increases our holdings of women science fiction and fantasy authors. In addition, the fact that the books were owned by Ms. Ian—most with inscriptions—provides a wonderful record of a network of women writers and readers, something that is not always easily captured in library collections. Already a broad area of strength at the Hay, our materials in the science fiction and fantasy genres are significantly enhanced by this exciting acquisition. Brown students and researchers are certain to make great use of these materials, furthering scholarship in the many important areas of inquiry that are supported by this collection.”

Title page of “The Dragonriders of Pern,” inscribed by author Anne McCaffrey to Janis Ian

A Grammy Award-winning singer and musician, Janis Ian has been writing and recording music for five decades with a total of ten Grammy nominations in eight different categories. She has been at the forefront of numerous social movements, using music as a force of change, and has impacted the lives and works of artists from Nina Simone to Johnny Cash to Joan Baez. Artists including Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and Trevor Sewell have recorded duets with her.

Janis and her wife Pat are currently downsizing while Janis continues to make music and write children’s books, the first of which is the recently published The Tiny Mouse.

Ms. Ian’s library was cataloged by Mary Jo Duffy of Temporary Culture (Upper Montclair, New Jersey), who acted as Ms. Ian’s representative in the sale. Proceeds will benefit the Pearl Foundation, which endows scholarships for returning students.

Items in the Janis Ian Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy at the John Hay Library

The collection is currently in the process of being cataloged. Over 160 titles can now be found in the Library’s online catalog, with more titles being added each month.

Exhibit | The Malana Krongelb Zine Collection, 1974-2018

The Pembroke Center Archives at Brown University: women’s history is here!, 2018

Explore a sampling of this collection consisting of administrative files and zines that focus on social justice and marginalized identities dating from 1974 to 2018. Areas of strength include zines by and about people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other queer peoples, the disabled, interpersonal violence, sex and relationships, sex work, the prison industrial complex, self-care, feminism and punk.

Titles of particular interest include bluestockings magazine, a Brown University, Providence-based zine that challenges dominant media narratives by centering on communities systematically excluded from those discourses; Muchacha, a Latina feminist fanzine; SPACE (Space in Prison for Creative Arts and Expression), a zine that highlights the voices of incarcerated individuals in Rhode Island; Joyce Hatton’s Think About the Bubbles #8, which chronicles her struggles with cancer as a poor black woman; and Queer Indigenous Girl, a zine highlighting intersectional identities and activism.

Exhibit Dates: September 9 – 30, 2019
Exhibit TimeJohn Hay Library Hours
Exhibit Location: Second Floor Landing, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Exhibit | The Peterloo Massacre: A Bicentennial Remembrance

The wanton and furious attack made... Carlile, Richard, 1790-1843 (publisher), 1819.
The Wanton and Furious Attack Made…,Carlile, Richard, 1790-1843 (publisher), 1819.
Brown University Library, Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection

Examine two prints published in 1819 following The Peterloo Massacre and gain insight into an early 19th-century protest for political reform.

On August 16, 1819, a peaceful crowd of between 60,000 and 80,000 workers gathered in St. Peter’s Fields, Manchester, England, to voice their demands for political reform. Poor economic conditions and the lack of parliamentary representation in the years following the Battle of Waterloo led many textile workers who labored under dreadful conditions in the mills of north-west England, to march into the city to hear various speakers including the well-known radical orator, Henry Hunt. He represented the new political radicalism that was growing in the region, and the city magistrates were eager to quash it before serious problems arose. Shortly after the demonstrators had gathered, the magistrates ordered the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry to arrest Hunt and others who were accompanying him. As they charged into the crowd to carry out this order, they knocked down a woman and killed her child. The mass of demonstrators continued to present a threat, and the 15th Hussars were sent to disperse them along with the yeomanry. With sabers drawn, they charged into the crowd creating massive confusion resulting in the deaths of 18 people.

Exhibit Dates: Aug 1 -31, 2019
Exhibit TimeJohn Hay Library Hours
Exhibit Location: Second Floor Landing, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Exhibit | American Revolutionary War Prints

Hamilton, William, “The Manner in which the American Colonies Declared themselves Independent of the King of England.” (1790).

American Revolutionary War Prints
London: Hogg, 1790
Brown University Library, Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection

Explore Independence Day from a British point of view.
“Engraved for Barnard’s New Complete & Authentic History of England,”
this collection of 4 copper-engraved plates after William Hamilton, 1751-
1801 (artist) feature significant milestones from the American Revolutionary War (Apr 19, 1775 – Sep 3, 1783).  

Exhibit Dates: July 1 -31, 2019
Exhibit TimeJohn Hay Library Hours
Exhibit Location: Second Floor Landing, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Announcement | WBUR Features Library’s Gay Pulp Fiction Archive

Books from The Leatherman’s Handbook series (Photo by Miranda Suarez for WBUR)

WBUR.org has posted an article about the Gay Pulp Fiction collection at the John Hay Library.

Brown University Is Archiving Gay Pulp Fiction To Preserve A Moment Of LGBTQ History” by Miranda Suarez also features Heather Cole, Curator for Literary & Popular Culture Collections, and Finch Collins, a John Hay Library Undergraduate Fellow.

90.9 WBUR-FM is Boston’s NPR news station and the home of nationally syndicated programs, including On Point, Here & Now, Only A Game and Car Talk, which reach millions of listeners each week on NPR stations across the country and online. More info.

The WBUR article is mentioned on Literary Hub!