Exhibit | Greek Life – A Brief History of Phi Beta Kappa at Brown

Greek Life – A Brief History of Phi Beta Kappa at Brown                                Selected Items On View From the Brown University Archives

For over 200 years Phi Beta Kappa has celebrated academic achievement and advocated for freedom of thought.  It is the oldest and most prestigious academic honors society in the United States.

The Rhode Island Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was founded at Brown University in 1830. Brown students elected to Phi Beta Kappa join a tradition that exemplifies the Phi Beta Kappa motto “Love of learning is the guide of life,” symbolized in the gold key.  Membership is diverse, connecting U.S. Presidents, Supreme Court Justices, Nobel Laureates, authors, diplomats, athletes, researchers, actors, and business leaders.

Dates: February 6 – March 30, 2018
TimeJohn D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library Hours
Location: John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, 10 Prospect Street, Providence

Exhibit | Lincoln Recordó en America Latina


Selected Items on View at the John Hay Library:

“Canción a Abraham Lincoln” Lady’s Fan, c. 1865
Havana, Cuba
Brown University Library, Special Collections

Latin Americans observed, mourned and commemorated Abraham Lincoln’s life and legacy in a number of ways. Argentinians named a city in Buenos Aires Province for him. Statues of Lincoln can be found in Mexico, Cuba and Ecuador. Avenida Abraham Lincoln is a main thoroughfare in the city of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Shown here is a more personal object: a lady’s fan, thought to have been produced in Havana. It commemorates Lincoln’s life and assassination in both English and Spanish.

Vida de Abran Lincoln, décimo sesto presidente de los Estados Unidos
Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (1811–1888)
Nueva York, Estados Unidos: D. Appleton y Ca., 1866
Brown University Library, Special Collections

In May 1865, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento arrived in New York to take up his post as minister plenipotentiary to the United States from the newly reunified Argentine Republic. Arriving from a country in triumph to a country in deep mourning, Sarmiento heard a great deal and thought deeply about Lincoln, whose ideas about government he found engaging and with whom he felt he would have had much in common. Before the year was out, he had written a full length biography of the assassinated leader, whom he had never met, publishing it in his native Spanish in New York. “In the life of Lincoln,” Sarmiento wrote, “we find commonalities of existence in both Americas, and in the facts relating thereto must deduce lessons and useful warnings for our own government.”  The copy shown here was originally presented by Sarmiento, hot off the press, to the Library of Congress.

Dates: January February 6 – 28, 2018
TimeJohn Hay Library Hours
Location: Second Floor Landing, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Exhibit | Victorious Secret by Angela Lorenz ’87, P’18

Victorious Secret: The “Bikini Girls” are Winning the Pentathlon on view at the Rockefeller Library, from August 31 – November 20, 2017

Surprise! The nearly two-thousand-year-old mosaics from Villa Romana del Casale  in Sicily, known simply as the “bikini girls,” are really female athletes from prestigious Roman families. Brown University is the tenth venue for this traveling suite of triptychs, made of buttons and hairpins, which sets the record straight on women in sports.

Meet artist Angela Lorenz, class of 1987, P’18 to learn about her visual arts project and the impact of study abroad on Friday, October 13, 2017, at 4 p.m. in the Digital Scholarship Lab, Rockefeller Library.

Dates: August 31 – November 20, 2017
TimeJohn D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library Hours
Location: John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, 10 Prospect Street, Providence

Announcement | Curator Li Wang Interviewed by China Library Weekly

During the recent 2017 Beijing International Book Fair–the second largest book fair in the world–Dr. Li Wang, Curator of Brown’s East Asian Collection, was interviewed by China Library Weekly, the only library newspaper published in China. Dr. Wang spoke about Brown University Library as well as his professional activities and perspectives. In the special issue, dated August 25, 2017, a large picture of Brown’s John Hay Library was presented on the newspaper’s front page and a full internal page featured Wang and the interview, entitled: “Librarian Should be an Envoy of Cross-Cultural Exchange.”

Based on his recent study of the mission and vision statements that reflect the new strategies of knowledge services in North American academic research libraries, Wang briefly summarized his ideas on the relationship between libraries and teaching and research at universities. He stressed that, aligning with the educational missions and with the teaching and research goals of their home universities, libraries should further redefine themselves, assume a new role as an academic partner, and engage more actively in knowledge innovation and the research process. That is just what Brown University Library proclaims in its mission statement: “Partnering with students, faculty, staff, and members of the global scholarly community, we foster and guide the creation, acquisition, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge at Brown and beyond in a spirit of free and open inquiry.”

In terms of promoting cross-cultural exchange, Wang also shared his experience in recent years, especially through exhibitions, presentations, travel reports, and other activities in this effort. Wang says, ”The librarian should not only be a manager and educator of scholarly resources. We, as scholars of Chinese studies, should also become an envoy of cross-cultural exchange, creating a genial cultural ambience so as to facilitate cultural exchange and understanding in a global context.”

Click here to read the article in Chinese, or read the translation below (translated by Yanqing Shen ’18).

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New Fellows to Further Research at the John Hay Library in 2017-2018

The John Hay Library will host two research fellows in the coming academic year, with support from the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium. While at the Hay Library, these scholars, whose projects are described in more detail below, will be using little known materials in the holdings of Special Collections in order to further their scholarly research.

Detail from St. Augustine of Hippo, De Ciuitate Dei (1467), Annmary Brown Memorial Collection 203, John Hay Library, showing printed text with hand applied rubrication and illuminated capitals

Renzo Baldasso, an Assistant Professor in the School of Art at Arizona State University, is currently at work on a study of printers in the early decades of the printing press (1453 to 1503 C.E.) — a period commonly known among historians as the incunabula era.  Baldasso’s research aims to discover how these printers “became masters of the page…to develop an independent print aesthetic” that differed from the aesthetic approaches used to produce the handwritten illuminated manuscript. With expertise in both Renaissance art and the history of science, Baldasso is uniquely qualified to undertake this intensive study of rare volumes. He will be focusing his work at the Hay Library on the 600 incunabula in the Annmary Brown Memorial Collection, for which Richard Noble, the Library’s rare books cataloguer, has been diligently working to enhance existing descriptive information.

Selected pages from the papers of Jean Bethke Elshtain (Ms. 2011.039), Feminist Theory Archive, John Hay Library

Alexander Jacobs, a recent PhD and current postdoctoral lecturer in History at Vanderbilt University, works on “the tangled histories and multiple meanings of liberalism and conservatism in modern American thought and politics” — a topic that formed the nucleus of his 2016 doctoral dissertation, Pessimism and Progress, a study of Conservatism within the political Left. While at the Hay Library, he will be looking at manuscript material in the Feminist Theory Archive, focusing in particular on the papers of Jean Bethke Elshtain.

The New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (NERFC) is a growing body of New England cultural institutions which seek to enhance scholarly access to their collections by offering grants for 8 weeks of study in the holdings of at least three of the participating institutions. The program is competitive and attracts scholars working on a broad range of topics. The John Hay Library, a NERFC member since 2014, has previously hosted fellows working on topics such as the fear of nuclear explosion during the Cold War, 19th century panoramic spectacles, and humor in the gay liberation and feminist movements.

Annmary Brown Painting on Loan to Centre Pompidou, Paris


“Xeusis Choosing Models for his Painting of Helen of Troy,” Angelika Kauffmann, 1778

Xeusis Choosing Models for his Painting of Helen of Troy

The Annmary Brown Memorial Library has lent the painting, “Xeusis Choosing Models for his Painting of Helen of Troy” (1778) by Angelika Kauffmann to the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France for its exhibition La Trahison des images, dedicated to René Magritte’s work. The exhibit will be held from September 21, 2016 to January 23, 2017.

This painting is one of the most notable in the Annmary Brown Memorial Collection, in part because it was painted by a woman in the 18th century and because it is an excellent work of art. General Rush Hawkins, Annmary Brown’s husband, acquired it in Europe in the 19th century for his and Annmary Brown Hawkins’s house in New York City. He moved it to Providence in 1905 to exhibit in the Memorial.

La trahision des images and René Magritte

The exhibition, La trahison des images (The Treachery of Images), brings together a hundred or so works presented in light of René Magritte’s approach to art that changed from the random tactic of the Surrealist “encounter” to a reasoned “methodology.” The exhibit focuses on Magritte’s questioning of the painted image’s philosophical validity, history, and mythology. Five chapters in the exhibit , each associated with a founding myth of figurative representation, allow for the identification of the emblematic, iconographic figures that people Magritte’s pictorial universe.

The chapter, “The daughters of Crotona,” features the Kauffmann painting. When asked to paint the portrait of Helen of Troy by the citizens of Crotona, Zeuxis created his image of perfect beauty by assembling a collage of the fragments of anatomy deriving from the most beautiful girls of the city. This composite principle of a form made up of assembled fragments is at the heart of René Magritte’s practice.

Click here to view the exhibit’s webpage on the Centre Pompidou’s website.

Installation of the Kauffmann painted at the Centre Pompidou

Installation of the Kauffmann painting at the Centre Pompidou

The Annmary Brown Memorial

The Annmary Brown Memorial houses exhibits of European and American paintings from the 17th through the 20th centuries, the Cyril and Harriet Mazansky British Sword Collection, as well as personal mementos of its founder, General Rush C. Hawkins, and the Brown family. The book and manuscript collections, assembled by General Hawkins and formerly housed in the Memorial, were transferred to the John Hay Library in 1990.

The Hawkins Collection of Art

Selections from the Hawkins Collection of Art are on display in the Memorial’s galleries. The Collection shows the General’s preference for strongly representational paintings. Among the early master works are paintings attributed to Anthony Van Dyck and his school, Angelika Kauffmann, Michelle Marieschi (a follower of Canaletto), Peter Paul Rubens, Andrea del Sarto, Francesco Solimena, Gilbert Stuart, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and Benjamin West. The more modern examples include works by Giuseppi Barbaglia, Jacob D. Blondel, Don Jose Casado, Thomas Couture, Thomas Hicks, John Wesley Jarvis, Eastman Johnson, Frederik Kaemmerer, Gari Melchers and Edwin Lord Weeks.

Located at 21 Brown Street, Providence, the Memorial is open Monday – Friday from 1 – 5 p.m.

Click here for more information about the Annmary Brown Memorial and the Hawkins Art Collection. 

Special Collections | Hubert Jennings Papers on Fernando Pessoa

Hubert Jennings at enlistment for World War I

Hubert Jennings at enlistment for World War I

In October 2015, Christopher Jennings and Bridget Winstanley, son and daughter of British and South African scholar Hubert Dudley Jennings, donated their father’s personal papers to Brown University Library.

In January of this year, Folha de S.Paulo, one of Brazil’s leading daily newspapers, featured an article about the discovery of the Hubert Jennings archive in a garage in Johannesburg and its subsequent donation to the Brown University Library. Professor Onésimo Almeida published a response to this article in Malomil.

Born in London in 1896, Hubert Jennings served in World War I and moved to South Africa after graduating from the University of Wales. In his newly adopted land, Jennings became Assistant Headmaster at Durban High School, where he remained employed for the next twelve years (1923-1935). Jennings was one of the first biographers of Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa and one of the first scholars to be interested in Pessoa’s English poetry. Jennings left an invaluable contribution to Pessoan studies with his biographical works on the poet’s stay in South Africa – Fernando Pessoa in Durban (1986) and Os Dois Exílios: Fernando Pessoa na África do Sul (1984).

Through this gift, soon accessible online and in physical form at the John Hay Library, scholars will get a unique glimpse at Pessoa’s life in South Africa following his father’s death. Aside from his published works, Hubert Jennings also left a complete and unpublished book about Fernando Pessoa; plans and notes for other books on the noted writer; an inventory of Pessoa’s estate; numerous transcriptions and translations of Pessoa’s poetry and prose; original short stories taking place in Portugal; a considerable correspondence with writers and scholars from around the world interested in Pessoa’s work; and photos and copies of documents regarding Pessoa’s life, which complement the collection of artifacts housed at the National Library of Portugal and the Casa Pessoa.

Jennings at his desk

Jennings at his desk

Brown in the Great War

A new digital resource that highlights materials from the University Archives and Special Collections is now available: “Brown in the Great War.”

The website focuses on Brown community members who participated in, fought, and died in World War I, as well as the social landscape of Brown from 1914 to 1921. This eloquent resource was researched and developed by Robin Wheelwright Ness (Senior Library Specialist, John Hay Library) for a practicum requirement towards her master’s degree in Public Humanities. 

As part of a second practicum, Robin is compiling a list that will reflect the John Hay Library’s primary resources pertaining to World War I. Additional University Archives and Special Collections material can be found through subject guides, Collections A to Z, or the online Library catalog (Josiah).

For more information please contact Jennifer Betts, University Archivist, at jennifer_betts@brown.edu.

October 1 is #AskAnArchivist Day

AskArchWhat does an archivist do?  Tweet your questions to @brownarchives on #AskAnArchivist day.

On October 1 archivists across the United States will take to Twitter to answer your questions about all things archives. This day-long event, sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, gives you the opportunity to ask questions, get information, or simply to satisfy your curiosity.  Learn about archival and special collections at the John Hay Library and beyond!

Ralph Waldo Emerson Handwritten Letter Found at the Brown University Library


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A previously unknown original letter of Ralph Waldo Emerson was recently discovered in the Library’s holdings when a patron brought a book to the Circulation Desk at the Rockefeller Library for check out. Penina Posner, a member of the Circulation staff in the Rockefeller Library, immediately noticed two peculiarities about the book. First, the book had never been catalogued. And second, it had what appeared to be an original letter by Emerson tucked into its pages. Thinking the letter might be one of importance, Posner brought the book and its contents to the attention of colleagues in special collections. They agreed the letter appeared to be authored by Emerson himself and sought out experts for verification.

In the letter, dated December 23, 1868 from Concord, Massachusetts, Emerson writes to J. W. Bailey, Treasurer of the Union for Christian Work, to thank him for sending a check, and concludes, “I learned much in my first visit to the great honor of the founders & friends of the Union for Christian Work.” It is signed “RWaldo Emerson.” The signature matches that on a check written by Emerson to his daughter Ellen, held in the Koopman Collection at the John Hay Library. The handwriting has also been confirmed as Emerson’s by curatorial staff at the Concord Free Public Library, where Emerson’s papers reside.

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​The letter, written when Emerson was 65, describes his visit to Providence, Rhode Island late in 1868. The organization Emerson visited, the ​Union for Christian Work, was founded at Providence that year by Henry Richmond Chace and other local volunteers to care for homeless boys living on the streets of the city. It offered “an activity room, reading room, classroom, and meeting room as well as security and a ‘home away from home’ atmosphere.” Initially, facilities were scarce, so most of the early club meetings were apparently held in Congregational churches. Eventually, the UCW had a facility at the corner of Eddy and Broad Streets. It continued operating under this name well into the 20th century and is considered a precursor to the Boys & Girls Clubs, according to the website of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

The Emerson letter will be collated with other Emerson correspondence already on file in the Manuscripts division at the John Hay Library and may be seen by appointment. To request an appointment, please send an email to manuscripts@brown.edu.