A Student’s Journey through Special Collections and the Creation of “Fields of Hay”

A student-driven project led by undergraduate Shira Buchsbaum ’19, the recently launched website Fields of Hay offers students a guide for making use of the John Hay Library and Brown’s special collections resources.

Written by Shira Buchsbaum ’19

Mary Elizabeth Sharpe and My First Foray into Special Collections

My journey to the John Hay Library was meandering and inconsistent. My first semester at Brown, my writing professor, Kate Schapira, assigned a piece that required drawing from any archive in Brown’s libraries. I picked the Mary Elizabeth Sharpe collection, which ended up being 20 boxes of letters, blueprints, photographs, contracts, and designs from Sharpe’s life.

Mary Elizabeth Sharpe was married to Henry Dexter Sharpe, the Chancellor of Brown from 1932-1952, and she was a go-getter. Sharpe designed much of the landscaping on campus, including for the then-new Sharpe Refectory and, later, the Sciences Library. She was a critical player in establishing India Point Park and fighting oil money in Providence.

I learned all of this about Sharpe in a few afternoons at the Hay, sitting with her papers and imagining the fierceness of this lady who took meticulous notes about trellises and leaf piles on our campus greens. I kept Mary Elizabeth Sharpe in the back of my head throughout my first two years at Brown, marking the John Hay Library as the place where I learned about our highly manicured campus and the woman behind it.

“Howard terrace, Pembroke College, Providence, R.I.” (1960). Landscaping directed by Mary Elizabeth Sharpe. Images of Brown. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.

A Reintroduction: Shakespeare’s First Folio and Working at the Hay

My junior fall, I stumbled back into the building during a reception and met William Shakespeare’s first Folio on the second floor of the John Hay Library. Brought to tears as I turned the pages of this nearly 400-year-old volume, I asked the lady behind the table, “Do students, like, work here?” The serendipity of that moment landed me in the midst of archives and collections once again, this time as a collections assistant.

John Hay Library’s copy of Shakespeare’s first Folio. Photo by Shira Buchsbaum.

Fields of Hay: An Undergraduate Research Guide to the John Hay Library

In our first conversation, Heather Cole, my new boss, and I discussed creating a guide for undergraduates to access the John Hay Library with more ease. I spent the next 18 months chatting with curators, requesting materials, conducting research, and honing how to convey the richness and variety of the materials here and their availability for student scholarship.

On March 7, 2019, World Book Day, we launched Fields of Hay, the undergraduate research guide to the John Hay Library. On Fields of Hay, students can learn about materials housed at the Hay, read about standing collections, find information on how to request materials, see featured projects by other students, and register student academic or activity groups for programs at the Hay. Fields of Hay aims to demystify the Hay by demonstrating its accessibility and breadth of materials to all students. It also seeks to promote student scholarship by showing that working with primary resources need not be an elite, selective process: it is as simple as finding one compelling item and spending time with it. The website aims to transform haphazard, wayward discoveries of the Hay into a far-reaching, common experience for Brown students. Fields of Hay is home base.

The Impact of Special Collections and an Invitation

I wish I hadn’t treated my interaction with Mary Elizabeth Sharpe as a one-off experience designed for a single class with no lasting implications on my life at Brown. Had I been able to return to the Hay through mechanisms designed for me – through a website that clarified how I could ingratiate myself with these materials – I would have returned sooner. As soon as students arrive at Brown, Fields of Hay can guide them to original, exciting research, or simply enjoying items connected to their interests – no strings or requirements or assignments necessary. Come on in and get started.

Shira Buchsbaum ’19 studied Anthropology and English Non-Fiction Writing and was the primary creator of Fields of Hay, under the advisor-ship of Heather Cole. She wrote her senior thesis about curatorial decision-making for the Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays as reflective of changing conceptions of American literature. Any inquiries about Fields of Hay and materials or programming at the Hay can be sent to shira_buchsbaum@brown.edu.

Exhibit | In Solidarity: Exhibiting Civic Engagement, Protest, and Activism on Campus

On Wednesday, December 12, 2018 from 12 – 2 p.m., the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice will present In Solidarity: Exhibiting Civic Engagement, Protest, and Activism on Campus. The Brown University Library is taking part in this campus-wide, end of semester open gallery event, during which students and members of the community are invited to experience different perspectives on issues of social justice.

Each exhibition on the self-guided tour examines civic engagement, activism, and protest through archival documents, contemporary artwork, historic photographs, and music.

The Library’s exhibit, Protest & Perspectives: Students at Brown 1960s – 90s, was created by the Brown University Archives Fellows and can be viewed on the wall outside of the Patric Ma Digital Scholarship Lab in the Rockefeller Library.

Seven locations with eleven exhibits will be available on the tour. Click here for the list of spaces and exhibits and click here for a map of the participating galleries.

Date: Wednesday, December 12, 2018
Time: 12 – 2 p.m.
Location: Patrick Ma Digital Scholarship Lab, Rockefeller Library, 10 Prospect Street, Providence, RI and other locations on campus

Announcement | 50 Year Anniversary of the Black Student Walkout: A Collaboration between Brown University Archives and WGBH

Produced by WGBH and reporter Gabrielle Emanuel, the video, “Fifty Years Ago, Black Students At Brown Walked Out For Change” is available on WGBH online.

Click here to read the WGBH story and see the video.

In addition to the video, the story will be told today during the “All Things Considered” afternoon broadcast, available at 89.3 and 89.7 FM in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Ms. Emanuel worked in collaboration with Jennifer Betts, Brown University Archivist and Interim Director of the John Hay Library and Special Collections, on this remarkable video that documents the Black Student Walkout at Brown on December 5, 1968. Today marks the 50th anniversary of this call to action by 65 Brown students of color, who demanded an increase in recruitment and admission of black students to Brown.

1968 Black Student Walkout

Part of a national movement by black college students, the 1968 walkout at Brown stands out for its longevity–students camped out at the Congdon Street Baptist Church for three days–and its success. As a result of this coordinated action and the serious negotiations between Brown administration and the student representatives that took place during the three-day protest, the University agreed to significantly enhance efforts around black student admission practices, with $12 million over three years earmarked for recruitment. According to a letter from President Christina Paxson to the Brown community:

The walkout ended on Dec. 9, when the students secured the University’s agreement to launch an effort to significantly increase the number of black students in each new class. Those students established a foundation for future generations of historically underrepresented students, including other black students, in advocating together for a better Brown.

Protest & Perspectives: Students at Brown 1960s-90s

This fall, the Library presented the exhibit Protest & Perspectives: Students at Brown 1960s–90s, which included the 1968 Black Student Walkout. Installed on the wall outside of the Patric Ma Digital Scholarship Lab, the exhibit was created by the Brown University Archives Fellows during the summer. They are:

  • Amyre S. Brandom, Xavier University of Louisiana, Leadership Alliance
  • Kayla Smith, Spelman College, Leadership Alliance
  • Rachel Souza, Brown University ‘21, Presidential Scholar

Click here to see the online exhibit about the Walkout.

Days of Absence: The 1968 Black Student Walkout at Brown

In addition, the Library hosted the exhibit Days of Absence: The 1968 Black Student Walkout at Brown in the Lownes Room of the John Hay Library in September. The exhibition, curated by Bernicestine and Harold Bailey, was created in conjunction with the Black Alumni Reunion.

Social Justice & Special Collections at the Brown University Library

The Library’s collections contain a vast source of material related to social justice on campus and throughout the world. Open to the public and easily accessible to all Brown students and faculty, the John Hay Library and its knowledgeable staff are available to all researchers interested in working with the unique, fascinating, revelatory, and, in many cases, priceless items waiting to be explored.

Collections of interest in this area of study include (but are not limited to):

Alumni Reunion Forum | Taking Action in the Public Square

Were you first engaged in organizing for change at Brown?  Are you engaged now? Join fellow Brown alumni to discuss the gratification and challenges of public engagement. Share your story about your participation in efforts to make your community a better place through social change, greater diversity, higher standards, and equitable structures.

Join the Brown University Library and the Brown Alumni Association for an Alumni Reunion Forum entitled, “Taking Action in the Public Square,” on Saturday, May 26, from 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm in the Lownes Room of the John Hay Library.

Participants:

  • Jane Beckett (Class of 1968), Jane Beckett & Associates
  • Bob Cohen (Class of 1968), Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission
  • Katie Cohen (Class of 2013), North Shore (Massachusetts) Labor Council, AFL-CIO
  • Jim Dickson (Class of 1968), American Association of People with Disabilities
  • Ken Galdston (Class of 1968), InterValley Project
  • Rinku Sen (Class of 1988), Race Forward

Date: Saturday, May 26, 2018
Time: 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Location: John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Exhibit | Todd Haynes Image Books (1995 – 2017)

I’m Not There (2007) , Todd Haynes Image Book

Award-winning filmmaker Todd Haynes has created image books for each of his films beginning with Safe in 1995. In an interview with the New York Times, Haynes explained the books in terms of his process as “a way of communicating beyond words that gets to the crux of what the mood, temperature and stylistic references would be.” (January 28, 2016)

Todd Haynes graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Art-Semiotics (1985). The director of Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, Poison, Dottie Gets Spanked, Safe, Velvet Goldmine, Far from Heaven, I’m Not There, Mildred Pierce, Carol, and Wonderstruck, Haynes was a pioneer of the New Queer Cinema movement and is known for his ongoing visual and narrative experiments within narrative cinema and television and his engagement with gender, sexuality, identity, mediation, and living inside/outside of “the mainstream.”

Currently on View:
Safe (1995)
Velvet Goldmine (1998)
Far from Heaven (2002)
Carol (2015)
Wonderstruck (2017)

Dates: May 1 – 4, 2018
Time: 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Location: Lownes Room, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

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 | 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

Exhibit | Ever True: A History of the Brown Band

The historians of the Brown University Band present an exhibition on the band’s long and great history, currently on display at the Orwig Music Library.  Since 1924 the Brown University Band has entertained on the field at football games, on ice at the hockey games, and in locations all over the country. On view are the musical “BU” sweater worn by the band’s founder, photographs, world famous buttons, as well as an iPad containing sound recordings from 1927-2000 and videos of the band.

Curated by Sean Briody, Greer Christensen-Gibbons, Ingrid Mader, and Gaby Usabal

Dates: October 12 – December 21, 2017
TimeLibrary Hours
Location: Orwig Music Library, 1 Young Orchard Avenue, Providence

 

Exhibit | H.P. Lovecraft on the Road & Caitlín R. Kiernan Papers

Greetings and Salutations: Lovecraft on the Road  &  Caitlín R. Kiernan Papers @ Brown University on view at John Hay Library, exhibition gallery from August 16 – December 15, 2017.

Greetings and Salutations: Lovecraft on the Road

Journey from Providence, Rhode Island, to St. Augustine, Florida, during the spring and summer of 1934 with one of America’s most influential fantasy and horror fiction writers. Explore the life, past and places of Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890–1937) through his correspondence, postcards and related drawings from the Brown University Library, Special Collections.

Caitlín R. Kiernan Papers @ Brown University

With novels, chapbooks, comics and more than 250 short stories to her credit, science fiction and dark fantasy writer Caitlín R. Kiernan (b. 1964) is a prolific and independent force reflecting the formative influences of her youth, including H. P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, William S. Burroughs and Angela Carter.

The Brown University Library recently acquired the Caitlín R. Kiernan Papers, gifted by the author, consisting of personal papers, manuscripts, books, related artwork and objects. The collection represents both early and current works by the multiple award-winning author and published paleontologist. Additions to the collection will be made regularly by the author.

Exhibit | The Brown Bear: A History

The Brown Bear: A History

An Exhibit by Peter Mackie ’59, Sports Archivist
Now showing in the Willis Reading Room Cases, John Hay Library
May 22 – August 31, 2017

At the dawn of the 20th century, Brown was thriving. A new president, William H. P. Faunce, was in place; enrollment was approaching 1,000; new buildings were springing up, and a successful $2 million endowment fund campaign had been completed. Brown’s major teams were enjoying a new off-campus facility (Andrews Field) which had supplanted Lincoln Field. Athletics were emerging from the informal club team era under a newly established Director of Physical Education, Frederick W. “Doc” Marvel (1894). Students and alumni were becoming enthralled with intercollegiate athletics, especially with the developing fierce rivalry with Dartmouth.

Click here to view the online exhibit.

The search was on for a mascot to represent Brown and her teams, often called the Hilltoppers by the press. In 1902 a mascot attempt with a burro was a failure, but in 1904 Theodore Francis Green (1887) solved the problem. Annoyed by “painful attempts” of newspaper artists to come up with an appropriate figure to match the Bulldog and Tiger, Green placed the mounted head of a bear labeled THE BROWN BEAR in the Trophy Room of the new student union (Rockefeller Hall – now Faunce House). Green’s idea quickly took hold, and the bear was celebrated in verse, song, and image. In 1905 a live bear was rented for the Dartmouth football game in Springfield, beginning a famous tradition which, despite interruption by two world wars and the Great Depression, continued into the mid-1960’s. Live bear lore abounds with stories which defy contemporary imagination: college hijinks such as “bearnappings” and tragic bear deaths and funerals.

In addition to live bears, students donned bear costumes, a custom which continues to this day with Bruno and his sidekick Cubby, whose identities are kept secret. The first costumed bear was a group effort, when in 1906 at the Dartmouth game a student wrapped in a bear skin arrived in Springfield. In the post-game victory march back to the city, students took turns after each “bear” dropped exhausted in the frenzied swirling snake dance. Campus statuary has also reflected the importance of the Brown Bear to the Brown community. The Bronze Bruno (1927), Fountain Bear (1932), Swearer Bear (1988), and Indomitable (2013), all keep the Brown Bear symbol constantly in view.

The true meaning of the Brown Bear has been the cause of debate since the beginning. For years after its casting in 1923, Bronze Bruno remained in hibernation at Gorham Manufacturing Company while debate raged on about its meaning and proper placement. Today the use of the term Brown Bear extends to men’s and women’s athletic teams, Alumni Brown Bear Awards, and employee BEAR Day, to name a few.

The Brown Bear is deeply embedded in the DNA of Brown’s culture and daily life. Perhaps T. F. Green provides the best understanding of the Bear’s inclusive meaning:

“So our Brown Bear, around which we are now gathered, is a symbol of that Brown spirit which carries its meaning to alumni and undergraduates alike, with various meanings. Some mistake its message as a call of good luck to an athletic team. But its message is rather to carry into all our activities those virtues shown on the athletic field and symbolized in the Brown Bear – the virtues of strength, independence, and courage. May its symbol remind us of the College and keep alive our love and enthusiasm for old Brown.”

Dates: May 23, 2017 – November 30, 2018
Time: John Hay Library Hours
Location: Willis Reading Room Cases, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence