Film Screening | DEFYING THE NAZIS: THE SHARPS’ WAR | A New Film by Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky


On Tuesday, September 20, 2016 at 8 p.m. in the Patrick Ma Digital Scholarship Lab in the Rockefeller Library, the Brown University Library will screen Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War, a new documentary by Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky.

At 6 p.m. on the same night, the corresponding exhibit, A Hymn for the Brave: the Sharps and Humanitarian Work in World War II, will open with a reception at the John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Streeet, Providence. Martha Sharp Joukowsky, Ph.D.’58 PhB’82 LHD’85 P’87 GP’13 GP’14 GP’17, daughter of Waitstill and Martha Sharp, will speak at the reception.

Both events are free and open to the public.

The 90-minute film tells the story of Waitstill and Martha Sharp, a Unitarian minister and his wife from Wellesley, Massachusetts, who left their children behind in the care of their parish and boldly committed to multiple life-threatening rescue missions in Europe, before and after the start of World War II. Over two dangerous years, they helped to save hundreds of imperiled political dissidents and Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi occupation across Europe. Martha Dickie Sharp is a Brown alumna, Pembroke class of 1926.

Click here to view the trailer.

The story is cinematically told through the letters and journals of the Sharps, with Tom Hanks as the voice of Waitstill and Marina Goldman as the voice of Martha. It features firsthand interviews with the now adult children whom the Sharps saved, as well as leading historians, authors, and Holocaust scholars, including William Schulz, Deborah Dwork, Modecai Paldiel, Ghanda DiFiglia, and Yehuda Bauer.

“The story of Waitstill and Martha Sharp is one of the most incredible tales of compassion, sacrifice and heroism that I have ever heard, and I was completely unaware of it until five years ago when Artemis Joukowsky first shared it with me,” said Ken Burns. “Nearly three years before America as a nation became involved in the Second World War, these two unassuming, so-called ‘ordinary’ Americans gave up everything they knew and loved and risked their lives to become involved in a war 4,000 miles away because they knew there were people in grave danger who needed help.”


Rev. Waitstill and Martha Sharp leading adults and children to an airplane in Czechoslovakia, 1939.

Artemis Joukowsky, a film producer and co-founder of No Limits Media, is the grandson of Waitstill and Martha Sharp and has spent decades researching their story. He is the author of a companion book to the film, featuring a foreword by Ken Burns, which was published by Beacon Press.

“Beyond the cloak-and-dagger suspense of my grandparents’ experience, it is a story of what America meant to refugees fleeing war-torn countries to build new lives. And it underscores what Waitstill would call ‘a collaborative effort’ of how a small but effective underground network of rescue workers saved as many lives as they could, and how important that lesson is for what is happening today,” said Joukowsky.


This group is part of the Children’s Emigration Project of the Unitarian Service Committee in France, organized by Martha Sharp (standing back row, 3rd from left). The Diamant triplets are in the front row. Caption in scrapbook states: “Children’s Emigration, Six Nationalities from France, Dec 1940”

In January of 1939, as Americans remained mostly detached from news reports of the growing refugee crisis in the escalating war in Europe, Waitstill received a call from the Rev. Everett Baker, Vice President of the American Unitarian Association, asking if they would travel to Czechoslovakia to help provide relief to people trying to escape Nazi persecution. He invited Waitstill and Martha to take part in “the first intervention against evil by the denomination to be started immediately overseas.” The mission would involve secretly helping Jews, refugees, and dissidents to escape the expanding Nazi threat in Europe. If they were discovered, they would face imprisonment, probable torture, and death. Seventeen other members of the church had declined. With two young children at home, the Sharps accepted. They expected to be gone for several months.

Instead, their mission would last almost two years.

During this time, the Sharps would face harrowing encounters with Nazi police, narrowly escape arrest, and watch as the Third Reich invaded Eastern Europe. Their marriage would be tested severely and the two children they left behind would be saddened by their parents’ absence. But dozens of Jewish scientists, journalists, doctors, powerful anti-Nazi activists, and children would find their way to freedom and start new lives as a result of their efforts. To recognize their heroic sacrifice, Martha and Waitstill were honored at Yad Vashem in Israel and declared “Righteous Among the Nations.” Of the thousands so honored, there are only five Americans, including the Sharps.

“The Sharps’ early grasp of the true nature of the Nazi threat and their willingness to leave the safety of America and take action to help endangered refugees was a rare act at a time of widespread indifference,” said Sara J. Bloomfield, director, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Their courage and sacrifice should inspire us to reflect deeply on our own responsibilities in a world that also faces many challenges.”

In conjunction with the broadcast on September 20, a wide range of organizations will participate in community outreach and engagement activities, creating screening events and conversations that focus on what it means to be “righteous,” both as it relates to the Holocaust and genocide across the globe today. These include The United States Memorial Holocaust Museum, Hillel House, The Anti-Defamation League, The Unitarian Universalist Association, The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Jewish Community Centers, The Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State College, Brown University, Harvard University, No Limits Media and others (a full list is available at Both the Brown University Library and the Brown/RISD Hillel are hosting screenings.

Click here for more information about PBS broadcast.

In addition, WETA, the presenting public television station for Defying the Nazis, has partnered with Facing History and Ourselves, one of the world’s most respected educational organizations. FHAO is dedicated to raising students’ awareness of injustice and intolerance. Together WETA and FHAO are creating curriculum materials to help middle and high school teachers use the film and additional primary sources to engage students in the Sharps’ story of sacrifice, rescue, and moral courage. Materials will be available free to schools through PBS’ LearningMedia Services.

Funding is provided by members of The Better Angels Society including Jan and Rick Cohen and Jonathan and Jeannie Lavine; The Starr Foundation; The Threshold Foundation; and donations from individuals.

Defying the Nazis: the Sharps’ War is a co-production of NO LIMITS MEDIA, Inc., and Florentine Films, in association with WETA Washington, D.C. A film by Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky. Produced by Ken Burns and Matthew Justus, Ken Burns: Executive Producer. Edited by Erik Angra. Music by Sheldon Mirowitz. Copyright: Farm Pond Pictures, LLC.

Date: September 20, 2016
Time: 6:30 p.m. (Exhibit Opening) and 8 p.m. (Film Screening)
Location: Patrick Ma Digital Scholarship Lab, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, 10 Prospect Street, Providence

Exhibit | A Hymn for the Brave: the Sharps and Humanitarian Work in World War II

Rev. Waitstill and Martha Sharp leading adults and children to an airplane in Czechoslovakia, 1939.

Rev. Waitstill and Martha Dickie Sharp leading adults and children to an airplane in Czechoslovakia, 1939.

An opening reception for the exhibit, A Hymn for the Brave: the Sharps and Humanitarian Work in World War II, will be held at the John Hay Library on Tuesday, September 20, 2016 at 6 p.m., followed by a screening of Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War at 8 p.m. in the Patrick Ma Digital Scholarship Lab in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library. The exhibition will be on view through December 23, 2016 at the John Hay Library and is open to the public during hours when Special Collections Services are available. Admission is free. Please check the John Hay Library website for detailed information about hours.

Martha Ingham Dickie Sharp


Martha Ingham Dickie, Pembroke Class of 1926

Ninety-four years ago, in the Fall of 1922, Martha Ingham Dickie entered Pembroke College as a scholarship student. In her four years at Brown, Martha Dickie took up a focused plan of study while participating actively in campus governance, social clubs and athletics. She was, as her yearbook entry noted, “[a] very busy person… and yet … everyone’s friend, especially the lowly and lonely…”

After graduating in May 1926, Martha Dickie went on to work on a graduate degree in social work at Chicago’s Northwestern University, where her studies included a practicum at Hull House, the settlement house project made famous by Jane Addams. But life soon intervened in her professional plans: in 1927, Martha was introduced to a young Harvard law school graduate with a spiritual bent — Waitstill Hastings Sharp, the son of academic Dallas Lore Sharp (Brown 1895). Martha and Waitstill married one year later; Waitstill went on to attend Harvard Divinity School and was ordained as a Unitarian in 1933. Initially assigned to a church in Meadville, Pennsylvania, Waitstill was soon called to shepherd the Unitarian congregation in Wellesley, Massachusetts, in 1937. Martha and her husband took to parish life like fish to water; it gave them a way to employ the caring social and custodial skills that were innate to them both. So perhaps it was natural that when the American Unitarian Association came recruiting for a relief project in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1938, the Sharps were quick to volunteer.

A Hymn for the Brave: the Sharps and Humanitarian Work in World War II

This fall’s main exhibition in the John Hay Library, A Hymn for the Brave: the Sharps and Humanitarian Work in World War II, tells the story of these two intrepid people and their humanitarian work as founding members of the Unitarian Service Committee. The exhibition is drawn from personal papers of the Sharps, along with those of USC co-founders Robert Cloutman Dexter (Brown A.B. 1912, A.M. 1917) and his wife Elisabeth Anthony Dexter, and illustrates the efforts of these two couples to administer aid to refugees and others in need across Nazi-occupied Europe under the aegis of the American Unitarian Association and in collaboration with other relief organizations. Papers of the Sharps and the Dexters are held at the Hay Library and are available to interested researchers.

Exhibition website:

Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War

The exhibition aligns with the release of a new film by Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky III airing on PBS this fall. Entitled Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War, the film tells the story of the sacrifices made, risks taken, and successes achieved by the Sharps in pursuing humanitarian relief work for the Unitarian Service Committee.

Dates: Exhibit Opening Reception: September 20, 2016; Exhibit: September 20 – December 23, 2016
Times: 6:30 p.m. (Exhibit Opening) and 8 p.m. (Film Screening)
Locations: Exhibit: John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street; Screening: Patrick Ma Digital Scholarship Lab, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, 10 Prospect Street

JHL Conservation Bulletin | September 2016

A quarterly installment highlighting Library Conservation in the Brown University community, conservation news around the internet, and ways for you to connect with conservation.

Book and paper conservation [at Brown]

Paul Banks‘ 10 Laws of Conservation. 1. No one can have access to a document that no longer exists. 2. Multiplication and dispersal increase chances for survival of information. 3. Books and documents deteriorate all the time. 4. Use causes wear. 5. Deterioration is irreversible. 6. The physical medium of a book or document contains information. 7. No reproduction can contain all the information contained in the original. 8. Authenticity cannot be restored. 9. Conservation treatment is interpretation. 10. No treatment is reversible.

Pronouncements, contradictions, and truths: there is so much to unpack. Like many other conservation professionals I think about this list often; especially when I see in my work space, a photocopy of a creased paper copy re-printed by a colleague years ago (re: laws 2, 4, 6, and 7). This list is valid for other specialites, how does it relate to you?

In house treatment at the Hay

Another ‘law’ proposed by a colleague suggests something along the lines of, “If it has been repaired once, it will be repaired again.”


A book from the Williams Table collection circulated to the lab because of detached boards. I could tell that the book had been rebacked with a traditional repair because of the two different leathers visible on both boards and the spine. More evidence of previous treatment were silked pages, pressure-sensitive tape, and infills throughout the text block. The text also contains volvelles, maps, and other complex printed matter that have survived intact. Did the binding repair fail due to popularity/ overuse (19 circulations alone since 2013), or because the materials or methods failed 100-or-so years later? And is that failure, or part of a life cycle?  This book has already been repaired once, and it is getting repaired again.

Find conservation online and in person

New technology isn’t just about computing, how will this medium age?

Multiple institutions in Boston have come together with exhibits, events, and a symposium devoted to medieval manuscript studies this November. If a trip to Boston is unappealing, participate in a do-it-yourself medieval manuscript tour throughout Rhode Island!

I admire conservators who empower communities by sharing specialized knowledge about collection care techniques. Or, commit to keeping traditions alive in communities apart from their own. However, art conservation as a community in the United States, both inside and out is problematic in its exclusivity. How can this be? We all abide by the same strict guidelines for our work. With more expensive and time consuming regulations around training, who can afford to be a professional? Do the demographics extend to conscious or unconscious bias when treating cultural property? Whose culture is it, anyway?


Forging the future of special collections. More to come in December.

-Rachel Lapkin, Library Materials Conservator


Construction Update | Wernig Graduate Student Reading Room


Construction on the new Vincent J. Wernig Graduate Student Reading Room is well under way on the second floor of the Rockefeller Library, with opening anticipated for October 2016.


Dedicated to all graduate students at Brown, the Center will feature a large study and research room, a seminar/presentation room, lounge with kitchenette, and separate consultation rooms.


The block, plaster, and glass walls are up. The infrastructure that will bring power and data to both the Center and the periodicals study area is complete. The ceilings are being installed and soon the concrete floors will be sealed and polished. Furniture will arrive in September.


The Vincent J. Wernig Graduate Student Reading Room is generously funded by the Sorensen Family (Joan Wernig Sorensen ’72, E. Paul Sorensen ’71, ScM’75, PhD’77, Alice A. Sorensen ’06, Christian P. Sorensen ’06).


Dictionarium sinicum and Early Chinese Studies

Excerpt from Chinese-Latin dictionary with notes in Latin by Benjamin Bowen Carter. Dictionarium sinicum, page 608.

by Man Shun Yeung and Caroline Frank

Five years ago John Eng-Wong was looking for art for his office in American Studies, and University Curator Robert Emlen offered him a portrait of Benjamin Bowen Carter. Prompted by the painting, Eng-wong began to look into Carter’s background. A member of Brown University’s class of 1786 and a surgeon trained under Benjamin Rush, Carter was also one of the earliest Rhode Islander’s to sail to Canton as ship’s supercargo. Digging deeper into the archives, Eng-Wong, of Chinese descent himself, learned that Carter was perhaps the first American to make a serious attempt to learn Chinese. His research led him to Brown University Library Special Collections and two oversized eighteenth-century handwritten Chinese-Latin dictionaries—one bound and titled the Dictionarium sinicum, and the other in loose manuscript form.

Investigating this transpacific subject further, Eng-Wong then learned of a scholar in China also researching Carter—Professor Man Shun Yeung of The University of Hong Kong, who has now made two research visits to Brown University. Using rare resources found in both Brown University Library and the Rhode Island Historical Society archives, Professor Yeung intends to shine light on Carter’s role as an American pioneer in Chinese studies. His review of these two Chinese-Latin dictionaries reveals that Brown University is one of the very few special collections libraries in the world to own two different editions of the Hanzixiyi漢字西譯 (“Western Translation of Chinese Characters”) compiled by the Italian Franciscan priest Basile de Glemona (葉宗賢/葉尊教, 1648-1704). Glemona compiled the first edition of his dictionary between 1685-1694 when he was in Guangzhou and Nanjing, and the second edition between 1694-1700 when he was in Nanjing.

The Dictionarium sinicum was originally in Benjamin Bowen Carter’s possession. The “Carter manuscript” was donated by John Carter Brown (1797-1874)in 1844, as noted by his own inscription:

This volume belonged to my maternal uncle Doctor Benjamin Bowen Carter, a graduate of BU class 1786. Dr C. was a fine linguist & particularly versed in the Oriental languages & literature. He died in the City of New York AD 1831, aged 60 years.

It gives me pleasure to deposit this curious book in the College Library for preservation & for the use of those who may desire to consult it. 

Jhn Carter Brown
June 24,

The dictionary also includes notes from Benjamin Bowen Carter. Carter’s remarks provide important information on the transcription of the manuscript and his own instructions for understanding Chinese characters and pronunciation. Taking into consideration that the Chinese characters are arranged according to phonetic order, this manuscript is believed to be a handwritten copy of the second edition of Glemona’s dictionary.

The other Chinese-Latin dictionary now in Special Collections was owned by Samuel Ward (1756-1832). The “Ward manuscript” has an inscription on the front cover which reads “A Chinese Dictionary by Col Saml Ward,” and is described as “Chinese Dictionary with Manuscript Notes in Latin.” During 1788 and 1789, Samuel Ward sailed to China on the vessel General Washington, managing trade for the Providence firm Brown & Francis. It is uncertain when or where he acquired the manuscript. Judging from the fact that the Chinese characters are arranged according to the Chinese radicals 部首 and the Chinese title “漢字西譯” is inscribed at the end of the main contents, this manuscript is believed to be a handwritten copy of the first edition of Glemona’s dictionary. In the first seventeen pages, Guanhua官話 (term for the language of the officials) transliterations and Latin explanations supplement the Chinese characters.

The narrative that these two dictionaries document reshapes our understanding of early Sino-American cultural relations, and offers a glimpse into transpacific connections in the late eighteenth century. The Dictionarium sinicum will be on display on the second floor of the John Hay Library through August 19.

JHL Conservation Bulletin | June 2016

A quarterly installment highlighting Library Conservation in the Brown University community, conservation news around the internet, and ways for you to connect with conservation.

Book and paper conservation at Brown

Located in the John Hay Library, Brown University Library’s conservation lab mixes historical tools such as 19th century cast iron book presses and board shears with 21st century conveniences and innovations like a variable speed control HEPA vacuum cleaner and a deionized water filtration system. This amalgam of old and new allows the conservator to address collection needs such as: repair and other physical treatments, environmental monitoring, object handling, exhibition, storage, research, and education.

In house treatment at the Hay

Image: Before Treatment/ After Treatment

Before Treatment/ After Treatment

An 1841 pamphlet used in a class last fall had suffered tears, losses, and staining to the paper support since its creation, and had been over-sewn in a manner that made opening the already fragile pages even more hazardous. The pamphlet was disbound, the paper support treated and repaired, making new gatherings that were sewn through the fold and cased into a new lapped component binding.

Find conservation online and in person

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Florence Flood; the disaster that revolutionized conservation and preservation in libraries and museums around the world. If you are attending ALA in Orlando, you will have a chance to view the new digital restoration of the rare Franco Zeffirelli film, Florence: Days of Destruction.

Just because a thing is old doesn’t mean that it is better, or right, or wasn’t created by someone who was having an off day. But the human ingenuity poured into every aspect of a book-thing is awe-inspiring, and it is at the heart of my conservation efforts. The majority of special collections holdings look pretty good considering their age and everything they have been through. Bookbinding and book conservation communities continue to explore different ways of respecting history and original forms while improving on function and considering contemporary aesthetics. This practice in itself is a continuation of the tradition of fixing, mending, and making useful again these book objects we can’t seem to live without.


Paul Banks‘ 10 Laws of Conservation. #1: No one can have access to a document that no longer exists. See you in September for #2 and more.

-Rachel Lapkin, Library Materials Conservator

Alumni Reunion Forum | The Vietnam War: Our Veterans’ Stories


Please join the Library for an Alumni Reunion Forum on Saturday, May 28 from 3 – 4:30 p.m. in the Willis Reading Room at the John Hay Library. Professor Beth Taylor, Co-Director of the Nonfiction Writing Program, will moderate a panel of alumni veterans and family who will discuss their memories from the Vietnam War. This event is sponsored by the Brown University Library, Brown Alumni Association, and the Nonfiction Writing Program, Department of English.

Some of them attended Brown with the help of ROTC and they all went to the war before the campus protests. Come hear the surprising stories of Brown’s Vietnam Veterans and join in a discussion with alumni whose lives were changed forever by those difficult times.

The Vietnam Veterans of America will present the University Archives with personal artifacts of John Brooks Sherman ’62 (1st. Lt., U.S. Marine Corps, 1962-1966, d. 1966, Vietnam), recently unearthed in Vietnam. Learn about the newly curated Brown Vietnam Veterans Archive and website — featuring flight jackets, commissioning photos, military documents, and love letters.


Beth Taylor, Co-Director, Nonfiction Writing Program


  • David Taylor ’66 (1st. Lt., U.S. Marine Corps, 1966-1971), Real Estate Developer
  • Barry Kowalski ’66 (1st. Lt., U.S. Marine Corps, 1966-1970), Special Counsel for Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice
  • Elaine Zimmer Davis, widow of Jerry Zimmer ’66 (Capt., U.S. Marine Corps, 1966-1969, MIA, 8-29-69, Vietnam)
  • Augustus A. White, III, ’57, MD, PhD (Capt., Medical Corps, U.S. Army, 1966-1967), Orthopaedic Spine Surgeon and Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Ellen and Melvin Gordon Distinguished Professor of Medical Education, Harvard Medical School

A corresponding exhibit, also entitled The Vietnam War: Our Veterans’ Stories, will be on display in the Willis Reading Room at the John Hay Library from May 28 – August 19, 2016. The exhibit features photographs, letters, military clothing, and quotations from the Brown Vietnam Veterans Archive to depict how alumni transitioned from Brown to Vietnam and beyond. The Vietnam Veterans Archive preserves the stories of Brown University alumni who served in the military during the Vietnam War through oral histories and personal papers.

Date: Saturday, May 28, 2016
Time: 3 – 4:30 p.m.
Location: Willis Reading Room, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Commencement Forum | Word/Image/Text: Reading for the Philosophers’ Stone in Atalanta fugiens with Tara Nummedal

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Tara Nummedal, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the History Department

The Library welcomes visitors to a Commencement Forum on Saturday, May 28, 2016 at 11 a.m. in the Patrick Ma Digital Scholarship Lab and Sidney E. Frank Digital Studio at the Rockefeller Library.

As part of Brown University’s new Digital Publishing Initiative, Professor Tara Nummedal will present on her upcoming publishing project. Project Atalanta will bring a multimedia seventeenth century text to life in digital form. This innovative digital publication will produce a dynamic, enhanced digital edition of Michael Maier’s extraordinary text, Atalanta fugiens (1617/18): an alchemical emblem book that re-casts the myth of Atalanta—the fleet-footed virgin—as a series of fifty emblems. Comprised of text, image, and music, each individual emblem engages sound, sight, and intellect; read together, these emblems serve as an interlocking guide to alchemical theory and the production of the philosophers’ stone.

As a pilot project of the Digital Publishing Initiative, Project Atalanta seeks to bridge the gaps between the readers of today and their seventeenth century counterparts. By transforming the Atalanta fugiens into a dynamic digital object through the collaboration of historians, musicians, rare book curators, linguists, scientists, artists, and other scholars Project Atalanta reflects a dynamic, emergent form of interdisciplinary scholarship. The University Library invites visitors to come and hear about this unique multimedia text, and explore along with Professor Nummedal the implications of reading across time, cultures, and technologies.

Tara Nummedal is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the History Department. She is the author of Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire and is currently completing her second book, “The Lion’s Blood: Alchemy, Gender, and Apocalypse in Reformation Germany.” Her work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and, most recently, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. She is Past President of the New England Renaissance Conference and a member of the editorial board of the journal Ambix. She teaches courses in early modern European history and the history of science.

Date: Saturday, May 28, 2016
Time: 11 a.m.
Location: Patrick Ma Digital Scholarship Lab, Rockefeller Library, 10 Prospect Street, Providence