First Readings 2014: Oil & Water

oil and water first readings

This year’s First Readings selection is the film Oil & Water. Here are a few things of note about Oil & Water and the First Readings program.

  • The library has created a website as a part of the First Readings Program.
  • Oil & Water is the story of two boys (Hugo Lucitante and David Poritz ’12) coming of age as they confront one of the world’s worst toxic disasters.
  • The film was directed by Francine Strickwerda and Laurel Spellman Smith.
  • Francine Strickwerda, Laurel Spellman Smith, and David Poritz ’12 will visit campus in the fall to speak to the first-year students.
  • This is the First Readings program’s eighth year.
  • The First Readings program provides first-year and transfer students with a common experience that introduces them to the pleasures and rigors of academic life at Brown University.
  • First Readings is sponsored by the Dean of the College and Brown Alumni Association.
  • Make sure to check out the @firstreadings twitter feed for updates.

For more information about Oil & Water or the First Readings program visit the website.

Updates From Around the Library (June 2014)


Before we get to the recent highlights from some of the Library’s various blogs, I’d like to announce the Library’s new eResources blog: “Wired Up and Plugged In.” Check it out for new databases, ebook packages, ejournals, and other eresources.

Contact: Mark Baumer |  401-863-3642

Happy Carberry Day


The Library has been unable to confirm or deny if Professor Josiah S. Carberry will be making an appearance on campus tomorrow (Friday, June 13, 2014), but strangely this afternoon every lecture hall on campus was reserved before these reservations were quickly cancelled. One person close to the situation said, “We received a letter from Professor Carberry, but the letter was lost before it could be read and actually the letter might have been lost before it was sent.”

In any case, Happy Carberry Day!

Please contribute your loose change to a cracked pot (some will be located in the Rock Library and SciLi) in support of the Josiah S. Carberry Fund.

Also, if you happen to spot Josiah Carberry tomorrow, feel free to post an image of him on instagram and tag it #josiahcarberry so it will appear on the Library’s Josiah Carberry Wall.

Tableau Workshop


On June 16, 2014 at 2 p.m. the library will offer a 90-minute workshop on Tableau in the Hecker Center. Tableau is a software package that allows users to upload and explore their data, and quickly put together a variety of visualizations that can be published to the web.

This will be a hands-on workshop in which participants will learn Tableau by exploring a data set of their choosing and designing their own visualizations to communicate their findings.

Please register if you’re interested in attending the workshop.

Date: June 16, 2014 2:00pm – 3:30pm
Location: Hecker Center

Contact: Patrick Rashleigh

The Killing Field that was Omaha Beach

On this 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings on the Normandy coast, it is worth pausing to reflect on the sacrifice of the soldiers who died on Omaha and Utah Beaches along with their allied comrades on Gold, Juno and Sword Beaches. Flags

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 was a bright sunny day as the tour bus turned the corner onto the Avenue de la Liberation that parallels Omaha Beach. The previous evening, I had presented an illustrated talk to various alumni on a cruise along the coasts of western Europe, about three artists who covered the preparations and landings. Their pencil sketches and water-colors were still fresh in my memory as we disembarked the bus near the old war memorial adjacent to the new stainless steel monument known as “Les Braves” dedicated in 2004 on the beach itself, yet the contrasts could not have been greater. As I walked towards the water’s edge across the beach it was impossible to visualize the horror of June 6, 1944. Omaha Beach is a vast strand of firm, level sand, hence its choice as a landing beach. As the tide was out, it took several minutes to reach the water’s edge but as I turned around, the realization came upon me. I had walked several hundred yards and as I looked inland towards the bluffs edging the beach, I imagined what an impossible task it had been for the thousands of soldiers to navigate the dead zone with little protection other than the obstacles that had been erected by the Germans. Many never made it beyond a few yards. Eye-witnesses spoke of the sea flowing red with bodies floating by. Combat engineers who landed later in the day as the darkness set in kept stumbling over objects – the bodies of their fallen countrymen.

Burying the dead in the low land behind the beachOne of the artists, the late William Bostick, USN, who donated several water-colors to the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection back in the 1990′s, also sent a copy of a sketch he had made shortly after the initial landings. As he moved inland from the landing craft that had delivered him to the beach, he passed rows of dead soldiers covered with sheets.

Another artist, Manuel Bromberg, USA, who covered the landings in an official capacity, arrived three days later and observed the aftermath. He was met with a scene of utter devastation. Pulling Bromberg study for D Dayout his pocket notebook, he made quick pencil sketches. One of these showed a dead soldier being pulled away to the makeshift cemetery. He observed German prisoners forced to remove the dead and dying. These sketches are now in the Military Collection. By close of day on June 6, over 2,000 Americans had been killed, wounded or were missing, and many others were to die in the coming days and weeks ahead. Today, the scars of battle have been removed but it is in the nearby American Military Cemetery at St. Laurent that the stark reality of D-Day hits home.

Video | Library’s Commencement Forum with Professor James Egan, “Continuity Amidst Transformation”

Professor Jim Egan delivers Commencement Forum in the Rockefeller Library DSL

Professor Jim Egan delivers a Commencement Forum in the Rockefeller Library Patrick Ma Digital Scholarship Lab

On Saturday, May 24, the Brown University Library hosted James F. Egan, Brown Professor of English, when he delivered a Commencement Forum titled “Continuity Amidst Transformation in the Humanities” in the Rockefeller Library Patrick Ma Digital Scholarship Lab.

Click here to watch a video recording of the forum on Brown’s YouTube Channel. 



Rosetta Stone Now Linked on the Library Web

The University has provided access to Rosetta Stone language learning software for all Brown students, staff, and faculty. The Library has now linked Rosetta Stone on the Database A-Z list on the Library Web, along with the Quick Start Manual. You may also access Rosetta Stone directly by using this URL: If you have any questions or need additional help, please contact the IT Service Center at or call them at (401) 863-4357.

Astronaut David Scott Gives the Apollo 15 Flight Data File to the Brown University Library

University Librarian Harriette Hemmasi and NASA Astronaut David Scott

University Librarian Harriette Hemmasi and NASA Astronaut David Scott

The Brown University Library is honored to have received a gift that is truly out of this world. In late 2013, David Scott, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and NASA Astronaut, gave the Library the world’s only complete collection of flight literature that has traveled to the Moon’s surface. On April 19, 2014, Scott, along with Brown University Professor of Geological Sciences James Head, space flight historian and appraiser Lawrence McGlynn, University Librarian Harriette Hemmasi, Director of Special Collections and the John Hay Library Tom Horrocks, and a small handful of awed Library staff members gathered in the Rockefeller Library Patrick Ma Digital Scholarship Lab (DSL) for an informal ceremony, during which the items in the Flight Data File were viewed, discussed, and transferred to the Library.

Since his role as spacecraft commander of the 1971 Apollo 15 mission, the fourth to land men on the Moon, Scott has carefully maintained his copy of the many paper-based materials used during the manned spaceflight: flight plans, checklists, timelines, star charts, logs, maps, and manuals. Leading up to and throughout the mission, each item was continually consulted and new entries were made. Scott’s own handwriting can be seen on the checklists and logs and the maps are visible in photographs of the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) as it explores the Moon’s surface. Lawrence McGlynn, who spoke about the historical significance of the individual pieces and the collection as a whole, counseled the Library, “Whatever you do, don’t dust them off! That’s lunar dust.”

Lawrence McGlynn points out the lunar surface maps in a photo of the LRV

Lawrence McGlynn points out the lunar surface maps in a photo of the LRV

Before the presentation began, Scott and Head had the opportunity to look at a detailed image of the Moon’s surface on the massive, high-resolution screens in the DSL. Scott grabbed a ruler and pointed out the site where the Lunar Module Falcon landed on July 30, 1971 (Hadley Rille/Apennine Mountains) and the areas in which the crew collected rock and soil samples. Scott was also able to point out the tracks left by the LRV, still there today. When Head asked Scott jokingly why he didn’t pick up more of the rocks, Scott responded, “I left those there for you.”

Scott and Head have been colleagues for many years, a working relationship that has become a close friendship. Head, prior to his appointment as a faculty member of the Geological Sciences Department at Brown, worked for NASA and took his place in the Control Center during every mission to the Moon. His connection to Scott and the space program is what led Scott to think of Brown as the home for this valuable collection. Unlike other astronauts who have sold off pieces of their flight literature, Scott recognized their importance as historical artifacts and their value to scholarship. He sought to find a home for the collection that would keep it intact and fulfill his desire to have it used for research and study. His relationship with Head, Head’s history of collaboration with NASA, and the good work and reputation of Brown’s Geological Sciences Department convinced Scott to give the collection to the University Library. As Scott stated during the event, “Brown is the right place for this.”

Brown Professor Jim Head and NASA Astronaut David Scott

Brown Professor Jim Head and NASA Astronaut David Scott

After jovial discussion and reminiscences about the Apollo program between Scott, Head, and McGlynn—fascinating to all others fortunate to be in the room—the presentation of the collection began. The large box of materials was opened, and McGlynn, wearing protective gloves, gently lifted the launch checklist and handed it to Scott, who then handed it to University Librarian Harriette Hemmasi, signaling the official transfer of the collection from Scott to the Library.

McGlynn gave a brief online presentation about the rarity and value of the collection and highlighted several items. Thirty days prior to launch, over 26,000 pounds of paper copies of the Flight Data File were sent to the various NASA field centers. Significantly, the set donated by Scott is the only copy that went to the Moon. The items McGlynn highlighted include the launch checklist, timeline book, star charts, logbook of lunar surface collections, and the stowage list.

Each facet of the mission, from pre-launch to splash down, was planned and documented in the File’s timelines, to the minute, and checklists for the crew included everything from when and how to operate the equipment to reminders to eat and drink. The astronauts themselves created most of the checklists as they practiced over and over during the two and a half years of training prior to the mission—so that the steps became second nature. McGlynn mentioned the “T3” motto: “train ‘em, trust ‘em, and turn ‘em loose,” developed by the team made up of faculty from several universities, members of the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and staff members at NASA who trained the astronauts. But with the complexity of the mission and the constant time pressure the astronauts faced, the checklists proved invaluable to the crew during the round trip to the Moon.

Scott and James Irwin, lunar module pilot, made most of the handwritten entries in the Flight Data File. One of the items containing the largest amount of handwriting is the logbook of lunar surface collections. It reads as a diary of sorts, written in natural language by Scott and Irwin, documenting the locations in which items were found, their weight, and general descriptions. Among the items Scott and Irwin found and collected on this mission are the most famous Moon rock, the Genesis Rock, a sample of the ancient lunar crust, and green clods of volcanic glass beads, all of which led to the recent discovery of water on the Moon by Brown Professor Alberto Saal.

Logbook of lunar surface collections

Logbook of lunar surface collections

Star charts were used throughout the flight to locate where the Falcon was in space. The astronauts had to find 36 specific stars, look at the stars through a sextant, and signal the computer, which then recorded the exact location of the spacecraft. Amazingly, the on-board computer contained merely 36K bytes of memory. Despite its limited computing power, the software code written for the mission computer contained such precision that it provided the necessary intelligence to support a manned flight to the Moon and back to Earth. That alone is worthy of study.

Star chart

Star chart

Indeed, the entire space program remains a marvel of planning, coordination, and engineering that had several important ties with Brown University. Mentioned with great respect by McGlynn was Brown alumnus Howard “Bill” Tindall, Jr. ‘48, whom NASA named Honorary Flight Director in honor of his illustrious service. Tindall coordinated the efforts of all the engineers involved in the Apollo missions. Well known for his humorous and folksy memos, coined “Tindallgrams,” Tindall ensured the many successes of the Apollo program through his meticulous planning and skillful handling of debate and discussion among the hundreds of people integral to putting human beings in space. This collection of Apollo 15 flight literature is a testament to Tindall’s planning and coordination and will serve as an enduring example of excellence in engineering.

Though David Scott had a significant financial incentive to sell the flight literature, he commendably chose to give this collection to the Brown University Library so that it can be preserved for posterity and made available to scholars and students around the world as a unique resource to enhance research and understanding of how a complex mission like Apollo 15 could be successfully completed. In all, the collection is a vital record of one of humankind’s most impressive achievements, a tangible artifact from the Moon, and a model of planning and engineering. And, as McGlynn stated during his presentation, “When you touch this today, you have touched the Moon.” Now it is up to the researchers and students at Brown and elsewhere to discover where this collection will take them next.