This post is a student contribution from Claudia Moser’s class ARCH 1764: 25 Things! 250 Years of Brown’s Material Past

In true Brown fashion, setup for this weekend’s festivities began well in advance. Around 5 PM on Wednesday an oversized crane was present in front of University Hall on the Main Green, lifting 40-foot scaffolds that would support the brown awning over the main stage. I can’t help but wonder how past milestones were celebrated – was there this much setup involved in celebrating the 200th? Was student life on campus anywhere near as vibrant and varied as it is now?

 The short answer is, undoubtedly, no. In 1964 Pembroke was a separate entity and student groups numbered in the tens, not in the hundreds. The performance spaces required for this weekend (which include most, if not all, of the major venues on campus) could have comfortably housed the entire Brown community.
[Please note: as I wrote this, I assumed the setup was for the stage that usually is placed on the Main Green during events – it turns out it was the scaffolding for the 250th fireworks display. I do, however, think this observation is important.] As seemingly silly as the pomp surrounding University events is, there is a significance to using the same stage again and again for momentous occasions. At a certain level, the stage – with its brown footers, red tent, and familiar Brown seal adoring the top – is only a backdrop. Whether the orchestra at campus dance or an honorary doctorate being awarded, the stage takes a backseat to the spectacle it houses. It has become a familiar backdrop for campus photos, and often goes unnoticed. It is interesting to think, however, about its use for President Paxson’s inauguration last year. The event was not as universally awaited as Commencement  – but its use gave the occasion a weight that signified her installation as president. The use of the stage cemented her newfound authority, and her position as a new ceremonial figurehead for the University. I wonder if the event would have felt differently if they had erected her podium on the steps of Faunce.
This is, however, off the intended topic – during the setup, the Brown band filed onto the Main Green from the Quiet Green and began to play fight songs and some of their normal repertoire (Time Warp, Paul Simon, etc). They stood between Manning and University for about 30 minutes before making their way quietly off the green. I don’t, in fact, know where the band was going or why they had started on the quiet green. I do, however, know that it was cold enough outside that all walked briskly by and that there were no athletics scheduled for the day. It seems that the band came to play solely for the workers bringing the 250th ceremony to life.
As someone who used to be a part of a marching band, I realize how miserable it is to play in freezing temperatures. Yet many members of the Brown Band showed up on the Green with the sole purpose of giving the staff who erected the stage something to whistle along to. I’m not entirely sure what this says about our University as a whole; maybe I am incorrectly interpreting the Band’s stop on the Green. I like to think that this small act of kindness is distinctive of Brown and that we can realize and appreciate the work that goes into our spectacles. This reflection is distinctive of our community and came to life today during setup.