Brown University Library Special Collections

Archive for March, 2013

John Hay Library: Disruption During Spring Break

Posted by Ann Morgan Dodge on March 22, 2013

In preparation for the upcoming renovation, contractors will be working both on the exterior of the John Hay Library and in the reading room. This work will happen starting on Monday March 25th and will be completed on Friday March 29th. The Library will remain open during this time, but it may be noisy. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please e-mail Hay@brown.edu if you have any questions or concerns.

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ATTN: Faculty and Students, Special Collections Deadline Approaching!

Posted by Jennifer Betts on March 15, 2013


The Brown University Library is excited to announce the launching of the John Hay Library renovation project. Revitalization of this historic landmark will include a refurbishment of the magnificent first floor reading room into an open, welcoming study space for students; the creation of a new state-of-the-art special collections reading room in the area which formerly housed University Archives; improvements to the service and exhibit areas in the Central Hall of the first floor; addition of a student lounge and conference room; handicapped access to the front of the Library and code compliance and fire safety improvements throughout the building.

To accommodate the extensive work involved in the renovation, the John Hay Library will close beginning June 1, 2013, and will remain closed through the duration of the construction project until Fall 2014. During the construction project, there will be no access to the building, and access to Special Collections & Archives materials by faculty, students, and other researchers will be limited.

We will be able to pull a limited amount of Special Collections & Archives materials from the Hay Library stacks prior to the Library’s closing on June 1, 2013. These materials will be shelved elsewhere temporarily for access by classes and researchers during the renovation period. We are asking faculty and others to help us identify Special Collections & Archives materials that will be needed during the period that the Library will be closed. This input must be provided no later than April 5, 2013.

Specifically, faculty who will be teaching a course during Fall 2013 or Spring 2014 that will utilize Hay Library materials must contact the Library at HayRenovation@brown.edu by April 5, 2013.

Also, graduate students or undergraduate honors thesis students planning to do research using Special Collections & Archives materials during this period (June 2013 thru Fall 2014) must contact the Library at HayRenovation@brown.edu by April 5, 2013.

Please note that any Special Collections & Archives materials located at the Library Collections Annex (as denoted in the Josiah catalog record) will continue to be available throughout the renovation period. These materials may be used at the Annex (10 Park Lane, Providence) or requested for use on campus.

A temporary special collections reading area will be established in the Rockefeller Library to consult Special Collections & Archives materials retrieved from the Annex or that have been requested in advance of the Hay Library’s temporary closing. In addition, the Library encourages use of its digitized Signature Collections (selected Special Collections materials which have been digitized for public use) during the renovation period.

The John Hay Library renovation project is scheduled to be completed by the start of the Fall 2014 semester. With the capable guidance of Seldorf Architects, known for their elegant treatment in designing and renovating cultural institutions, the renewal of this space not only will fulfill important scholarly and programmatic needs of the Library and campus. The project’s completion also will serve to honor the John Hay Library’s founding donor, Andrew Carnegie, whose philanthropy was intended to do “real and permanent good,” benefitting Brown both today and tomorrow. We are most grateful to our generous donors for making this wonderful project possible. The results promise to be a space that will better protect and service the Library’s unique Special Collections, and open both the Library and its collections to inspire Brown students today and for generations to come.

We greatly appreciate the cooperation of all Brown faculty and students and other researchers and friends of the Hay during the period that the Library will be closed. We will provide regular updates on the progress of the John Hay Library renovation throughout the project. Additional information will be available at the project web site (coming soon).

Contact: Daniel O’Mahony

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Fleurs des Tranchées = Trench Flowers

Posted by Karen A. Eberhart on March 12, 2013

It arrived on my desk one morning.  A handmade scrapbook labeled Correspondances Militaires, 1916-1917 covered in paper the color of the French military uniform – bleu horizon.  Each letter was carefully pasted along one edge to a thin strip of paper.  Each letter was written to Emile Toulouse from his brothers Eugène and Jean and a smattering of friends and cousins.  They all served France during World War I.  Emile served as a firefighter in Paris.  Eugène served in the infantry.  Jean served with the artillery.

The most important function of war time letters is simply to assure family and friends that one is still in this world.  Eugène writes at the beginning of almost every letter and card exactly the same sentence:  “Je suis toujours en bonne santé et désire que ma lettre te trouve de même. = I am still in good health and hope that my letter finds you the same.”  The fact that Eugène wrote that for over 2.5 years (March 1915 until November 1917) while serving in the trenches in France is remarkable.  In the optimistic early days of 1915, he gathered flowers from each of the trenches.

Flowers collected in the trenches by Eugene Toulouse, 1915

By December 29, 1916, Eugène’s spirits were flagging and for good reason.  Below is a translated excerpt from that letter.

“ . . . From time to time here at this Compagnie de Dépôt we are almost as brutally treated as you are, and twice I was almost thrown in jail without any reason. You better believe it’s harsh to be treated that way especially because it’s possible that in one week we will have our pants on fire and our feet freeze. I am beginning to believe that we will never beat them although you know my morale was pretty high.  I can’t wait for the escape.”

[Translation by Dominique Coulombe, Senior Scholarly Resources Librarian]

To read that letter and all the others in this diminutive but interesting scrapbook visit the John Hay Library and request the Toulouse Family Correspondence (Ms.2012.017).

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