Brown University Library Special Collections

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James Manning

Posted by Karen A. Eberhart on May 8, 2012

This week, as we look forward to the 242nd Commencement, we provide you with a glimpse into the early days and struggles of this venerable institution to gain respect and scholars.  During the first 3 years, 1764-1767, James Manning was not only the first President but also the only faculty member.  The first commencement was held in 1769 at which time 7 young men graduated and 21 men of distinction were awarded Honorary Degrees.  On November 12, 1772, James Manning wrote to his friend John C. Ryland in England with the happy news that John C. Ryland, Junior had received his degree from Rhode Island College that same spring.  He also took the opportunity to comment on the political situation affecting the ability of the school to attract students.

James Manning to John C. Ryland, 12 Nov 1772, James Manning papers, MS-1C-1, Brown University Archives

“With this I send you a Catalogue of those who have received the honours of the College, from the first [to] our last Commencement, I believe, acquired us considerable Reputation amongst the Literate in N. England and had we not to combat with the inveterate Enmity of the N. England Clergy, it would have added to the Number of our Scholars, but they take unwearied pains to prevent any from coming, if possible, and don’t  [?] at the Methods of carrying their Points: but, thank God, they don’t govern the World.”

James Manning was clearly able to overcome the clergy that worked against him.  A total of 40,244 scholars applied to be admitted to Brown University for the 2011-2012 academic year. Of that number a total of 8,454 students began their studies in September 2011.  James Manning would no doubt be flabbergasted by those numbers and extremely pleased.

You can learn more about James Manning’s experience as the first President of Brown University by visiting the Guide to the James Manning Papers (MS-1C-1).  Digital copies of all his correspondence can be viewed by clicking on the link for each item in the inventory.

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120 Years of Women at Brown

Posted by Jennifer Betts on May 5, 2012


May 3 – June 29, 2012
John Hay Library

The exhibit chronicles the experiences of women during their years on campus and beyond. Drawing on materials from the University Archives, Christine Dunlap Farnham Archives, and Feminist Theory Archives, the exhibit illustrates the evolution of women’s education at Brown. On display are photographs, letters, papers, published materials, and artifacts that narrate personal reflections of women at Brown and the University policies that shaped their lives on campus over the past twelve decades.

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John Hay Library Closing at 4pm on April 26th

Posted by Ann Morgan Dodge on April 19, 2012

Due to a special event, the John Hay Library will close at 4PM on Thursday April 26th. The Library will re-open at 10AM on Friday April 27th. We apologize for any inconvenience.

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Time Capsule

Posted by Karen A. Eberhart on April 18, 2012

A recent blog post titled Baptist Churches announced the arrival of the records for 4 Baptist Churches in Rhode Island.  This week brings a glimpse into the life of one of them – the Roger Williams Baptist Church of Providence, RI.

How often have you walked past the cornerstone of a building and wished you could look inside the time capsule housed within?  What do people put in them?  Do the contents survive the journey through time?

The members of the Roger Williams Baptist Church built a chapel in 1889 to accommodate their growing community.  On September 14, 1889 they celebrated the new building with a service to lay the new cornerstone.  Underneath the stone they enclosed a time capsule in a copper box.  When the membership swelled to over 400 members they built an addition to the church in 1906. The time capsule was moved and placed underneath the new cornerstone.  The photo below shows the stone suspended on a pulley.  The man standing in the middle is Manton Metcalf holding the copper box in his left hand.

Laying the cornerstone for the new addition on the Roger Williams Baptist Church, Providence, RI, June 2, 1906.

David Dobson opening the copper time capsule box, October 1, 2011.

Starting in the 1950s, the membership of the church steadily declined until weekly attendance dwindling to less than twenty in 2010.  The remaining members voted to close the church with the last service on November 20, 2011.  But before they closed their doors they opened the cornerstone and retrieved the time capsule.

What they found inside were mementos from 1889 documenting the church, Rhode Island, and the world including: a list of all the members of the church, constitution and by-laws of the church, publications relating to the Baptist Church in RI, 2 newspapers, money, and 35 small flags from most of the countries in the world at the time.

Contents of the 1889 time capsule of the Roger Williams Baptist Church, Providence, RI.

The most curious object is a small American flag with 36 stars.  There were 38 states in September, 1889 when the time capsule was created (4 more states were admitted in November 1889) and the inscription reads “God Bless the Commonwealth of Rhode Island, Loyalty to Ceasar.”  The flag probably dates to 1865-1867, the only years during which there were 36 states.  Rhode Island is generally not called a Commonwealth. Only 4 states use that term in their official names: Massachusetts, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.  And why is someone, who doesn’t know how to spell Caesar, pledging their loyalty to him?  The reason it was included may simply be because it was the smallest flag available and the inscription was written years prior by someone else.  It is nonetheless a curious item.

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Focus On Special Collections: Titanic

Posted by Ann Morgan Dodge on April 12, 2012

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the staff of the John Hay Library will display several news accounts of the disaster, including articles from the 1912 Providence Journal. Additional items related to the ship (sheet music, poetry and plays) will be on display. RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic on 15 April 1912 after colliding with an iceberg; over 1500 people perished.

Please join us at noon on Tuesday April 17th in the Lownes Room to relive history.

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Baptist Churches

Posted by Karen A. Eberhart on April 11, 2012

The records for 4 Baptist churches have been donated to the John Hay Library during the past year to augment the Baptist Collection.

1.  Shawomet Baptist Church, Warwick, RI, 1842-2011

2.  Meshanticut Baptist Church, Cranston, RI, 1899-2011

3.  Roger Williams Baptist Church, Providence, RI, 1867-2011

4.  Niantic Baptist Church, Westerly, RI, 1851-2012

The records of these churches provide documentation related to the debate over the vitality of religious organizations in the United States.  All four churches served as vital centers of worship for their communities for 100-160 years.  They all survived the tumult of the economic, social and political upheavals and changing neighborhood demographics of the past 160+ years.  The reason for their closure may be linked to a larger societal trend or may simply be the natural life cycle of an organization.  They are now available for use by researchers interested in that topic or many others involving the role of religion in the life of a community.

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University Archives Orientation

Posted by Jennifer Betts on February 21, 2012

Are you in the midst of researching a paper and don’t know how to begin using sources in the University Archives? Register for University Archives Orientation on Wednesday, March 7 at 4 pm in the John Hay Library. This course will explain how to navigate the University Archives’ resources through the use of paper and online sources. A selection of resources from various collections will be on display in the Lownes Room of the John Hay Library.

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Seeing Ourselves, Showing Ourselves: Brown's Culture on Display, Haffenreffer Museum (Manning Hall)

Posted by Jennifer Betts on May 5, 2011

Seeing Ourselves, Showing Ourselves: Brown’s Culture on Display

May 3 –  June/July, 2011

Haffenreffer Museum (Manning Hall)

Students from Brown’s Public Humanities program have curated an intriguing exhibit of museum objects from the University Archives. The exhibit explores how objects, artifacts, and documents represent students’ experiences on campus.

The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology: http://brown.edu/Facilities/Haffenreffer/index.html

The John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage: http://www.brown.edu/Research/JNBC/index.html

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A Life in Motion: A reading by Florence Howe, 4/29 at 3 pm, Pembroke 305

Posted by Jennifer Betts on April 25, 2011

Friday, April 29, 2011

3 pm

Pembroke Hall 305, 172 Meeting Street

Guest speaker: Florence Howe

Florence Howe has led an audacious life: she created a freedom school during the civil rights movement, refused to bow to academic heavyweights who were opposed to sharing power with women, and founded a feminist publishing house at a time when books for and about women were few. Sustained by her relationships with ironic writers like Grace Paley, Tillie Olsen, and Marilyn French, she traveled the world as an emissary for women’s empowerment. Howe’s memoir spans her eighty years of personal struggle and professional triumphs.

Sponsored by the Brown University Library, the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women, and the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center.

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Tips & Tools: How do I search for a thesis?

Posted by Jennifer Betts on March 25, 2011

How do I search for a thesis?

To locate an undergraduate or master’s thesis:

  • Go to Josiah (http://josiah.brown.edu/search/)
  • Select Call Number
  • Change the type of call number to Other Brown Call Numbers
  • Search for the call number:
    • Honors thesis: 1-N HO
    • Master’s thesis: 1-N M
  • If you are trying to locate a thesis from a particular year, search for the call number with the year:
    • Honors thesis: 1-N HO YYYY
    • Master’s thesis: 1-N MYYYY

All theses are stored off-site unless they contain Brown University content.  Select Request This to have a thesis sent to the John Hay Library and placed on reserve in your name.

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