Announcement | Brown Library publishes “Race &” in America digital book series

Free and open publication documents and expands series exploring origins, history, and legacies of anti-Black racism in the U.S.

Providence, R.I. [Brown University] Over the course of the 2020-21 academic year, the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown, in partnership with the Office of the Provost, undertook a systematic investigation of the foundational and enduring contemporary effects of anti-Black racism in America. Drawing on the expertise of Brown scholars from a range of fields and scholarly perspectives as well as the University’s historic strength and leadership in scholarship on race, the pioneering “Race &” in America panel series generated critical engagements with society’s most fundamental and urgent questions. Investigating the role that racism plays in American public health, democracy, punishment, and more, the informed and illuminating discussions deepened knowledge and awareness in the service of promoting a more just and inclusive community and world. The “Race &” in America digital publication series amplifies the impact and extends the reach of this important and timely panel series.

Developed by the Brown University Library’s Digital Publications Initiative and in close coordination with Tricia Rose, Chancellor’s Professor of Africana Studies, Associate Dean of the Faculty for Special Initiatives, and Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, the “Race &” in America digital publication series re-presents the compelling original panel discussions with expanded content and resources in an innovative, interactive format, designed to heighten understanding and broaden these critical conversations. “The ‘Race &’ series and its creative digital presentation reflect two core elements of CSREA’s vision: to foster dynamic intellectual community on crucial issues and ensure long-lasting access to ideas,” said Rose. “By offering an array of Brown faculty reflecting on the importance and complexity of the way race defines American society from slavery to genetics to art, and making it available through this interactive, digital platform with enhanced content, we’re able to contribute to ongoing conversations on these critical issues.”

The “Race &” digital publication is a remarkable example of Brown’s dedication to its mission of creating and sharing knowledge in service of society. According to Richard M. Locke, Brown University provost: 

Brown is committed to conducting and disseminating widely consequential research designed to elevate awareness of pressing societal issues and contribute to meaningful change. The “Race &” in America series is emblematic of this commitment. Over the course of a year, we have shared Brown’s faculty expertise in the interwoven areas that define and perpetuate anti-Black racism in the U.S., and through this engaging digital delivery, we’re able to amplify and extend the impact of these important contributions.

As an open access publication, the digital series provides enduring, barrier-free access to information, and has been developed with universal design principles for equitable use by all persons, including those with disabilities. In addition, the series features responsive design — readable on all digital devices, from smartphones to desktops — and robust highlighting, annotation, and sharing tools that encourage deep reader engagement and allow users to interact with one another.

Each of the eight volumes in the digital series includes:

  • A recording of one of the 90-minute panel discussions that took place throughout the 2020-2021 academic year
  • Student Voices podcast episodes in which Brown University students engage the panelists in follow-up discussion 
  • Recommendations for entry-point materials on the subject
  • Multimedia resource collections of readings, online exhibitions, podcasts, and other materials referenced during the panel discussions
  • Suggestions for further exploration

“The ‘Race &’ in America series is an important step forward for Brown’s leadership in both scholarship on race and digital scholarly publications,” said University Librarian Joseph Meisel. “It ensures that the penetrating perspectives and fresh critical analyses advanced through this remarkable academic initiative are not simply preserved as a video link on some website, but rather rendered more fully in a format that sustains and broadens the impact of this essential work for education, further research, and public understanding.”    

The digital series consists of eight volumes:

Brown’s Digital Publications Initiative — a collaboration between the University Library and the Dean of the Faculty, generously launched with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation — creates exciting new conditions for the production and sharing of knowledge. Widely recognized as accessible, intentional, and inclusive, Brown’s path-breaking Initiative is helping to set the standards for the future of scholarship in the digital age.

Questions about the “Race &” in America digital publication series or the Library’s Digital Publications Initiative generally can be addressed to Allison Levy, Digital Scholarship Editor (allison_levy@brown.edu).

Announcement | Library Updating Search and Catalog System

Rockefeller Library Circulation Manager Kimberly Silva

BruKnow — the Library’s updated search and catalog system named by Brown students — will deliver enhanced searching capabilities when it goes live on August 18, 2021.

Enhanced Searching

The updated system will yield more extensive catalog resource results, offer more refined search tools, and provide many user-friendly features like saved searches, notifications for new items relevant to saved searches, smart spelling correction, virtual browsing of physical items, and “best bets.”

BruKnow the Name

Undergraduate students Isabel Kim ’22 and Michal Loren ’23 each individually submitted “BruKnow” as a name suggestion during the students-only naming contest hosted by the Library during Spring and Summer 2021. 93 students submitted 125 name suggestions. A group of ten students composed of members of the Library Advisory Board, the Graduate Library Advisory Council, and identified through the Undergraduate Council of Students narrowed the submissions down to five finalists. 223 students voted for their favorite name among the finalists, and BruKnow was the most popular choice.

The students who suggested the names that made the short list in addition to BruKnow:

  • Noah Howard ’25
  • Amita Sastry ’20, MD’24
  • Harshini Venkatachalam ’23
  • Daniel Wexler ’22

Why a New System

The software company ExLibris acquired the company that provides the Library’s current system (including Josiah), which dates back to the 1990s. The Library decided to proactively migrate to the integrated library system offered by ExLibris, known as “Alma,” and its search counterpart, “Primo.” BruKnow is the Library’s Primo. ExLibris has been working with Library staff to customize the system for our unique catalog and users.

Process of Moving to a New System

In addition to an enormous transfer of information, the migration process includes user testing and feedback analysis and significant staff training. The Library eagerly anticipates streamlined workflows across previously disparate systems, processes, and departments, resulting in enhanced services and availability of resources.

As we near the go live date in August, the Library will provide patrons with training materials for searching and understanding search results.

We Welcome Your Feedback and Input

If you have questions or feedback about BruKnow or would like to volunteer to test the system, please email libfaq@brown.libanswers.com.

Announcement | Stolen Relations: Recovering Stories of Indigenous Enslavement in the Americas

“Return of Indians,” Mosquito Shore registry of enslaved Indians, 1777. CO 123/31/125. The National Archives, UK.

The Library has been contributing to a community-centered database project led by Professor Linford Fisher that seeks to document the many instances of Indigenous enslavement in the Americas between 1492 through 1900. Formerly entitled, Database of Indigenous Slavery Archive (DISA), the project is now named, Stolen Relations: Recovering Stories of Indigenous Enslavement in the Americas.

Since the summer of 2019, with guidance from Professor Rae Gould and Lydia Curliss, Physical Sciences Librarian and member of the Nipmuc Nation, the team has been working with Native partners from twelve different tribal nations in the southern New England area. Together, the collaborators decided to change the project name to one that reflects the efforts and goals to decolonize the project and become more community and Indigenous centered.

Rather than simply make accessible the records of Indigenous people who were enslaved, the project is designed to offer a decolonizing framework that explores the 21st century impact of enslavement that has ruptured the relations of Indigenous people, families, and nations. In short, stolen relations. The project recovers the stories of Indigenous enslavement in order to bring to light the stories and to contextualize them within the larger context of settler colonialism.

Because the team is largely collecting archival documents about indigenous enslavement that are written by the colonizer, it is essential to indigenize the presentation of the database so that there is a decolonizing context around the language from archival documents. For example, rather than simply list “tribe” affiliations, as is sometimes listed on the original document, the database will provide information on how archival documents often include terms that diminish the nationhood and sovereignty of Indigenous peoples (such as the word “tribe”). And in many cases, the tribal/national affiliation of enslaved Natives was completely erased. The project intends to reassert the nation-to-nation relationship that tribes have, and center that context alongside the data.

In this early phase of the project, the database is not yet public — though the project website is public. The team is working with tribal partners and a group of researchers to identify, enter, and interpret relevant historical and oral historical materials, and is currently looking to partner with individuals and institutions who are willing to send materials they have or join the research team to input materials directly. Please visit the project’s Contribute page or contact Linford D. Fisher to learn more.

Stolen Relations has been generously funded and supported by the following entities:

Library staff members working on the Stolen Relations project:

  • Ashley Champagne, Digital Humanities Librarian, Center for Digital Scholarship, Brown University (Project Manager)
  • Lydia Curliss, Physical Sciences Librarian, Academic Engagement, Brown University Library (Nipmuc)
  • Birkin Diana, Digital Technologies Developer, Brown University Library
  • Patrick Rashleigh, Data Visualization Coordinator, Center for Digital Scholarship, Brown University
  • Ben Tyler, Publications and Design Specialist

A Message from the University Library to Graduate Programs and Students | Access to Scholarly Resources during Campus Closure

Dear Department Chairs, Directors of Graduate Studies, and Graduate Students,

Joseph S. Meisel, Joukowsky Family
University Librarian

At the Brown University Library, we are well aware that the COVID-19 public health crisis is having an impact on graduate students’ ability to study for qualifying exams and carry out thesis and dissertation research. At Brown, as is the case at universities across the country, we know that suspending all onsite activity at the Library is contributing to these challenges.  

I am writing to let you know about the work we have been doing to strengthen how the Library supports graduate students under these circumstances, and to ensure that you are aware of the resources that are available to help you move forward with your scholarship.

Individual Research Help

You can connect directly with a Library expert in your area who can support your research, answer questions, provide you with digital content, and offer reliable scholarly guidance during this time of stress and uncertainty. 

Increased Digital Access

Significantly expanded access to digital content is being made available during the COVID-19 pandemic. More digital scholarly content continues to be made freely accessible, and we are regularly updating our list as this happens.

The Library offers several ways to access digital content:

  1. Through our existing systems
  • Search Josiah, the online catalog, for books, articles, and other materials that Brown owns or subscribes to in electronic formats.
  • Request items through Interlibrary Loan. Requests are continuing to be filled for articles available electronically.
  • Many items from our physical collection are now available electronically via HathiTrust. We have added a link to the HathiTrust version to the records in Josiah. You will need to login with your Brown University web credentials to access the content.
  1. By contacting a librarian

You can request items by emailing rock@brown.edu (general) and hay@brown.edu (special collections).

  •  Library experts can help you locate materials available at Brown and elsewhere.
  • If you are looking for a book that exists in electronic format to which Brown does not currently have access, we will purchase that item if it is possible to do so.  
  • Special collections librarians will seek to identify primary source material in digital format through other libraries and archives that can contribute to students’ research. They can also offer individualized consultations regarding research methods and organizing your digital research files. Special collections is working on other creative solutions to provide digital access to its collections and to connect students with digital content at other institutions. The more we know about student research needs, the better we can deploy to find solutions.

Access to Physical Materials

We recognize that electronically available materials, however abundant, cannot address all scholarly needs and that digital content can also pose accessibility challenges. At this time, most university libraries have discontinued physical circulation and loans. For the health and safety of our staff, we are unable to provide physical access to Library materials until the University authorizes onsite activities to resume.  

As the University announced recently, President Paxson has charged a Healthy Fall 2020 Task Force with charting a path to the safe reopening of the campus. As the principles, process, and timeline for reopening emerge, the Library will be able to provide more information on how and when we can resume physical access to general and special collections materials. Like you, we are looking forward to that day.  

***

As researchers and scholarly experts ourselves, and as dedicated partners for you and your academic programs, we keenly appreciate the challenges you are facing in moving forward with your graduate studies. The Brown University Library is committed to doing whatever is possible under the circumstances to help you. To that end, we will continue to explore new ways to provide more of the content you need. In the meantime, keep telling us what you need and we’ll do our very best!

With best wishes for your safety and wellbeing,

Joe

Joseph S. Meisel
Joukowsky Family University Librarian

Exhibit | The Last Will of Walt Whitman

Camden, New Jersey: June 29, 1888
Brown University Library, Special Collections

In June of 1888, celebrated American poet Walt Whitman suffered a stroke, which left him partially paralyzed. Fearful he would not recover, Whitman drafted this will, which leaves the majority of his money to his sisters, his property to his brother, and names three literary executors. Whitman would survive for four more years, and go on to publish four more works, including his “Deathbed Edition” of Leaves of Grass.

This manuscript is just one of several thousand books and manuscripts recently presented to the library by Daniel G. Siegel ’57.

Exhibit Dates: October 4 – 31, 2019
Exhibit TimeJohn Hay Library Hours
Exhibit Location: Second Floor Landing, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Announcement | Wall Street Journal Access

Brown University Library and The Wall Street Journal 

Brown University Library and The Wall Street Journal have partnered to provide school-sponsored WSJ memberships to all Brown University students, faculty, and staff. Through the partnership, readers have complete and personalized digital access to The Wall Street Journal and the WSJ app.

How to activate your complimentary WSJ membership: 

Students, faculty, and staff at Brown University can activate their complimentary memberships by visiting WSJ.com/Brown, logging into their school portal, and creating an account on the registration page. Those who currently pay for an existing membership may call 1-800-JOURNAL, and mention they are switching to their subscription provided by Brown University. Partial refunds will be dispersed. 

About The Wall Street Journal 

The Wall Street Journal is a global news organization that provides news, information, commentary, and analysis. Published by Dow Jones, The Wall Street Journal engages readers across print, digital, mobile, social, and video. Building on its heritage as the preeminent source of global business and financial news, the Journal includes coverage of U.S. & world news, politics, arts, culture, lifestyle, sports and health. It holds 38 Pulitzer Prizes for outstanding journalism. 

A Student’s Journey through Special Collections and the Creation of “Fields of Hay”

A student-driven project led by undergraduate Shira Buchsbaum ’19, the recently launched website Fields of Hay offers students a guide for making use of the John Hay Library and Brown’s special collections resources.

Written by Shira Buchsbaum ’19

Mary Elizabeth Sharpe and My First Foray into Special Collections

My journey to the John Hay Library was meandering and inconsistent. My first semester at Brown, my writing professor, Kate Schapira, assigned a piece that required drawing from any archive in Brown’s libraries. I picked the Mary Elizabeth Sharpe collection, which ended up being 20 boxes of letters, blueprints, photographs, contracts, and designs from Sharpe’s life.

Mary Elizabeth Sharpe was married to Henry Dexter Sharpe, the Chancellor of Brown from 1932-1952, and she was a go-getter. Sharpe designed much of the landscaping on campus, including for the then-new Sharpe Refectory and, later, the Sciences Library. She was a critical player in establishing India Point Park and fighting oil money in Providence.

I learned all of this about Sharpe in a few afternoons at the Hay, sitting with her papers and imagining the fierceness of this lady who took meticulous notes about trellises and leaf piles on our campus greens. I kept Mary Elizabeth Sharpe in the back of my head throughout my first two years at Brown, marking the John Hay Library as the place where I learned about our highly manicured campus and the woman behind it.

“Howard terrace, Pembroke College, Providence, R.I.” (1960). Landscaping directed by Mary Elizabeth Sharpe. Images of Brown. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.

A Reintroduction: Shakespeare’s First Folio and Working at the Hay

My junior fall, I stumbled back into the building during a reception and met William Shakespeare’s first Folio on the second floor of the John Hay Library. Brought to tears as I turned the pages of this nearly 400-year-old volume, I asked the lady behind the table, “Do students, like, work here?” The serendipity of that moment landed me in the midst of archives and collections once again, this time as a collections assistant.

John Hay Library’s copy of Shakespeare’s first Folio. Photo by Shira Buchsbaum.

Fields of Hay: An Undergraduate Research Guide to the John Hay Library

In our first conversation, Heather Cole, my new boss, and I discussed creating a guide for undergraduates to access the John Hay Library with more ease. I spent the next 18 months chatting with curators, requesting materials, conducting research, and honing how to convey the richness and variety of the materials here and their availability for student scholarship.

On March 7, 2019, World Book Day, we launched Fields of Hay, the undergraduate research guide to the John Hay Library. On Fields of Hay, students can learn about materials housed at the Hay, read about standing collections, find information on how to request materials, see featured projects by other students, and register student academic or activity groups for programs at the Hay. Fields of Hay aims to demystify the Hay by demonstrating its accessibility and breadth of materials to all students. It also seeks to promote student scholarship by showing that working with primary resources need not be an elite, selective process: it is as simple as finding one compelling item and spending time with it. The website aims to transform haphazard, wayward discoveries of the Hay into a far-reaching, common experience for Brown students. Fields of Hay is home base.

The Impact of Special Collections and an Invitation

I wish I hadn’t treated my interaction with Mary Elizabeth Sharpe as a one-off experience designed for a single class with no lasting implications on my life at Brown. Had I been able to return to the Hay through mechanisms designed for me – through a website that clarified how I could ingratiate myself with these materials – I would have returned sooner. As soon as students arrive at Brown, Fields of Hay can guide them to original, exciting research, or simply enjoying items connected to their interests – no strings or requirements or assignments necessary. Come on in and get started.

Shira Buchsbaum ’19 studied Anthropology and English Non-Fiction Writing and was the primary creator of Fields of Hay, under the advisor-ship of Heather Cole. She wrote her senior thesis about curatorial decision-making for the Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays as reflective of changing conceptions of American literature. Any inquiries about Fields of Hay and materials or programming at the Hay can be sent to shira_buchsbaum@brown.edu.

New Film Streaming Service on Trial

The Library is running a trial of Film Platform, a streaming video service.  Film Platform brings relevant and highly regarded films from the festival circuit to the Library. Their aim is to bring these important stories to the forefront of the global academic conversation. The collection is meticulously curated by film experts and leading academics to showcase critically-acclaimed documentaries of social, political and cultural importance.

Try Film Platform at the link below:

https://login.revproxy.brown.edu/login?url=https://www.filmplatform.net/universities/brown-university

Exhibit | Mail carried by Murier, an enslaved person

Letter from Christopher Scott to Nathan Nield, December 31, 1792
Brown University Library, Special Collections

This piece of paper, sent from Christopher Scott of Petersburg to Nathan Nield of Mercer County, served as both letter and, when folded, as envelope, with a red wax seal.

Known today as “slave carried mail,” this letter was carried by “a Negro woman Murier” and contains information about an exchange of Murier for another enslaved female named Christian.

The Library invites you to parse the contents of the letter. What does this artifact tell us about the history of the country? Of commerce in the U.S.? What does it tell us about the struggles women have faced as well as the fraught nature of relationships? Why is preserving items like this so important to contemporary research?

Dates: October 2 – 31, 2018
TimeJohn Hay Library Hours
Location: Second Floor Landing, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Interested in Genealogy?

The Library has added two new genealogy databases:

With more than 1.5 billion names in over 4,000 databases, Ancestry Library includes records from the United States Census; military records; court, land and probate records; vital and church records; directories; passenger lists and more!

Fold3 provides convenient access to military records, including the stories, photos, and personal documents of the men and women who served. The Fold3 name comes from a traditional flag folding ceremony in which the third fold is made in honor and remembrance of veterans who served in defense of their country and to maintain peace throughout the world.

Check these out on the Database A-Z list!