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

Event | Ungerleider Haggadot Symposium

On Friday, October 19, 2018, the Brown University Library will host the Ungerleider Haggadot Symposium, drawing on material from the Dr. Steven Ungerleider Collection of Haggadot. Free and open to the public, the symposium will take place from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the Digital Scholarship Lab at the Rockefeller Library. A kosher reception will follow the discussion.

Whether artistically elegant or plainly made, the Passover haggadah encapsulates much more than the simple retelling of the Biblical story of Moses leading the Hebrew people out of Egypt to the Promised Land. In its inculcation of scholarly commentary and its embodiment of ritual performance, it has provided a “mirror to Jewish history” for generation upon generation of Jews, all within the context of familial life. In this symposium, moderated by Adam Teller, Brown University Professor of History and Judaic Studies, three renowned scholars of Judaism and material culture will discuss aspects of the haggadah and how it was shaped to respond to the varied needs of ritual life across time and the Jewish diaspora:

  • Jonathan Sarna, Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University
  • David Stern, Harry Starr Professor of Classical and Modern Jewish and Hebrew Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Harvard University
  • Marc Epstein, Professor of Religion on the Mattie M. Paschall Davis and Norman H. Davis Chair at Vassar College

The Dr. Steven Ungerleider Collection of Haggadot was given to the Library by Dr. Steven Ungerleider, in memory of his father Samuel Ungerleider, Jr., Class of 1939. This collection of Haggadot–the text recited on the first two nights of the Jewish Passover–is remarkable for its geographic, linguistic, and temporal diversity. The collection comprises haggadot from Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and the Near East. It incorporates a wide range of Jewish vernacular languages, from Yiddish and Ladino to Judeo-Italian and Judeo-Arabic in representative exemplars from Jewish communities across the globe, many long since dispersed. The collection covers more than four hundred years of Jewish culture, from the Ottoman Empire in 1505 to the State of Israel in the 1950s.

Jonathan Sarna

Jonathan D. Sarna is University Professor and the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University, where he directs its Schusterman Center for Israel Studies. He also is the past president of the Association for Jewish Studies and Chief Historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.  Author or editor of more than thirty books on American Jewish history and life, his American Judaism: A History – soon to appear in a second edition —  won six awards including the 2004 “Everett Jewish Book of the Year Award” from the Jewish Book Council. Sarna is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Academy of Jewish Research. His most recent books are When General Grant Expelled the Jews and Lincoln & the Jews: A History (with Benjamin Shapell).

David Stern

David Stern joined the Harvard faculty in July 2015, after teaching at the University of Pennsylvania for many years. He has also been a visiting professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Princeton University, the University of Washington, and Nanjing University. The main topic of Stern’s scholarship is the nature of Jewish literary creativity within its larger historical and cultural contexts, and he has written articles, essays, and books on virtually every period of Jewish literary history from the early post-Biblical to the contemporary. The brunt of his work has focused on two areas: (1) Classical Rabbinic and Medieval Hebrew literature with a special interest in Biblical interpretation (Rabbinic midrash in particular) and its intersection with contemporary literary theory; (2) the history of the Jewish book as a material object, and specifically the histories of the four classics works of Jewish literary and religious tradition: The Hebrew Bible, the Babylonian Talmud, the Prayerbook, and the Passover Haggadah.

Marc Epstein

Marc Michael Epstein has been teaching at Vassar since 1992. He is a graduate of Oberlin College, received the PhD at Yale University, and did much of his graduate research at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has written on various topics in visual and material culture produced by, for, and about Jews. His most recent book, The Medieval Haggadah: Art, Narrative, and Religious Imagination (Yale, 2011) was selected by the London Times Literary Supplement as one of the best books of 2011. During the 80s, Epstein was Director of the Hebrew Books and Manuscripts division of Sotheby’s Judaica department, and continues to serve as consultant to various libraries, auction houses, museums and private collectors throughout the world, among them the Herbert C. and Eileen Bernard Museum at Temple Emanu-El in New York City, for which he curated the inaugural exhibition.

Adam Teller

Born in London and educated at Oxford University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Adam Teller specializes in the history of the Jews in eastern Europe. He has published widely on the history of the Jews in early modern Poland-Lithuania. His book, Money, Power, and Influence in Eighteenth Century Lithuania: The Jews on the Radziwiłł Estates, was published by Stanford University Press in 2016. Professor Teller was a member of the core academic team which created the exhibit at the award-winning POLIN Museum for the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, where he was responsible for two of the Museum’s eight galleries. He is currently a member of the museum’s Academic Advisory Council. Professor Teller is on the editorial board of Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry and is associate editor of Gal-Ed: On the History and Culture of Polish Jewry, published in Tel Aviv.

Date: Friday, October 19, 2018
Time: 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Location: Patrick Ma Digital Scholarship Lab, Rockefeller Library, 10 Prospect Street, Providence

Event | Patricio Simonetto: Revolution and Queer Politics in Argentina (1967 – 71)

On Wednesday, September 12, 2018 at 7 p.m. in the Digital Scholarship Lab at the Rockefeller Library, Dr. Patricio Simonetto will give a talk entitled, “Revolution and Queer Politics in Argentine (1967 – 71).” This event is free and open to the public.

Patricio Simonetto is a Doctor in Social Science and Humanities (Quilmes University, Argentina). He is a member of the Center of Studies in Memory, History, and Culture, The National Scientific and Technical Research Council. Author of Entre la Injuria y la Revolución. El Frente de Liberación Homosexual en la Argentina (1967-1976) (2017) and of El dinero no es todo. La compra y venta de sexo en la Argentina del siglo XX (2019, in press). His research focuses on the social and cultural history of sexuality in Latin America. His new research project studies the history of sex-change embodiment in Argentina.

Date: Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Patrick Ma Digital Scholarship Lab, Rockefeller Library, 10 Prospect Street, Providence

Exhibit | Chew on This! Early Dental History & Library Collections

Chew on This! Early Dental History and Library Collections

Whether functional or cosmetic, concern for and care of teeth have long been a part of the human condition. Written accounts of dental practices and practitioners can be found in numerous cultures around the globe as early as 5000 BC, and the first identified book on the subject was published in 1530. The era of “modern” dentistry is marked by the publication of Le Chirurgien Dentiste (The Surgeon Dentist, A Treatise on Teeth) by French surgeon Pierre Fauchard in 1723. Since then, the care and treatment of teeth have continued to grow in distinction and professionalization.

Discover dental history of the 1800s through the Rhode Island Medical Society papers and collections at the Library, and examine some of the tools and text involved in the ever-evolving medical art of dentistry.

Dates: September 5 – 30, 2018
TimeJohn Hay Library Hours
Location: Second Floor Landing, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Exhibit | Victory Won Pro-Life Bumper Stickers (1991–5)

Explore bumper stickers from the Hall-Hoag Collection produced by Victory Won from 1991-5, in support of the anti-abortion/pro-life/right-to-life movement. The movement in general terms seeks to prevent legal abortion and recriminalize the procedure, which was legalized, based on a woman’s right to privacy, in the 1973 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade.

The Gordon Hall and Grace Hoag Collection of Dissenting and
Extremist Printed Propaganda
The Hall-Hoag Collection exceeds 168,000 items emanating from over 5,000 organizations. It constitutes the country’s largest research collection of right- and left-wing U.S. extremist groups from 1950 to 1999.  Largely comprising pamphlets and leaflets, with smaller numbers of photos, audiovisual items, manuscripts and monographs, the unrivaled collection contains printed organizational literature meant for circulation among adherents and items used to proselytize. Materials represent the broad categories of culture, education, environment, gender, international relations, government, labor, media, non-extremism, politics, publishing, race, religion, sexuality, social issues, students and violence/militarism.

Dates: August 1 – 31, 2018
TimeJohn Hay Library Hours
Location: Second Floor Landing, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Exhibit | Japanese Ceremonial and Other Vehicles, 1890

Japan: Unknown, 1890
Brown University Library, Special Collections

Selected 19th Century prints with captions from a collection of 28 double-page wood engravings of two-wheeled ceremonial and other vehicles.

Dates: July 9 – 31, 2018
TimeJohn Hay Library Hours
Location: Second Floor Landing, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Exhibit | Stamps of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)

“The DPRK is an independent socialist state representing the interests of all the Korean people. The Republic is the Juche-oriented socialist state which embodies the idea and leadership of Comrade Kim Il Sung, the founder of the Republic and the father of socialist Korea. His idea and the achievements made under his leadership are the basic guarantee for the Republic’s prosperity.

The socialist system of the Republic is a people-centred social system in which the masses of the working people are the masters of everything and everything in society serves them. In accordance with the nature of its socialist system, the Government of the Republic defends and protects the interests of workers, peasants and intellectuals and all other working people who have become masters of state and society, free from exploitation and oppression.”  –  Official webpage of the DPRK

Learn about the people, artistry, doctrines and culture of the 72 year-old Democratic People’s Republic of Korea through postage stamps made for circulation. Examine selections from the Brown University Library stamp collections up close while expanding your understanding of what CNN recently described as “one of the most secretive societies still under nominally communist rule.”

Stamps on view include:  Order of the National Flag, 1950; Korean Paintings, 1974; Declaration of Human Rights, 1998 and Anti-Imperalism Posters, 2010.

Dates: June 1 – 30, 2018
TimeJohn Hay Library Hours
Location: Second Floor Landing, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence





Announcement | Winner of the 2018 Undergraduate Prize for Excellence in Library Research

L-R: Heather Cole, Librarian for Literary and Popular Culture Collections; Charlie Steinman ’20, Winner of the 2018 Undergraduate Prize for Excellence in Library Research; Bill Monroe, Senior Scholarly Resources Librarian

This year’s Undergraduate Prize for Excellence in Library Research was awarded to Charlie Steinman ’20 for his paper: “’Martin Luther’s whore more than a pope’: Annotation, Disgust, and Materiality in the Reformation Reception of the Pope Joan Myth.” The paper was written for History 1964A: “Age of Impostors: Fraud, Identity, and the Self in Early Modern Europe,” taught by Professor Tara Nummedal.

The award was presented to Charlie at a celebration in the Digital Scholarship Lab in the Rockefeller Library on May 4, 2018.

Charlie’s paper examined at the myth of Pope Joan as it was received in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation Europe, especially as revealed in printed books of the period. He had discovered that the image of Pope Joan in Brown’s copy of the Nuremburg Chronicle was scratched out, and further searching revealed many copies of this and other printed chronicles have similar effacements, sometimes with marginal notes. He determined that these effacements were the work of Catholic readers, who were responding to Protestant uses of the Pope Joan myth to discredit the papacy and its purported apostolic succession.  The Catholics wished to show that Pope Joan did not exist and sought to remove her from the histories.

Charlie cites one example of defacement in a copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle in the Universitäts und Landesbibliothek Darmstadts in which the reader both smudged out the image of Pope Joan and left an annotation around it. “He/she writes: ‘Martin Luther’s whore more than a pope.’ (Martini Lutheri concubina potiusquam papa).”

One of the prize judges wrote, “This is a highly original, engaging, and readable work that makes impressive use of archival materials both at Brown and beyond. The affective reading of annotations is poised to contribute to future scholarship.” Another judge commented, “Both the description of the author’s process of research and the paper itself read like a mystery novel, and one can “see” his mind working (I wonder if defacement occurs in other copies…?) as he goes from text to text, engaging various languages and libraries in the process.”

Congratulations to Charlie for a job well done! The Undergraduate Prize for Excellence in Library Research is sponsored by the Office of the Dean of the College and the Brown University Library.

This year’s panel of judges was composed of:

  • Claudia Elliott, Senior Lecturer in International and Public Affairs
  • Johanna Hannink, Associate Professor of Classics
  • Jessica Metzler, Associate Director, Humanities & Social Sciences, Sheridan Center for Teaching
  • Heather Cole, Librarian for Literary and Popular Culture Collections
  • William S. Monroe, Senior Scholarly Resources Librarian

Alumni Reunion Forum | Taking Action in the Public Square

Were you first engaged in organizing for change at Brown?  Are you engaged now? Join fellow Brown alumni to discuss the gratification and challenges of public engagement. Share your story about your participation in efforts to make your community a better place through social change, greater diversity, higher standards, and equitable structures.

Join the Brown University Library and the Brown Alumni Association for an Alumni Reunion Forum entitled, “Taking Action in the Public Square,” on Saturday, May 26, from 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm in the Lownes Room of the John Hay Library.


  • Jane Beckett (Class of 1968), Jane Beckett & Associates
  • Bob Cohen (Class of 1968), Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission
  • Katie Cohen (Class of 2013), North Shore (Massachusetts) Labor Council, AFL-CIO
  • Jim Dickson (Class of 1968), American Association of People with Disabilities
  • Ken Galdston (Class of 1968), InterValley Project
  • Rinku Sen (Class of 1988), Race Forward

Date: Saturday, May 26, 2018
Time: 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Location: John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Exhibit | From Gospel Hymns to “Mississippi Goddam”: the Evolving Soundtrack of the Civil Rights Era and Beyond

Music was a sonic weapon used by Civil Rights organizations against violence and oppression. Songs were used to inspire, unite and comfort participants at meetings, sit-ins, marches and in jail cells. Trace the journey for equality and the music it inspired, and discover iconic pieces that have become staples of protest movements around the world.

For more documents related to the Civil Rights era (particularly in Mississippi), see the Library’s ‘Freedom Now!’ archive, a cooperative digitizing project undertaken by Brown University and Tougaloo College:

Dates: May 1 – October 1, 2018
TimeLibrary Hours
Location: Orwig Music Library, 1 Young Orchard Avenue, Providence