Exhibit | Collecting with Distinction: Faculty Insights into Recent Acquisitions

Peruse the gallery and discover what is new and unique about Special Collections at the Hay Library.  Explore recent acquisitions from the 14th century to the present through the lens of renowned Brown faculty, and gain insight into the place where the past, present and individual connect.

Opening reception:  Friday, November 22nd, 4-6 PM

Dates: November 22, 2019 – February 14, 2020
Time: John Hay Library Hours
Location: Exhibition Gallery, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

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 | Network of Women Writers and Readers Crux of John Hay Library’s Janis Ian Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy


The John Hay Library is now home to renowned recording artist, writer, and activist Janis Ian’s collection of personally inscribed works of science fiction and fantasy, many by women and LGBTQ authors. 

Janis Ian holding guitar
Janis Ian

Providence, R.I. [Brown University Library] The John Hay Library at Brown University is delighted to announce the acquisition of Janis Ian’s personal library, including collections of books of contemporary science fiction and fantasy authors inscribed to her. Among these authors are Anne McCaffrey, George R. R. Martin, Mercedes Lackey, Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress, Neil Gaiman, Connie Willis, Harlan Ellison, Jane Yolen, Tanith Lee, Diane Duane, and many others. In all, the Library received approximately 200 volumes from Ms. Ian’s collection.

The John Hay Library is the Brown University Library’s repository for rare books, manuscripts, archives, and other special collections. Its holdings of U.S. and Canadian poetry, plays, and vocal music dating from 1609 to the present day are considered to be among the largest and most comprehensive of their kind in any research library, including significant clusters in women’s writings, LGBTQ literature, science fiction and fantasy, and modern first editions.

cover of The Dragonriders of Pern
Cover of “The Dragonriders of Pern” by Anne McCaffrey, part of the Janis Ian Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy at the John Hay Library

The Janis Ian Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy will take its place alongside unique items like the only surviving manuscript of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the preeminent collection of H. P. Lovecraft’s papers, and a robust array of writings by more recent masters of speculative fiction such as Caitlín Kiernan and Samuel Delany.

Heather Cole, Curator for Literature and Popular Culture at the Hay Library observed, “The Janis Ian Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy substantially increases our holdings of women science fiction and fantasy authors. In addition, the fact that the books were owned by Ms. Ian—most with inscriptions—provides a wonderful record of a network of women writers and readers, something that is not always easily captured in library collections. Already a broad area of strength at the Hay, our materials in the science fiction and fantasy genres are significantly enhanced by this exciting acquisition. Brown students and researchers are certain to make great use of these materials, furthering scholarship in the many important areas of inquiry that are supported by this collection.”

Title page of “The Dragonriders of Pern,” inscribed by author Anne McCaffrey to Janis Ian

A Grammy Award-winning singer and musician, Janis Ian has been writing and recording music for five decades with a total of ten Grammy nominations in eight different categories. She has been at the forefront of numerous social movements, using music as a force of change, and has impacted the lives and works of artists from Nina Simone to Johnny Cash to Joan Baez. Artists including Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and Trevor Sewell have recorded duets with her.

Janis and her wife Pat are currently downsizing while Janis continues to make music and write children’s books, the first of which is the recently published The Tiny Mouse.

Ms. Ian’s library was cataloged by Mary Jo Duffy of Temporary Culture (Upper Montclair, New Jersey), who acted as Ms. Ian’s representative in the sale. Proceeds will benefit the Pearl Foundation, which endows scholarships for returning students.

Items in the Janis Ian Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy at the John Hay Library

The collection is currently in the process of being cataloged. Over 160 titles can now be found in the Library’s online catalog, with more titles being added each month.

Exhibit | The Malana Krongelb Zine Collection, 1974-2018

The Pembroke Center Archives at Brown University: women’s history is here!, 2018

Explore a sampling of this collection consisting of administrative files and zines that focus on social justice and marginalized identities dating from 1974 to 2018. Areas of strength include zines by and about people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other queer peoples, the disabled, interpersonal violence, sex and relationships, sex work, the prison industrial complex, self-care, feminism and punk.

Titles of particular interest include bluestockings magazine, a Brown University, Providence-based zine that challenges dominant media narratives by centering on communities systematically excluded from those discourses; Muchacha, a Latina feminist fanzine; SPACE (Space in Prison for Creative Arts and Expression), a zine that highlights the voices of incarcerated individuals in Rhode Island; Joyce Hatton’s Think About the Bubbles #8, which chronicles her struggles with cancer as a poor black woman; and Queer Indigenous Girl, a zine highlighting intersectional identities and activism.

Exhibit Dates: September 9 – 30, 2019
Exhibit TimeJohn Hay Library Hours
Exhibit Location: Second Floor Landing, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Exhibit | The Peterloo Massacre: A Bicentennial Remembrance

The wanton and furious attack made... Carlile, Richard, 1790-1843 (publisher), 1819.
The Wanton and Furious Attack Made…,Carlile, Richard, 1790-1843 (publisher), 1819.
Brown University Library, Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection

Examine two prints published in 1819 following The Peterloo Massacre and gain insight into an early 19th-century protest for political reform.

On August 16, 1819, a peaceful crowd of between 60,000 and 80,000 workers gathered in St. Peter’s Fields, Manchester, England, to voice their demands for political reform. Poor economic conditions and the lack of parliamentary representation in the years following the Battle of Waterloo led many textile workers who labored under dreadful conditions in the mills of north-west England, to march into the city to hear various speakers including the well-known radical orator, Henry Hunt. He represented the new political radicalism that was growing in the region, and the city magistrates were eager to quash it before serious problems arose. Shortly after the demonstrators had gathered, the magistrates ordered the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry to arrest Hunt and others who were accompanying him. As they charged into the crowd to carry out this order, they knocked down a woman and killed her child. The mass of demonstrators continued to present a threat, and the 15th Hussars were sent to disperse them along with the yeomanry. With sabers drawn, they charged into the crowd creating massive confusion resulting in the deaths of 18 people.

Exhibit Dates: Aug 1 -31, 2019
Exhibit TimeJohn Hay Library Hours
Exhibit Location: Second Floor Landing, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Exhibit | American Revolutionary War Prints

Hamilton, William, “The Manner in which the American Colonies Declared themselves Independent of the King of England.” (1790).

American Revolutionary War Prints
London: Hogg, 1790
Brown University Library, Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection

Explore Independence Day from a British point of view.
“Engraved for Barnard’s New Complete & Authentic History of England,”
this collection of 4 copper-engraved plates after William Hamilton, 1751-
1801 (artist) feature significant milestones from the American Revolutionary War (Apr 19, 1775 – Sep 3, 1783).  

Exhibit Dates: July 1 -31, 2019
Exhibit TimeJohn Hay Library Hours
Exhibit Location: Second Floor Landing, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Announcement | WBUR Features Library’s Gay Pulp Fiction Archive

Books from The Leatherman’s Handbook series (Photo by Miranda Suarez for WBUR)

WBUR.org has posted an article about the Gay Pulp Fiction collection at the John Hay Library.

Brown University Is Archiving Gay Pulp Fiction To Preserve A Moment Of LGBTQ History” by Miranda Suarez also features Heather Cole, Curator for Literary & Popular Culture Collections, and Finch Collins, a John Hay Library Undergraduate Fellow.

90.9 WBUR-FM is Boston’s NPR news station and the home of nationally syndicated programs, including On Point, Here & Now, Only A Game and Car Talk, which reach millions of listeners each week on NPR stations across the country and online. More info.

The WBUR article is mentioned on Literary Hub!

Exhibit | Fort Thunder & Lightning Bolt: Old Mill / New Music

From humble beginnings as a studio space rented by four RISD guys in the fall of 1995, rose the now mythic Fort Thunder collaborative, located in a dilapidated mill building on the west side of Providence. While there were other decrepit mills nearby, with funky names like Munch House, Box of Knives, & Pink Rabbit, also filled with RISD & Brown students who hosted concerts, Fort Thunder is the one that lives on in popular memory. Its young residents put Providence on the map with their unique underground art & music scene, and inadvertently inspired lasting changes in the city’s preservation community, when they fought the redevelopment of the historic property in Eagle Square that they had called home for almost 7 years.

The display features multi-media options with reproductions of Fort Thunder concert posters & handouts from the collection of Shawn Greenlee, RISD ’96, Brown MA ’03, PhD ’08, as well as recordings by some of the Fort’s bands, like Lightning Bolt & Forcefield.  There are also images, maps, ephemera & photos related to the mill building (formerly the Valley Worsted Mills/American Woolen Co.) & the “Save Eagle Square” movement.

This exhibition participates in Year of the City: The Providence Project, a year-long exploration of the history, life and culture of Providence’s 25 neighborhoods through exhibitions, performances, walks, lectures and conferences produced by more than 50 different curators.   https://yearofthecity.com/

Dates: April 29 – November 3, 2019
TimeLibrary Hours
Location: Orwig Music Library, 1 Young Orchard Avenue, Providence

Exhibit | Mamusse Wunneetupanatamwe Up-Biblum God (“Eliot Indian Bible”)

The Holy Bible: containing The Old Testament and the New. Translated into the Indian Language, and Ordered to be Printed by the Commissioners of the United Colonies in New-England, At the Charge, and with the Consent of the Corporation in England for the Propagation of the Gospel amongst the Indians in New-England
John Eliot (1604–1690)
Massachusetts: Printed by Samuel Green and Marmaduke Johnson, 1663
Brown University Library, Special Collections

Wôpanâôt8âôk, pronounced, womp a naa on too aah onk, has been referred to by various names throughout history such as Natick, Wôpanâak, Massachusett, Wampanoag, Massachusee and Coweeset, as well as others. The language is but one in some forty languages that comprise the Algonquian language family–the largest geographical distribution of languages in the Western Hemisphere.

The first Bible produced on a printing press in North America was printed in Wôpanâôt8âôk in 1663 on the printing press at Harvard University.  Today this Bible, as well as all of the other documents in the language, are the foundation of the Wampanoag language work that has earned critical acclaim through the Makepeace Productions film “We Still Live Here: Âs Nutayuneân,” and the work of Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project, a 501c3 nonprofit organization founded in 1993 and governed by four tribes of the Wampanoag Nation (Mashpee, Herring Pond, Gay Head Aquinnah, and Assonet Band). 

The bible currently on view was owned by Roger Williams, Protestant theologian who established the colony of Rhode Island in 1636.

Exhibit Dates: April 15 -May 20, 2019
Exhibit TimeJohn Hay Library Hours
Exhibit Location: Second Floor Landing, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

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.