Announcement | Brown Library Receives NEH Grant for Digital Publishing Institute

National training program centered on diversity and inclusion aims to broaden the range of scholars producing born-digital publications and, by extension, the audience for digital humanities scholarship.

Providence, R.I. [Brown University] Brown University Library has received a $169,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to create a training institute on digital publishing. Born-Digital Scholarly Publishing: Resources and Road Maps will support scholars who wish to develop innovative born-digital scholarship intended for publication by a university press but lack the necessary resources and capacity at their home institutions.

Born-digital, multimodal monographs allow authors to articulate and advance scholarly ideas through the innovative use of digital tools and/or data as well as interactive, media-rich enhancements in ways that are not possible in a conventional book. While there is growing support for this path breaking approach to scholarship on the part of academic institutions, disciplinary organizations, grantmaking organizations, and university presses, there is currently no “how to” manual or comprehensive training opportunity for what is a complex, rapidly evolving endeavor.

The National Endowment for the Humanities and Brown University together: Democracy demands wisdom.

Three-Week Institute

Designed to demystify and streamline the path to digital publication, Brown Library’s three-week hybrid institute, to take place in July 2022, will equip a cohort of fifteen humanities scholars with in-depth knowledge of the digital publishing process, familiarity with open-source tools and platforms, advanced project management skills, concrete and individualized plans for project advancement, and top-level publishing industry contacts. The institute will be open to a variety of scholars, including unaffiliated scholars, adjunct professors, and part-time faculty, from different disciplines, career stages, institution types, and geographical locations. 

Accessibility and Inclusion

Moreover, through the purposeful training and mentoring of under-resourced scholars, the institute will help bridge a digital divide that, without intervention, puts digital publishing, as a future of scholarship, at risk of becoming the preserve of the most elite and affluent institutions. By making the born-digital publication process more accessible and inclusive, the institute will foster the elevation of underrepresented voices and subject matter, thereby diversifying the output of teaching and learning resources as well as expanding the readership for digital scholarship. In recognition of its recently extended membership in the HBCU Library Alliance (the first non-HBCU addition to the historically Black colleges and universities alliance), Brown University Library will prioritize some of the cohort slots for faculty from member institutions.

According to Allison Levy, the Library’s Digital Scholarship Editor and project director for the institute, “Perhaps the most intentional element of the institute’s design to have far-reaching implications for humanities research and teaching is Brown’s commitment to support under-resourced scholars. This crucial re-prioritization of how and for whom the practice and production of digital humanities scholarship is taught will have a profound impact on current and future generations of scholars.”

Digital Publications Initiative at Brown

Born-Digital Scholarly Publishing: Resources and Road Maps builds upon the successes of 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 in 2015. The Initiative has established a novel, transformative approach to the development of longform, multimodal works that make original and meaningful contributions across the humanities. The Initiative also collaborates with publishers to help shape new systems of evaluation, peer review, and scholarly validation for born-digital scholarship. Brown saw its first project published in 2020 by the University of Virginia Press; two others are forthcoming with Stanford University Press and MIT Press, respectively; and eight projects are in various stages of development.

“We feel incredibly fortunate to have this kind of opportunity to expand the reach and impact of our efforts to advance the possibilities of digital publication for first-rate scholarship,” said Brown’s University Librarian Joseph Meisel. “I am also eager to see all that we will learn from working with the institute’s fifteen scholars, and the ways they will help inform our approach and practices going forward.” 

Questions about the institute or the Library’s Digital Publications Initiative generally can be addressed to Allison Levy, Digital Scholarship Editor (allison_levy@brown.edu).

About the National Endowment for the Humanities

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.

The National Endowment for the Humanities and Brown University together: Democracy demands wisdom.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this press release and in the Born-Digital Scholarly Publishing: Resources and Road Maps Institute do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Announcement | John Hay Library unveils transformative vision for special collections at Brown

Six dynamic and interconnected areas of focus build on current collection strengths and forge a path for building distinctive collections that support expansive and imaginative inquiry with a commitment to community engagement, environmental sustainability, and social justice.

Providence, R.I. [Brown University] After a year-long process of critical self-study and reflection led by Amanda Strauss, Associate University Librarian for Special Collections, the John Hay Library is launching a new collection policy, designed to guide highly strategic collecting at the Hay. The policy development process involved staff members at the Hay as well as consultations with a wide array of stakeholders at Brown and in key external communities.

When Ms. Strauss joined the Library in 2019, she was charged with creating a focused plan for the Hay, in alignment with Library and University goals and priorities, that would inspire faculty and students and transform the Hay into a center of academic excellence and a prominent destination for scholarly research. A serious commitment to representing diverse perspectives, experiences, and methods would be a fundamental part of that plan — necessary work for a world-class institution that facilitates free and open inquiry. According to Joseph S. Meisel, Joukowsky Family University Librarian, “Under Ms. Strauss’s leadership, the John Hay Library is reaching new heights in advancing education, research, and public knowledge while also becoming a far more inclusive institution that speaks to a much broader range of human experience. This kind of scholarly vision and intellectual organization is what distinguishes outstanding special collections research libraries at world-class universities like Brown.”   

The policy consists of six areas of focus for collecting as well as three research themes in the sciences that are purposefully interconnected to create a holistic basis for research, education, and public engagement that encourages the kind of expansive and imaginative inquiry for which Brown University is renowned. They also establish a profound and more cohesive intellectual context for a remarkable set of existing collections, allow for strategic and sustainable collecting, and create a path for reparative and community-based collecting.

  • Global Lavender Voices celebrates the lived experiences, contributions, accomplishments, and culture of LGBTQIA+ communities, both in the United States and internationally.
  • Ideology & Power provides coherence and promotes public access to more than 200 years of original material that documents the evolution of political, social, and religious ideologies and that sheds light on the complex ways in which ideology influences social and political power structures.
  • Military & Society traces the social, political, economic, and cultural influence of world militaries during war and peace. 
  • Performance & Entertainment documents the history and creative process of performing arts and provides a window into public life and popular entertainment in the Americas through plays, dance, film, music, photography, and pornography. 
  • Popular Literature aims to reflect the imaginative worlds of North American authors and readers from the 18th through the 21st centuries. The Hay holds preeminent research collections in weird fiction, science fiction, and fantasy.
  • The University & Beyond augments the robust and growing collections of Brown’s institutional records and student life by tracing the unique and enduring global imprint of the University’s programs, faculty, and alumni.

Overlapping with these six areas of collecting focus are three prioritized research themes in the sciences: Climate Change, Collections as Data, and Health and History. The new policy recognizes the importance of using primary sources in scientific research and has already been strengthening its collections in STEM-related areas. According to Dr. Megan Ranney, who interpreted an item related to gun violence for the Hay’s exhibition Collecting with Distinction: Faculty Insights into Recent Acquisitions, “As both a scientist and scholar, I know how important it is to capture memorabilia of public health and medical debates in real time. I’m thankful for the foresight of Ms. Strauss and the John Hay Library in capturing so many documents, images, and other original materials. Future generations of students and researchers will be able to use our collections to understand our mindset behind many of our biggest societal struggles, such as gun violence. We are lucky to have this vision.” 

The Hay is already well known for supporting both humanistic and scientific inquiry through its renowned collections in the history of medicine and alcoholism and addiction, and in the history of mathematics and the “exact sciences” starting in 1180 B.C. Climate change is a theme that is present across a range of Hay materials that will be given new visibility and intentional development going forward. 

“A Representation of the Great Storm at Providence, Sept. 23rd 1815,” 1816.

Ms. Strauss emphasizes the importance of including special collections in teaching and research at Brown: “The Hay is a vital resource for the transformative, creative, intellectually independent work that is a hallmark of Brown. Our collections, though rare and unique, are meant to be actively used, and their use has never been more important than in this critical point in our nation’s history. The resources we steward are essential for scholarship that builds new knowledge in service of a more just and equitable society.”

The collection policy also provides a geographic framework for present and future collecting. Currently, Western Europe, North America, and Latin America are robustly represented. The collections also contain important material from East Asia, South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Postcolonial Anglophone and Lusophone Africa. Going forward, collecting will focus on transnational movements and material created within the Global South or its diaspora. Growth of collections in these areas will occur in close partnership with the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, the Department of Africana Studies, and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. 

Professor Tony Bogues, Asa Messer Professor of Humanities and Critical Theory and Professor of Africana Studies, has been collaborating with the Hay in support of his work as the Director of the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice. He explains the critical role the Hay has been playing in the CSSJ’s The Global Curatorial Project to collect oral histories and memories of formerly enslaved peoples: “We are at a critical juncture in the archival and collections world as the issue of repair — and therefore restitution of objects — spark debate about how to collect with equity and respect for the histories and voices of populations who were, and in some instances remain, dominated by forms of historical injustice. The Hay is a remarkable partner in this work. Its expert staff has been partnering with us and our colleagues in places like Senegal in debates and discussions about collections and how to think anew about stewardship as a plural effort in archives.”

Through its renewed focus on the Global South, the Hay could unintentionally replicate structures of colonialism and racism. To ensure ethical, intentional, and equitable collecting, five guiding principles for collecting were defined within the policy. These principles emphasize community engagement and shared authority and stewardship of material; as such, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is articulated first among the guiding principles. Recognizing systemic, structural, and institutional racism, the Hay is applying an anti-racist framework to its collecting, and building a system of continual evaluation of new and existing collections, modes of collecting, and the impact of collections on our community. This framework is consistent with the Library’s commitment to becoming actively anti-racist.

The Hay endeavors, through its collections and services, to ensure that the diverse array of students, scholars, and visitors who visit its physical and virtual spaces feel welcome. This importance is underscored by the fact that the Hay is open to the public (under normal operating conditions) and is situated amidst the vibrant and diverse Providence community.

In conjunction with Brown’s Sustainability Initiative, the Hay is committed to Sustainable Collecting and Stewardship. The Hay will assess the current and future environmental and fiscal impacts of acquiring, preserving, and providing research access to rare, unique, and fragile material in all physical formats. 

Through Community-Engaged Collecting, the Hay will build and sustain mutually beneficial relationships with diverse communities locally at Brown, within Rhode Island and New England, and nationally and globally. As part of the relationship, community members may advise and guide collecting policies, practices, and access principles to determine whether their historical material remains within their community or under what terms collaborative stewardship of donated materials would operate. 

The Hay is attuned to and respectful of its Local Contexts, seeking to be an active member of the Rhode Island research community and to build collections, especially those related to Rhode Island and regional history, that complement — but do not compete — with peer repositories. 

The Hay recognizes the value of Institutional Collaboration with academic centers and departments within the University and strategic partnerships with external repositories and organizations. These partnerships provide intellectual guidance for collection development as well as theoretical, cultural, and other valuable insights that will improve the reputation and relevance of the Library and its collections.

Barazoku, Japan’s first commercially circulated gay magazine.

Following a collecting pause during the development of the policy, the Hay is now actively, strategically collecting. The recent acquisition of José Rivera’s papers extends its holdings of contemporary, major LatinX playwrights. The collection of Japanese LGBTQIA+ magazines, such as Barazoku (薔薇族) and Fūzoku kitan (風俗奇譚), is one of the largest of its kind in the US, including many rare issues not found in other stateside repositories. The Jewelnel Davis Collection of mystery novels by Black women writers strengthens and enriches the popular literature at the Hay. 

Weird Tales magazine cover. Jan. 1942.

The scholarly work being done at the Hay broadens understanding of the materials we hold in critical ways. For example, The Racial Imaginaries of H. P. Lovecraft, an online exhibit created by the 2020 Brown University Library Exhibitions Proctor, Alberto Alcaraz Escarcega, Political Science Ph.D., examines the interconnectedness of Lovecraft’s work and his problematic beliefs about race. Lovecraft, whose papers are held by the Hay and fully digitized, is considered to be the founder of weird fiction. He remains an influential literary figure whose body of work continues to be revisited, referenced, and revered; understanding the full context of his writing is necessary in a contemporary landscape.

The Hay’s new collection policy provides the underpinning that will elevate the Hay as a destination research library whose collections, fellowships, exhibitions, and programming will attract a global cohort of researchers, and ensure that the Hay realizes its full potential as a vital campus resource for active, interdisciplinary research and exploration. This framework does not set limits on collecting so much as it empowers the Hay to maximize the scholarly and reputational value of its acquisitions and to fulfill its mission to support free and open inquiry, experimentation, and creativity in a welcoming environment with equitable access to collections, exhibitions, and programming to a global community of students, scholars, and the public.

Media and other inquiries, please contact Jennifer_Braga@brown.edu.

Announcement | Two New Projects Selected for Brown’s Digital Publications Initiative

The University Library and the Dean of the Faculty, together with the Digital Publications Advisory Board, are pleased to announce the selection of the next two long-form scholarly works to be developed as part of Brown’s Digital Publications Initiative.

At a Standstill, Moving: Gesture, Temporality and the Interval in Performance

Rebecca Schneider

At a Standstill, Moving: Gesture, Temporality and the Interval in Performance by Rebecca Schneider, Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, situates the importance of gesture within a wide range of performances. From the vibrancy of opera to the seeming standstill of stone, Schneider’s project offers a non-linear reading experience while focusing on the significance of the interval in order to explore multiple and intersecting temporalities.

The Past and Future of Chika Sagawa, Japanese Modernist Poet

Sawako Nakayasu. Photo by Mitsuo Okamoto

The Past and Future of Chika Sagawa, Japanese Modernist Poet by Sawako Nakayasu, Assistant Professor of Literary Arts, draws attention to an influential but largely overlooked female poet from early-twentieth-century Japan. Nakayasu’s project proposes an innovative use of interwoven media to illuminate the complex poetry of Chika Sagawa as well as to broaden the scope of literary translation.

With continued support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Brown’s Digital Publications Initiative seeks to advance humanities scholarship by providing a university-based approach to the development, evaluation, and publication of born-digital scholarly monographs. With oversight from Brown’s Digital Scholarship Editor, projects that are selected by the Initiative’s Digital Publications Advisory Board are developed as digital works that draw upon the capabilities of the Library’s Center for Digital Scholarship. These scholarly works are then submitted to leading university presses that have corresponding academic interests and the infrastructure for peer review and digital publication.

In addition to Nakayasu and Schneider’s projects, digital works currently under development include: Furnace and Fugue: A Digital Edition of Michael Maier’s Atalanta fugiens (1618) with Scholarly Commentary, co-edited by Tara Nummedal, Professor of History, and Independent Scholar Donna Bilak (forthcoming with University of Virginia Press); Italian Shadows: A Curious History of Virtual Reality by Massimo Riva, Professor and Chair of Italian Studies; The Sensory Monastery: Saint-Jean-des-Vignes, co-authored by Sheila Bonde, Professor of History of Art and Architecture and Professor of Archaeology, and Clark Maines, Professor Emeritus of Art History at Wesleyan University; Islamic Pasts and Futures: Gazing at Horizons of Time by Shahzad Bashir, Director of Middle East Studies, Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Humanities, and Professor of Religious Studies; and Nicholas Brown and The Roman Revolution of 1848–1849 by David Kertzer, Paul R. Dupee, Jr. University Professor of Social Science, Professor of Anthropology, and Professor of Italian Studies.

To learn more about Brown’s digital scholarly publication program, contact Digital Scholarship Editor Allison Levy (allison_levy@brown.edu).

Announcement | Mellon Grant Continues Support of Digital Publications Initiative at Brown

With $775,000 from The Mellon Foundation, the Brown University Library, together with the Dean of the Faculty, extends its work with born-digital scholarly monographs.

Providence, R.I. [Brown University] Brown University has received a $775,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support a second phase of its Digital Publications Initiative, launched in 2015 with an initial grant of $1.3 million. The Initiative, a collaboration between the University Library and the Dean of the Faculty, has established a novel, university-based approach to the development, evaluation, and publication of born-digital scholarly monographs.   

Following a successful initial phase, a second grant allows the University to consolidate its Initiative while continuing to advance the role of digital scholarship in the academy. From employing interactive simulations to nonlinear reading opportunities, these publications demonstrate how the digital environment is necessary for articulating and advancing scholarly argument beyond the capabilities of print. With oversight from Allison Levy, Brown’s Digital Scholarship Editor, projects that are selected by the Initiative’s faculty advisory board are developed as digital works that draw upon the capabilities of the Library’s Center for Digital Scholarship. These digital scholarly works are then submitted to leading university presses that have corresponding academic interests and the infrastructure for peer review and digital publication.

“When Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin, former University Librarian Harriette Hemmasi, and I were developing the initial proposal for Mellon, we were sailing into uncharted waters,” said Joukowsky Family University Librarian Joseph S. Meisel, co-principal investigator for the Initiative. “But the Initiative has succeeded even beyond what we hoped for at the time. Mellon’s commitment to continued funding to help us consolidate these early successes and make the Initiative sustainable is a significant recognition of what we have managed to achieve. Our guiding principles have been to focus on scholarly excellence and to put the faculty’s vision for their work first.”

To date, five faculty publication projects in a range of humanities fields have been selected and are under development for the Initiative’s first phase, with a sixth project yet to be chosen from the most recent round of proposals. The first two projects are nearing publication. Over the next six years, with support from the new Mellon grant, the Initiative plans to add 4-5 new projects.

Furnace and Fugue screenshot

The first of the Initiative’s two pilot projects, Furnace and Fugue: A Digital Edition of Michael Maier’s Atalanta fugiens (1618) with Scholarly Commentary, will be published by the University of Virginia Press. Co-authored by Tara Nummedal, Professor of History, and independent scholar Donna Bilak, Furnace and Fugue revolves around a seventeenth-century German alchemical book. The second pilot project, Italian Shadows: A Journey into the New World and Other Tales of Imaginary and Forgotten Media by Massimo Riva, Professor and Chair of Italian Studies, takes as its focus the genealogy of virtual reality in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Italy.

A part of the Initiative from the earliest stages, Riva expresses the significance of working on Italian Shadows in the digital realm: “My project involves a rich and diverse set of visual and multimedia sources, as well as interactive models and simulations of historical artifacts, and could only have been conceived and implemented in a digital environment. Working with this exceptionally talented team of designers, editors, and librarians has opened new horizons to my scholarship and inspired me to explore new ways to share it with my peers, my students, and the public at large.”

The third project, The Sensory Monastery: Saint-Jean-des-Vignes by Sheila Bonde, Professor of History of Art and Architecture, and Clark Maines, Professor of Art History Emeritus at Wesleyan, explores the sensory experience of monasticism in medieval and early modern France. The fourth, Islamic Pasts and Futures: Gazing at Horizons of Time by Shahzad Bashir, Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Humanities and Director of Brown’s Middle East Studies program, rethinks the conjunction between Islam and temporality, spanning the centuries and regions where Islam has been a significant presence. The fifth, Nicholas Brown and the Roman Revolution of 1848–1849, by David Kertzer, Paul R. Dupee, Jr. University Professor of Social Science, Professor of Anthropology, and Professor of Italian Studies, re-examines the politics of nineteenth-century Italy via a trove of recently rediscovered correspondence.

Having arrived at a model of developing long-form digital scholarship, seeing growing interest in this effort on campus, and finding that leading academic publishers are receptive to the Initiative’s projects and approach, Brown is on a path to facilitating the creation and validation of new scholarly forms and helping to broker their dissemination through the most suitable venues for digital publication.

“With this renewed support from The Mellon Foundation, Brown will be able to continue to produce innovative digital publications that open new possibilities for the presentation and dissemination of scholarship by our faculty that is of the highest quality,” said Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin, co-principal investigator for the Initiative. “Each one of these digital publications creates new conditions for the production and circulation of humanist scholarship.”

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!

Announcement | 50 Year Anniversary of the Black Student Walkout: A Collaboration between Brown University Archives and WGBH

Produced by WGBH and reporter Gabrielle Emanuel, the video, “Fifty Years Ago, Black Students At Brown Walked Out For Change” is available on WGBH online.

Click here to read the WGBH story and see the video.

In addition to the video, the story will be told today during the “All Things Considered” afternoon broadcast, available at 89.3 and 89.7 FM in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Ms. Emanuel worked in collaboration with Jennifer Betts, Brown University Archivist and Interim Director of the John Hay Library and Special Collections, on this remarkable video that documents the Black Student Walkout at Brown on December 5, 1968. Today marks the 50th anniversary of this call to action by 65 Brown students of color, who demanded an increase in recruitment and admission of black students to Brown.

1968 Black Student Walkout

Part of a national movement by black college students, the 1968 walkout at Brown stands out for its longevity–students camped out at the Congdon Street Baptist Church for three days–and its success. As a result of this coordinated action and the serious negotiations between Brown administration and the student representatives that took place during the three-day protest, the University agreed to significantly enhance efforts around black student admission practices, with $12 million over three years earmarked for recruitment. According to a letter from President Christina Paxson to the Brown community:

The walkout ended on Dec. 9, when the students secured the University’s agreement to launch an effort to significantly increase the number of black students in each new class. Those students established a foundation for future generations of historically underrepresented students, including other black students, in advocating together for a better Brown.

Protest & Perspectives: Students at Brown 1960s-90s

This fall, the Library presented the exhibit Protest & Perspectives: Students at Brown 1960s–90s, which included the 1968 Black Student Walkout. Installed on the wall outside of the Patric Ma Digital Scholarship Lab, the exhibit was created by the Brown University Archives Fellows during the summer. They are:

  • Amyre S. Brandom, Xavier University of Louisiana, Leadership Alliance
  • Kayla Smith, Spelman College, Leadership Alliance
  • Rachel Souza, Brown University ‘21, Presidential Scholar

Click here to see the online exhibit about the Walkout.

Days of Absence: The 1968 Black Student Walkout at Brown

In addition, the Library hosted the exhibit Days of Absence: The 1968 Black Student Walkout at Brown in the Lownes Room of the John Hay Library in September. The exhibition, curated by Bernicestine and Harold Bailey, was created in conjunction with the Black Alumni Reunion.

Social Justice & Special Collections at the Brown University Library

The Library’s collections contain a vast source of material related to social justice on campus and throughout the world. Open to the public and easily accessible to all Brown students and faculty, the John Hay Library and its knowledgeable staff are available to all researchers interested in working with the unique, fascinating, revelatory, and, in many cases, priceless items waiting to be explored.

Collections of interest in this area of study include (but are not limited to):