Depicting Glory 展現輝煌: Rare Objects from the Late Qing to the Republic of China Symposium

“大清萬年一統天下全圖” (1814). Historical Maps and Coins of China. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.  https://repository.library.brown.edu/studio/item/bdr:1103352/

On Saturday, October 15, 2022 in the Patrick Ma Digital Scholarship Lab at the Rockefeller Library, the Depicting Glory Symposium will bring together the contributors to the digital project Depicting Glory: Rare Objects from the Late Qing to the Republic of China to present and discuss topics related to modern China. Led by Zhuqing Li, Visiting Associate Professor of East Asian Studies and Faculty Curator of East Asian Collections, and incorporating the work of a team of students and scholars at Brown and beyond, Depicting Glory showcases some of the Library’s outstanding collection of rare and historically significant materials from China. Individually and collectively, these materials, created in different times and places, tell an important story about the intersections of power, status, and collective identity — issues central to China’s modernization. The project’s digital structure was mainly designed and built by Brown students, and it incorporates a set of contextual essays inspired by these objects from expert scholars at a number of institutions as well as a Brown student.

The symposium is free and open to the public. Attendance is in-person or on Zoom.

Symposium Program (October 15, 2022)

OPENING PLENARY SESSION

  • 9:15 – 9:30 a.m. – Viewing articles in Hecker Center (room next to the Digital Scholarship Lab)
  • 9:30 – 9:45 a.m. – Introduction by Joukowsky Family University Librarian Joseph S. Meisel and Zhuqing Li, Visiting Associate Professor of East Asian Studies and Faculty Curator of East Asian Collections
  • 9:45 – 10:15 a.m. – “Manufacturing Knowledge in Qing China” – KEYNOTE by Peter Perdue, Professor of History, Yale University

10:15 – 10:30 – Break

PANEL ONE: Historical Maps 大清萬年一統天下全圖/台灣歷史地圖
10:30 a.m. – 12 noon

“Complete Map of All Under Heaven Unified by the Great Qing” and “Wall Maps of Chinese History”

  • Laura Hostetler – Professor, Departments of History & Global Asian Studies, University of Illinois, Chicago 

“Introduction to Daqing Wannian Yitong Tianxia Quantu”

  • Matthew Mosca – Associate Professor, History Department, University of Washington

“China’s World Map Transformed: The Complete Map of All under Heaven as Unified by the Qing Great State for Ten Thousand Years”

  • Timothy Brook – Professor of Chinese History, Department of History, University of British Columbia
  • Discussant: Cynthia Brokaw – Chen Family Professor of China Studies, Professor of History and East Asian Studies, Brown University

12 – 1 p.m. – Break

PANEL TWO 欽定平定七省方略圖說
1 – 2 p.m.

“The Early Photographic Reproduction of the Battle Paintings by Qingkuan et al.: the Question of Its Date, Photographer, and Uses”

  • Hongxing Zhang – Senior Curator at Victoria and Albert Museum

“Battle Prints: Photography as Translation in the Nineteenth-century Qing Court”

  • Daniel Greenberg – Assistant Professor, Art History Department, University of Minnesota
  • Discussant: Rebecca Nedostup – Associate Professor of History, Departments of History and East Asian Studies, Brown University

PANEL THREE 欽定平定七省方略圖說
2 – 3 p.m.

“Commemorating Qing Victory: Three Eras”

  • Matthew Mosca – Associate Professor, History Department, University of Washington

“Bureaucracy for Commemorating Wars: Who Illustrated Military Campaign History in the Late Qing – or did they?”

  • Kaijun Chen – Assistant Professor, Department of East Asian Studies, Brown University              

Discussant: Jeffrey Moser – Assistant Professor of Art and Architecture, Department of the History of Art and Architecture, Brown University

3:00 — 3:15 p.m. – Break

PANEL FOUR: Other Items in the Project (Music and Coin)
3:15 – 3:45 p.m.

“Teaching Imperialism through Music: The Emperor of China’s Band March

  • Laura Stokes – Performing Arts Librarian, Brown University
  • Ding Zhiping – Research Intern, Massachusetts Joint Committee on Export Development
  • Discussant: Zhuqing Li – Visiting Associate Professor, Department of East Asian Studies; Faculty Curator, Rockefeller Library, Brown University

PANEL FIVE: Digital Technology in Creating the Site
3:45 – 4:15 p.m.

  • Ashley Champagne – Director, Center for Digital Scholarship, Rockefeller Library, Brown University
  • Jacob Yu – Research Assistant, Brown University Computer Science Department              
  • Discussant: Joseph S. Meisel – Joukowsky Family University Librarian, Brown University

John Hay Library Receives Grants to Digitize Materials of Dissenting U.S. Politics

Two grants totaling $1.75M will facilitate access to astonishing materials in the Hall-Hoag Collection of Dissenting and Extremist Printed Propaganda

Through its Divided America project, the John Hay Library will digitize and make available material representing extremes of political thought from 1946 through the 1990s in the United States. With a $250,000 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission’s Access to Historical Records: Major Initiatives program and a $1.5 million grant from the Arcadia Fund, the project will take on the digitization of about three-fourths of the holdings in the Hall-Hoag Collection of Dissenting and Extremist Printed Propaganda. Consisting of nearly 200,000 individual items from over 5,000 organizations, the Hall-Hoag Collection is the country’s largest research collection documenting the ideas and activities of dissenting right- and left-wing U.S. groups, offering a trove of material that will help scholars and journalists further understand our current political moment. 

National Archives logo

The grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) will support the digitization efforts of material in Hall-Hoag that focuses on conservative groups based in rural, urban, and suburban areas, with an emphasis on highly localized ephemeral material. As part of the grant, the Library will fund personnel, outreach, and dissemination activities associated with scholarly study of the materials, which will be fully accessible by historians, researchers, and the general public. The Library will also partner with an interdisciplinary group of faculty to host a publicly-accessible virtual symposium that will draw connections between the newly digitized content and the divisive political landscape in the United States. This rich set of documents includes militant movements, anti-communism, Evangelical or other right-aligned religious bodies, and issue-focused mobilization around matters of public health, gun rights, immigration, and “right-to-work” claims. 

Archival material from the radical right is particularly rare and vulnerable owing in part to the fact that groups and individuals from these movements often distrust universities and are reluctant to donate material. Although the political right has had a transformative effect on American social and political life since World War II, only four other universities have prominent (albeit considerably smaller) holdings in this area. These materials capture a trajectory within American politics that has largely been ignored within academia even as it has risen to the fore within popular politics and American governance over the past several decades. This lapse has contributed to the current bifurcation within American politics, insofar as it has deprived scholars of a means for studying the roots of post-WWII Conservatism in all of its dimensions in the same way that scholars have long been able to study the political Left. 

With the monies provided through the Arcadia Fund grant, the Divided America project will digitize a further significant portion of the Hall-Hoag Collection. Measuring 1,655 linear feet, the Hall-Hoag collection is the one of the largest of Brown University’s manuscript collections. It was amassed by Gordon Hall, a young veteran of the World War II Pacific Theater, who first encountered the printed propaganda issued by domestic hate-your-neighbor organizations in the late 1940’s. Grace Hoag, an alumna of Smith College, began to collaborate with Hall in the 1960’s, and assisted with the research and expanding the collection beyond its initial emphasis. 

Naoko Shibusawa, Associate Professor of History, Associate Professor of American Studies, has worked extensively with the Hall-Hoag Collection and states:

I frequently refer both graduate and undergraduate students to the Hall-Hoag Collection. Students have been drawn to studying conservative and radical right sources as much as liberal and radical left sources. The materials in the Hall-Hoag Collection have allowed them to better understand the ideologies and worldviews that continue to animate political divisions today.

She goes on to say that “the full potential of this vast and compelling collection has barely been tapped. I think others interested in more contemporary U.S. history would be thrilled to have this collection easily accessible for their students, as well as for their own scholarship.” Currently, Professor Shibusawa is working with a student whose thesis draws largely from Hall-Hoag’s materials of incarcerated, radical left Indigenous women from the 1970s.

The collection provides a deep and nuanced look at American politics and political culture from the end of World War II to the eve of the September 11 attacks. Unparalleled in breadth and depth, Hall-Hoag is unique for aggregating material from organizations with faint, if any, traces in the archival record. According to Joseph S. Meisel, Joukowsky Family University Librarian, “Making Brown’s outstanding collection of these important documentary materials more widely available through digitization will be an incredible boon for researchers and students of American politics, and shed new light on the development of important trends that have shaped our national discourse and public life.”

The Divided America project represents one facet of the John Hay Library’s deep commitment to promoting socially engaged scholarship by documenting a wide array of political, social, and religious ideologies so as to shed light on the complex ways in which ideology influences social and political power structures. Amanda E. Strauss, Associate University Librarian for Special Collections and Director of the John Hay Library notes:

The Library is deeply grateful to NHPRC and the Arcadia Fund for this funding, which will allow us to provide free digital access to critically important historical materials for scholars, students, and the public who are interested in studying the evolution of of political ideologies in the United States. This material allows a rare glimpse into the transmission of ideas among issues-focused conservative and liberal groups and will contribute to a more nuanced understanding of these important histories.

As one of the Library’s premier collections, the Hall-Hoag Collection forms the anchor for the strategic collecting initiative Ideology & Power, which seeks to provide coherence and promote public access to more than 200 years of original material that documents the evolution of political, social, and religious ideologies in the United States. The Hall-Hoag Collection is the country’s largest research compilation of materials produced by both right- and left-wing American extremist groups. 

At the conclusion of the three and a half year Divided America project, nearly 240,000 pages of material will be digitized and made available through the Brown Digital Repository.

Voices of Mass Incarceration in the United States — New John Hay Library Collecting Direction

Papers of Mumia Abu-Jamal and and Johanna Fernández ‘93 will anchor Voices of Mass Incarceration in the United States, the new collecting direction at the John Hay Library.

More Information / Media

For information in addition to what is below, please see the New York Times article, “Brown University Acquires the Papers of Mumia Abu-Jamal,” by Jenny Schuessler and the News from Brown article, “To advance research on incarceration, Brown acquires personal papers of prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal,” by Jill Kimball.

Voices of Mass Incarceration in the United States

As of 2022, the United States’ vast carceral system imprisons two million people — more than any other nation and with a growth rate of 500% since 1970. Though government and institutional records on incarceration, law, and policy abound, there is a paucity of archival materials by incarcerated individuals, their families, and advocates. There are fewer than twenty archival collections in the U.S. that represent individuals who are incarcerated. Most of these are small (5 folders; a handful of diaries). Until now, none of these have been collected directly from a currently incarcerated individual.

Voices of Mass Incarceration in the United States will provide essential research material to advance scholarship on the carceral state and its historical antecedents. 

Accessing the Collections 

The Mumia Abu-Jamal and Johanna Fernandez ‘93 collections will be open for research in fall 2023. We are committed to making these materials available to scholars within and beyond Brown, including creating avenues for scholars from Philadelphia and New York to be able to make use of the collections. Digitization of the materials and public events, including a symposium, are on the horizon.

Mumia Abu-Jamal

Referred to by the New York Times as the most recognized death row inmate in the world, Mumia Abu-Jamal is an American political activist and journalist who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1982 for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. He became widely known while on death row for continuously proclaiming his innocence and fighting his conviction and for his writings and commentary on the criminal justice system in the United States, including the 1995 memoir, Live from Death Row. After numerous appeals and public pressure from the “Free Mumia” movement, in 2011 his death penalty sentence was overturned by a federal court and reduced to a sentence of life imprisonment without parole. He entered the prison’s general population early in 2012, and has continued to write about his experiences in and from prison while maintaining his innocence. In 2015, Abu-Jamal published Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal (City Lights, 2015), which was edited by Johanna Fernández.

Composed of approximately 60 boxes of papers that Abu-Jamal sent to Fernández since his imprisonment, and spanning from approximately 1981 – 2019, Abu-Jamal’s archive includes his personal experiences on death row; his ongoing 40+ year imprisonment in solitary confinement, maximum, and medium security Pennsylvania prisons; his reflections on civil rights, incarceration, and freedom; his activist life; and global reaction to his case articulated through activist work on his behalf through publications, film, and other media.

Johanna Fernández ‘93

Born and raised in the Bronx, NY as one of four siblings, Johanna Fernández ‘93 is the daughter of working-class immigrants from the Dominican Republic who fled the Trujillo dictatorship to come to the United States. The first in her family to graduate from college, Fernández received an AB in Literature and American Civilization from Brown in 1993 and later earned a PhD in History from Columbia University. While at Brown, Fernández was a member of Students for Admissions and Minority Aid and led the April 1992 student occupation of University Hall in hopes of pressuring Brown to move more rapidly towards the admission of students regardless of their ability to pay to attend.

Fernández teaches 20th century U.S. history and the history of social movements in the Department of History at Baruch College (CUNY). She is the author of the award-winning book, The Young Lords: A Radical History (UNC Press, February 2020), about the Puerto Rican counterpart to the Black Panther Party. In 2014, she sued the New York City Police Department, claiming that it had failed to produce public records of surveillance of the Young Lords in the 1960s and 1970s; police department employees found those surveillance documents, alongside NYPD dossiers and extensive surveillance of members of the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam, in a Queens warehouse two years later.

A close friend and advocate of Abu-Jamal, Fernández co-edited with Abu-Jamal a special issue of the journal Socialism and Democracy, titled The Roots of Mass Incarceration in the US: Locking Up Black Dissidents and Punishing the Poor (Routledge, 2014). She is the editor of Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal (City Lights, 2015) and is the writer and producer of the film, Justice on Trial: the Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (BigNoise Films, 2010). Fernández is also an active Brown alumna and has served on the Pembroke Center Advisory Council since 2018.

Spanning from approximately 1965-2021, this collection documents Fernández’s personal history, professional work, and activism. Composed of approximately 45+ boxes of documents, oral histories and digital records, this collection is comprehensive in its documentation of Fernández as a Dominican American community activist; her role as chief advocate on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal; her research on the history of the Young Lords Party; her legal fight to gain access to NYPD surveillance files; her work in radio and other media; and much more.

You Belong Here

The phrase “You Belong Here” is set above the front desk and in front of the exterior of the John Hay Library. According to Associate University Librarian for Special Collections Amanda Strauss:

I came to Brown to transform the John Hay Library into a boldly inclusive institution that is fully engaged with collections that illuminate the most pressing issues of our time. I am honored that Mumia Abu-Jamal and Johanna Fernandez ‘93 decided to place their collections at the Hay, and we will continue to collect voices of mass incarceration in the United States so that the archival record no longer excludes the voices and stories of individuals and communities affected by the carceral state.”

The John Hay Library is home to Brown University’s remarkable collections of rare books, manuscripts, and University Archives. We are committed to being an active partner in advancing the University’s academic mission. We are here for you.

Media contact: [email protected]
Collections questions

Exhibit / Akan Gold Weights: Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology Collection

On View: John Hay Library, Willis Reading Room (May 26 – December 16, 2022)

Mrammuo depicting a sawfish (HMA 98-38-50)  Gift of Mr. Peter Klaus and Dr. Anita Klaus.

For centuries the Akan people of West Africa used gold dust as a primary form of currency in everyday transactions and as part of an extensive trade with the North African Muslim states. To measure precise amounts of gold dust, an elaborate system of weights was devised. Akan Gold weights called abrammuo (singular, mrammuo) are closely linked with the Akan verbal arts of proverbs and are visual expressions of Akan culture and values. For the Akan, gold (sika) symbolizes the embodiment of life force (kra) and is considered the partner of the sun on earth.

Dates: May 26 – December 16, 2022
Time: John Hay Library Hours
Location: Willis Reading Room, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Exhibit l Artistic Impressions of Brown University

The John Hay Library by Jill Armstrong, n.d.

“Artistic Impressions of Brown University,” features a collection of over 30 drawings, watercolors, etchings, and architectural plans depicting the Brown campus and East Side of Providence created by local architects, students, and international artists. 

Curated by Ray Butti, Senior Library Expert

Dates: May 26 – August 15, 2022
Time: John Hay Library Hours
Location: Exhibition Gallery, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

John Hay Library Acquires José Rivera Papers

Lauded contemporary Latinx playwright’s papers will enrich the Hay’s holdings by artists of color in its distinctive Performance & Entertainment collecting area

The John Hay Library has acquired the papers of award-winning Puerto Rican-American playwright and screenwriter José Rivera. Serving as a foundational collection within the Hay’s Performance & Entertainment collecting direction, this trove of material will offer scholars and students a window into the contemporary life and work of a singularly talented writer whose work centers the lived experience of Puerto Rican-Americans. Consisting of 20 boxes, the papers include handwritten drafts, playscripts, notebooks, correspondence, promotional materials, press clippings, photographs, and juvenilia.

A page from a 2002 typed draft of José Rivera’s magical realist work “Lucky.” Mr. Rivera writes new pieces by hand; drafts are then typed for review and revision.

Amanda E. Strauss, Associate University Librarian for Special Collections, is thrilled that the Performance & Entertainment area of collecting will be bolstered in such a remarkable way: 

José Rivera is such an important creative voice, and this collection will allow students and scholars to understand his writing process and to see firsthand how he brings his vision to fruition. This material will be heavily used by an international audience, and I’m proud that Mr. Rivera chose the John Hay Library as his partner in preserving and making accessible his archival legacy. 

Born in Puerto Rico in 1955, Mr. Rivera moved to Long Island, NY with his family when he was five years old. He grew up surrounded by books. Though his grandparents could not read or write, they were gifted storytellers, and he realized he wanted to be a writer in his adolescent years. In 1989, he took part in the Sundance Institute workshop led by Nobel Prize winning writer and journalist Gabriel García Márquez, whose magical realist style has been an influence on his work. His plays have been produced internationally and include “Sueño,” which Mr. Rivera translated and adapted from the play by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, recently produced  this spring at Trinity Rep in Providence, RI and directed by Brown/Trinity alumna Tatyana-Marie Carlo, MFA’ 20 d. Mr. Rivera has written many plays, two of which received Obie Awards: “Marisol” (1993) and “References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot” (2001); other plays include “The Promise,” “Each Day Dies with Sleep,” “Cloud Tectonics,” “The Street of the Sun,” “Sonnets for an Old Century,” “School of the Americas,” “Brainpeople,” “Giants Have Us in Their Book,” and “The House of Ramon Iglesia.” 

Mr. Rivera visited Brown in April during which time he attended classes with English and Brown/Trinity MFA students, toured the construction site of the new Performing Arts Center with Brown Arts Institute leadership, and met with members of the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies. Patricia Ybarra, Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, explains the significance of this acquisition:

Bringing José Rivera’s papers to Brown will allow researchers and artists to experience the thinking, aesthetics, and creative process of one of the most important and contemporary Latinx playwrights. This collection expands the Brown University Library’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in the arts by expanding their collections to include the papers of contemporary artists of color as a key part of the Hay Library’s rich archive of contemporary plays and performance.

Mr. Rivera’s plays have been published by Viking Press, Mentor Books, Dramatists Play Service, Dramatics magazine, Samuel French, Broadway Play Publishing, American Theatre magazine, Theatre Communications Group and Smith & Kraus. 

In addition to playwriting, Mr. Rivera is also a gifted and accomplished screenwriter. His screenplay for the feature film “The Motorcycle Diaries” was nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar in 2005, making him the first Puerto Rican writer to be nominated for an Academy Award. Also nominated for a BAFTA and a Writers Guild Award, “The Motorcycle Diaries” won top writing awards in Spain and Argentina. His screenplay, based on Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and was distributed nationally in the winter of 2013. His film “Trade” was the first film to premiere at the United Nations, and he has many other screenplays and screenwriting credits to his name including work in television such as, “The House of Ramon Iglesia; A.K.A. Pablo” for PBS’s “American Playhouse” (Norman Lear, producer); “The Eddie Matos Story; Eerie, Indiana” (co-creator and producer); “Goosebumps; Mayhem” (Bob Cooper, producer); “The Conquest” (Ron Howard, producer); and “Latino Roots,” an untitled 10-hour limited series for HBO. Avery Willis Hoffman, Artistic Director of the Brown Arts Institute, says of Mr. Rivera’s writing:

José Rivera’s seminal works for stage and screen have tackled some of the most pressing social issues of our time — violence, racism and misogyny, mental illness, poverty, climate change; as we work towards the opening of our new Performing Arts Center in late 2023, new creative collaborations and ongoing engagements with artists such as José will define the powerful ways in which art makes space for the exploration of challenging topics.

Mr. Rivera is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Sundance Institute and has been a creative advisor for Screenwriting Labs in Utah, Jordan and India. A member of the LAByrinth Theatre Company and Ensemble Studio Theatre, he leads a weekly writing workshop in New York City, where he lives.

Cataloging of the contents of the collection is ongoing. Requests to view the collection can be made online through the John Hay Library’s website.

The Power of Words: Banning Books in the United States

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition

From April 8 – May 6, 2022, the Sorensen Family Reading Room on the first floor

April 8 – May 6, 2022
Sorensen Family Reading Room 

On two shelves at the entrance to the Sorensen Family Reading Room on the first floor of the Rock, books held at the Brown University Library that have been banned at least once in the U.S. will be on display for on-site perusal. This sampling shows a range of titles that demonstrate the variation in publication dates, topics, and genres of books that have been met with calls for censorship.

Book banning has a long history in the United States, beginning before the founding of the nation and carried out for many reasons. In 1637, Thomas Morton’s critique of Puritan society garnered him the honor of being banned in the colonies. From The Bible to more recent young adult fiction like The Hate U Give, thousands of books have been challenged or banned in the U.S.  

Since 1982, the American Library Association has compiled an annual banned book list, which consistently includes classics, contemporary fiction, children’s books, young adult fiction, and graphic novels. Recent years have seen books challenged for “sexual content, presence of LGBTQ+ characters, and content unsuitable for age group.”

Virtual Talk on Book Banning with Dr. Emily Knox

On Thursday, April 7 at 6:30 p.m., Dr. Emily Knox will give a talked, “Intellectual Freedom and Social Justice: Understanding the Discourse of Censorship,” for the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center’s Masha Dexter Lecture on Gender, Sexuality, and Public Policy. Dr. Knox, author of Book Banning in 21st Century America (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), will discuss the underpinnings of contemporary book bans and will provide recommendations for how to address book censorship in schools and public libraries.

Immediately following the lecture will be a Q&A moderated by Dr. Kenvi Phillips, Director of Library Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Brown University Library.

RSVP at: https://tinyurl.com/DexterLecture22

More information

Banned Books on Display at the Rock

Kimberly Toney Inaugural Coordinating Curator for Native American and Indigenous Collections

Kimberly Toney

The John Carter Brown Library and the Brown University Library are pleased to announce Kimberly Toney as the inaugural Coordinating Curator for Native American and Indigenous Collections. Kim’s first day will be July 18, 2022.

The Coordinating Curator for Native American and Indigenous Collections will support the libraries in their focus on Native American and Indigenous collections of signal importance as well as programming, including outreach and engagement with Native American and Indigenous communities.

Kim is a member of the Hassanamisco Band of Nipmuc and is currently Head of Readers’ Services and Director of Indigenous Initiatives at the American Antiquarian Society. During her time at the American Antiquarian Society she has streamlined reference workflows, implemented and managed the Aeon collection management software, coordinated the Society’s undergraduate seminar in American Studies, developed the Indigenous Engagement Initiative, and co-curated several digital exhibitions; the most recent is Reclaiming Heritage, Digitizing Early Nipmuc Histories from Colonial Documents, which launched in November, 2021. Kim has a master’s degree in Urban Affairs & Public Policy with a concentration on Historic Preservation from the University of Delaware and a bachelor’s in Art History from the University of Rhode Island.

Brown University is committed to advancing research, teaching and engagement with the social, cultural, artistic, ancestral and heritage, legal and political aspects of Native American and Indigenous peoples in both the historical and contemporary periods. Amanda Strauss, Associate University Librarian for Special Collections, notes that Kim’s appointment heralds an important collaboration between two world-class institutions: “Establishing a permanent, joint position that focuses on Native American & Indigenous collections at both the John Carter Brown Library and the John Hay Library furthers our shared commitment to ensuring that our libraries are sites of ethical, engaged, and culturally-centered collecting and scholarship.” Dr. Rae Gould, Executive Director of Brown’s Native American & Indigenous Studies Initiative, was instrumental in helping shape this new position in support of the University’s commitment and the libraries’ collaboration. Speaking on behalf of the John Carter Brown Library’s staff and Board, Karin Wulf, Director and Librarian for the John Carter Brown Library, states: “We are delighted to welcome Kim, an outstanding professional who has innovated important programming in Native American and Indigenous Studies, to the JCB. And we’re equally delighted to be partnering with Brown University Library, reflecting our joint commitment to this essential focus.”

John Hay Library Acquires Archive of Spiderwoman Theater

Archive of legendary Indigenous theater furthers distinction and depth of Brown’s holdings in multiple interdisciplinary areas of study

First East Coast Pow Wow in New Haven in 1945, Spiderwoman Theater Archive

Providence, R.I. [Brown University] In 1976, when Muriel Miguel, her two sisters, and a diverse group of women founded Spiderwoman Theater in Brooklyn, NY, their aim was to interrogate and challenge anti-feminist narratives of the 1970s through high-caliber theatrical content written and performed by Native American women. A director, actor, playwright, choreographer, and educator, and member of the Kuna and Rappahannock Nations, Muriel — the Library’s connection to this incredible trove of materiel — is the Artistic Director for Spiderwoman Theater, and director for each of the 20 plus Spiderwoman productions. She and the Spiderwoman company draw on Indigenous storytelling traditions to create works that integrate art, dance, and music with humor and pop culture, simultaneously entertaining and educating. 

The archive is an indelible record of Spiderwoman’s history and the lives of Native American women onstage and off, and it brings extraordinary depth to the John Hay Library’s collections on Performance & Entertainment,  Global Lavender Voices, and more. Avery Willis Hoffman, Artistic Director, Brown Arts Institute, describes the impact Spiderwoman Theater and Muriel particularly have had on the practice of performance and the scholarly potential of her archive at Brown: “Muriel Miguel’s lifetime of contributions to the field of theater and Spiderwoman Theater’s mighty expansions on the realm of theatrical creativity is immeasurable; I have no doubt that the Archive will provide inspiration and a wealth of fruitful discoveries for future generations of students, faculty, visiting researchers and artists.” 

Recognized by Indigenous women in New York and beyond in the 1980s as a powerful representative of their voices and concerns, Spiderwoman Theater has since been globally renowned as an artistic force in the advancement of Indigenous women, artists, and cultural artisans. Its productions exist at the intersection of Indigenous life, sexism, classism, and violence in the lives of women — and at the vanguard of contemporary Western theatre. According to D. Rae Gould, Executive Director of Native American and Indigenous Studies, Adjunct Professor for American Studies, Affiliated Faculty in Anthropology, and Faculty Associate in the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice:

This collection will help to support and strengthen the new concentration in Critical Native American and Indigenous Studies that will launch in Fall 2022. We are grateful to have Spiderwoman Theater’s work at the University for future generations of students, faculty and other scholars. It will serve as a foundational collection for further development of the Creative Expressions area of the concentration, in particular, and expand our knowledge and understandings of her contributions to the field of Indigenous Theater.

Muriel Miguel, Co-founder, Spiderwoman Theater; credit: Shawn McPherson

In September 2019, Muriel presented Muriel Miguel: A Retrospective for the Brown University Library’s 15th Annual Don Wilmeth Endowed Lectureship in American Theatre, during which she shared the fascinating journey from her roots in Brooklyn to her landmark contributions to the contemporary feminist and Indigenous theatre movements in the United States, Canada, and around the world. Amanda Strauss, Associate University Librarian for Special Collections, reflects: 

Hearing Muriel speak in such an intimate setting and spending time with her since the lecture, learning about her life and her collection, are experiences that I will always treasure. I’m proud of the enduring relationship that the Hay has built with Muriel and, through her, Spiderwoman Theater, and am thrilled that we can be a gateway for the researchers, students, performing artists, and community members who will immerse themselves in this collection and draw from it inspiration and knowledge that will generate new scholarship and art.

The Library was honored to host Muriel, and is proud to preserve and provide broad research access to this unique collection. Once at the Hay Library, the materials will have an immediate and lasting impact on many areas of study at Brown, including Native American and Indigenous Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Theatre Arts and Performance Studies and the Brown Arts Institute, where Muriel’s daughter Murielle Borst-Tarrant (Kuna, Rappahannock), Artistic Director and Founder of the Safe Harbor Indigenous Collective, is currently a visiting Professor of the Practice. Sarah dAngelo, Assistant Professor for Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, knows Murielle well and states, “Murielle is a third generation New Yorker, and carries her family’s legacy as an Indigenous theatre artist, activist, and cultural change maker. The Brown community is incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity to engage with her as one of the most vital and accomplished storytellers working in the American Theatre today.” Access to the Spiderwoman Theater archive and Murielle’s knowledge and experience will offer Brown students and faculty deep and authentic knowledge of Indigenous theatre specifically and the art of theatre writ large.

Muriel and her wife Deborah Ratelle are currently preparing the large archive for retrieval from their home in Brooklyn, NY. The Library anticipates that it will be at Brown and available for study in late spring 2023.

Library Establishes Department of Collections Care

books with processing slips sticking up

The Department of Collections Care brings under one functional group the intertwined areas of conservation, preservation, shelving, offsite storage, and environmental control for Library collections. The new department governs these measures for collections housed in Library facilities on campus as well as the Library Annex located nearby in Cranston, RI.

Michelle Venditelli, Director of Collections Care

This Library-wide approach to the stewardship of our physical collections is led by Michelle Venditelli, who has been promoted to Director of Collections Care from her previous position as Head of Preservation, Conservation, and the Library Annex.

Michelle spearheaded the Library’s Healthy Collections Ecosystem Initiative, through which she, her staff, and other Library colleagues have worked to implement a Food, Drink, and Plant Policy for Library staff; launched a comprehensive book re-shelving initiative in the Rockefeller Library; and established an Integrated Pest Management system — the global standard for natural environmental care. Michelle also foregrounded the importance of patron and staff health in an environment that has the potential to attract pests, mold, mildew, and other contaminants that thrive on the organic materials in books and other collections items.

The Department of Collections Care works closely with Library Facilities Management and Brown’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety to ensure optimal, ongoing conditions for collections materials and the humans who share space with them. Staff in all these areas serve proactive roles, and are nimble responders to unexpected environmental concerns like weather intrusions. And, of course, the Department of Collections Care is responsible for making special collections materials available to scholars while safeguarding the physical integrity of the items. Members of this department oversee collections conservation and disaster planning and response, create custom enclosures and exhibit supports, process collections with call number labels, and more, depending on the item. Michelle and her staff are essential, behind-the-scenes experts and contributors to the operations and academic mission of the Brown Library.

Question about the Department of Collections Care and its activities? Email [email protected].