Digitization and Special Collections: Access, Equity, and Preservation

Virtual reality view of the Garibaldi Panorama

Providing digital access to distinctive scholarly materials in our collections continues to grow in importance as part of the Library’s mission. For example, as reported previously, recent grants are enabling us to digitize a significant portion of the vast Hall-Hoag Collection of Extremist and Dissenting Propaganda, which provides critical insights for understanding our times. Indeed, this may be the largest digitization project of contemporary Archival materials; when it is finished, we will have scanned around 900,000 pages of materials from 1950 to 1999.

Digitization allows students and scholars working in any location to view rare materials without incurring the financial and other burdens of traveling to consult them on-site. Moreover, where digital access to materials is available, it also helps reduce handling of the original objects and contributes to their preservation. In the last three years, scanning activity at the Hay has generated around a terabyte of data.

Patrons who need scans of particular collection items that are not already digitized may submit requests through the Hay’s Aeon system. (Any researcher can do this — as a Carnegie Library, the Hay is open to the public.) Generally, we try to limit scan requests to a maximum of five folders or 300 to 400 pages so that we can be equitable among patrons. Depending on the material, a consultation with the Library’s Collections Care staff may take place to determine if there are preservation or handling concerns that may limit what is possible. 

The staff members who complete the image capture of the physical object in order to create the digital files possess a wide range of specialized skills including building custom supports for fragile materials and three dimensional objects as well as operating complex software and equipment in the Library’s camera room and on location. Lindsay Elgin, Senior Library Technologist, wrote “A more typical look at the camera room” about photographing an album of watercolor prints from the Anne S. K. Brown Military Gallery. Lindsay also photographed the narwhal tusk from the 2015 The Unicorn Found: Science, Literature, and the Arts exhibit at the John Hay Library (photo above). You can read more about that shoot in Lindsay’s blog post, “The Unicorn of the Sea Comes to Brown.”

To facilitate greater access to our materials, we have removed any fees associated with digitization or scanning.

We ask patrons to allow four to six weeks for scanning requests to be completed, but we often turn them around quicker than that. Material requested by Brown instructors for their courses are given priority. To facilitate greater access to our materials, we have removed any fees associated with digitization or scanning. This allows researchers of all backgrounds to begin their research without having to incur costs and also allows researchers to start doing preliminary research without needing to travel to Providence. Over the past 12 months, the Hay has scanned over 50,000 pages for patrons. The Martha Dickinson Bianchi papers (Ms. 2010.046) collection and the Hortense J. Spillers papers, 1966-1995 are examples of collections from which numerous researchers have requested a significant amount of scanned material over the past couple of years.  

The Hay also digitizes material at high resolution to meet preservation needs or in response to requests for exhibitions. Such requests have generated about 3.5 terabytes of digital files. In both cases, high-quality scans provide substitutes for original materials that are too fragile to be handled directly or displayed. 

High resolution scans also serve the needs of scholars creating digital projects requiring the display and study of collection items. For example, Hay staff are currently assisting with the “Sounding Spirit” project being developed at Emory University. Approximately 200 items from the Hay’s collection are being digitized, and the scans will ultimately be hosted on the project’s website and will also be available through Brown’s own digital repository. Scanning is not simply a mechanical process. The Library’s staff experts process and review all of the digital files for quality and edit them to create master files of all of the images. 

Indeed, staff members at the John Hay Library are involved at every step of the digitization process, lending their expertise to researchers in need of consultation about the materials to transporting material to be digitized from the Library Annex to photographing fragile materials and non-print objects and scanning print materials to reviewing and delivering digital files to our patrons. We are dedicated to supporting scholarship at Brown and beyond and recognize the importance of extending the reach of Brown’s incredible special collections materials and look forward to continuing our work to make these items digitally available to researchers around the world.

Bianca Diaz Book Talk and Signing | Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration

What happens when Mama goes to jail?

Artist and illustrator Bianca Diaz will discuss her career and most recent book, See You Soon (written by New York Times best-selling author Mariame Kaba), a poignant, beautifully illustrated children’s book about a little girl named Queenie who worries when her Mama gets sick and goes to jail. Will Mama have a warm bed to sleep in? Will she get better? Can love bridge the distance between them?

On Wednesday, November 9, 2022 at 6 p.m. in the Lownes Room* at the John Hay Library, join Bianca Diaz, Mariahdessa Ekere Tallie (award-winning children’s book author and Brown doctoral student), and Africana Studies assistant professor Lisa Biggs for an important and engaging conversation about storytelling, art, and healing, followed by a book signing. 

Free and open to the public.

Bianca Diaz

Bianca Diaz is a Mexican American artist and children’s book illustrator from Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, currently living and working in Brooklyn, New York. Bianca received her BFA in Illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2013, and a MA in Creative Process from the National University of Ireland in 2015.

This program is held in conjunction with the exhibition Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration, currently on view at the Bell and Cohen Galleries through December 18, 2022. 

Sponsored by the John Hay Library, Brown Arts Institute, and the Department of Africana Studies/Rites and Reason Theatre at Brown University.

*Accessibility information: The Lownes Room is located on the second floor, up two flights of stairs. Please contact [email protected] if you will need elevator access, which requires staff accompaniment.

Please reach out to Lizette as far in advance of the event as possible for this or any other accommodations that will enable you to attend and enjoy the event. Thank you.

Brown Library’s First Born-Digital Publication Awarded Prize by the American Historical Association

Prize will support a companion website to amplify the pedagogical and public engagement possibilities of Furnace and Fugue.

The American Historical Association has awarded the Roy Rosenzweig Prize for Creativity in Digital History to Furnace and Fugue: A Digital Edition of Michael Maier’s Atalanta fugiens (1618) with Scholarly Commentary, the first born-digital monograph developed by Brown University Digital Publications. Edited by Tara Nummedal, John Nickoll Provost’s Professor of History at Brown, and Independent Scholar Donna Bilak, the open access book was published by the University of Virginia Press in 2020. Furnace and Fugue brings to life in digital form an enigmatic seventeenth-century text, Michael Maier’s musical alchemical emblem book Atalanta fugiens. This intriguing and complex text from 1618 reinterprets Ovid’s legend of Atalanta as an alchemical allegory in a series of fifty emblems, each of which contains text, image, and a musical score for three voices. Re-rendering Maier’s multimedia masterpiece as an enhanced born-digital publication, Furnace and Fugue allows contemporary readers to hear, see, manipulate, and investigate Atalanta fugiens in ways that were perhaps imagined when it was composed but were simply impossible to realize before now.

Screen captures of interactive features from Furnace and Fugue

According to Professor Nummedal, “Furnace and Fugue makes possible the playful capabilities implied by Atalanta fugiens while also enabling and encouraging new interpretations of this early modern emblem book. The prize funds,” she explains, “will be used to build a companion website to amplify the pedagogical and public engagement possibilities of Furnace and Fugue.”

The interactive publication has attracted more than 16,000 unique visitors from across 167 countries since its launch just over two years ago, reaching specialist and non-specialist audiences alike. By contrast, the print run would have been 500 copies. “Born-digital publication is not only allowing scholars to realize their most innovative ideas in ways not previously possible,” says University Librarian Joseph Meisel, “it is also radically expanding the reach and impact of their work.” 

The Rosenzweig Prize, sponsored jointly by the AHA and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) at George Mason University, is awarded annually to honor and support innovative, freely available work that reflects thoughtful, critical, and rigorous engagement with technology and the practice of history.

Furnace and Fugue was developed by Brown University Digital Publications, generously launched with support from the Mellon Foundation. Additional support was provided by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and, at Brown, the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Social Science Research Institute.

Screen captures from Furnace and Fugue

Questions about Furnace and Fugue can be addressed to Allison Levy, Director of Brown University Digital Publications ([email protected]). 

About Brown University Digital Publications

A collaboration between the University Library and the Dean of the Faculty, generously launched with support from the Mellon Foundation with additional support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Brown University Digital Publications creates exciting new conditions for the production and sharing of knowledge. Widely recognized as accessible, intentional, and inclusive, Brown’s novel, university-based approach to digital content development is helping to set the standards for the future of scholarship in the digital age.

Maia Weinstock ’99 Presents CARBON QUEEN: The Life of Mildred S. Dresselhaus, Nanoscience Innovator

Join the John Hay Library on Tuesday, October 11, 2022 for a book talk by Maia Weinstock ’99, author of Carbon Queen: The Remarkable Life of Nanoscience Pioneer Mildred Dresselhaus (MIT Press, 2022). The talk will take place from 1 – 1:45 p.m. in the Lownes Room* of the John Hay Library, followed by Q&A with a book signing and reception at 2:30 p.m.

Mildred Dressehaus

Maia Weinstock ’99, author of Carbon Queen: The Remarkable Life of Nanoscience Pioneer Mildred Dresselhaus (MIT Press, 2022), will present on the life and work of the extraordinary physicist, electrical engineer, and materials scientist Millie Dresselhaus (1930-2017). As a girl in New York City in the 1940s, Dresselhaus was taught that there were only three career options open to women: secretary, nurse, or teacher. But sneaking into museums, purchasing three-cent copies of National Geographic, and devouring books on the history of science ignited in Dresselhaus a passion for inquiry. Dresselhaus defied expectations and forged a career in solid-state physics, making highly influential discoveries about the properties of carbon and other materials. In so doing, she helped reshape our world in countless ways — from electronics to aviation to medicine to energy. She was also a path-breaking role model for underrepresented individuals in science and engineering and a beloved educator, mentor, and colleague.

Maia Weinstock ’99

Maia Weinstock ’99

Maia Weinstock is an editor, writer, and producer of science, academic, and children’s media. Deputy editorial director at MIT News, Maia previously served as the editorial director at BrainPOP, and as a staff member at Discover, SPACE.com, Aviation Week & Space Technology, and Scholastic’s Science World. Maia writes often on the history of women in STEM and on diversity in STEM media. She is also internationally known for her custom LEGO projects including Women of NASA, a LEGO Ideas-winning and Amazon best-selling toy, and Women of Computing, a LEGO Ideas finalist. Maia has also been an MIT lecturer on the history of women in STEM and led efforts to increase the participation and representation of women on Wikipedia.

Accessibility

*The Lownes Room is located on the second floor, up two flights of stairs. Please contact [email protected] if you will need elevator access, which requires staff accompaniment.

Please reach out to Lizette as far in advance of the event as possible for this or any other accommodations that will enable you to attend and enjoy the event. Thank you.

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.

Screening and Discussion of Documentary “Beyond the Mask: Paul Laurence Dunbar”

Join the Brown University Library for a screening of the documentary film, Beyond the Mask: Paul Laurence Dunbar, followed by Q&A with filmmaker Frederick Lewis AM ‘83 on Tuesday September 13, 2022 at 4 p.m. in the Lownes Room at the John Hay Library. (Note: This room is at the top of a lengthy stairwell. Please notify us through the RSVP form if you require elevator access or other accommodations.)

Reception with light refreshments at 3:30 p.m. Q&A from 6:15 – 6:45 p.m.

RSVP Required (click to RSVP)

Free and open to the public. Sponsored by the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity and the John Hay Library in collaboration with the Rhode Island Black Film Festival.

Paul Laurence Dunbar: Beyond the Mask

photo of Dunbar
Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar: Beyond the Mask is a feature length documentary about the life and legacy of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872 – 1906), the first African American poet and writer to gain international fame. Born to enslaved people in Dayton, OH, Dunbar is best remembered for his poem, “We Wear the Mask,” and for the line, “I know why the caged bird sings!” from his poem, “Sympathy,” which became the title of Maya Angelou’s famous autobiography. 

More than ten years in the making, Beyond the Mask received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities with additional support from Ohio Humanities.

Frederick Lewis

Writer and director Frederick Lewis AM ‘83 is a professor in the School of Media Arts & Studies at Ohio University. His independent documentaries have been seen on PBS stations throughout the U.S. and have been screened at more than 100 cultural and educational venues, including the Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art, and the Explorers Club in New York City.

Frederick Lewis AM ’83

Professor Lewis is a recipient of the Presidential Teacher Award, Ohio University’s highest honor for transformative teaching, curriculum innovation and mentoring. He has been a Fulbright Specialist in Hungary and has also taught or lectured in England, Germany, France, Ukraine, Malaysia and Vietnam. He received a master’s degree in Literary Arts from Brown University.

Dunbar and John Hay

In addition to being a statesman, John Hay (1838 – 1905), namesake of the John Hay Library,  was himself a writer of dialect poetry as a young man and supported the artistic efforts of Dunbar and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

Rhode Island Black Film Festival

Established in 2017, the Rhode Island Black Film Festival is an independent film festival that focuses primarily on black film—works by Black members of the film industry.  The Film Festival provides a platform for social justice issues and the cultural achievements of African-Americans and persons of African descent.  It is held to recognize achievements of film actors of African descent and to honor films that stand out in their portrayal of Black experience. Beyond the Mask:Paul Laurence Dunbar was among 2017 Film Festival selections of the Rhode Island Black FIlm Festival. For additional information about the Film Festival email [email protected] or call 401-996-1166. 

Accessibility

To request accommodations for a disability-related need, please reach out to [email protected] as far in advance of the event as possible. Thank you.

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

Stolen Relations Awarded NEH Digital Humanities Advancement Grant

Brown University researchers have been awarded a $350,000 National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Humanities Advancement Grant to support Stolen Relations: Recovering Stories of Indigenous Enslavement in the Americas. Stolen Relations is a tribal collaborative database project that seeks to understand settler colonialism and its impact through the lens of Indigenous enslavement and unfreedom. The project is led by Associate Professor of History Linford Fisher, and is robustly supported by the Center for Digital Scholarship (CDS) at Brown University Library. CDS staff members include: Cody Carvel, Ashley Champagne, Birkin Diana, Mairelys Lemus-Rojas, and Patrick Rashleigh. The project was first conceptualized by Prof. Fisher in 2015 and has been supported by a variety of centers, departments, and initiatives at Brown, including the Population and Studies Training Center, the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, the Department of History, the Brown Library, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative, and the Office of the Vice President for Research.

The award will expand the collaborative work the project team has done and launch a public portal that will allow others to learn about the impact of settler colonialism and Indigenous enslavement by accessing archival documents that would otherwise be difficult to find and read, further enhanced with supplemental aids that help to contextualize and decolonize the archival information and documents from Indigenous perspectives. The award will fund infrastructure to facilitate robust tribal community collaboration and support, including partnerships with the Tomaquag Museum, a graduate student staff person, regular meetings with community tribal members, and interns from Indigenous communities over three years. Stolen Relations is among 226 humanities projects across America totaling $31.5 million to receive funding through this NEH grant program.

For the full list of awards and offers, visit the National Endowment for the Humanities Grant website. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this press release do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Roger Shaw Williams Inaugural Head of Libraries Conservation

Roger Shaw Williams

The Brown University Library and the John Carter Brown Library are pleased to announce Roger Shaw Williams as the inaugural Head of Libraries Conservation. Roger’s first day will be September 30, 2022.

Reporting jointly to Michelle Venditelli, the Director of Collections Care for Brown University Library, and Karin Wulf, the Director and Librarian of the John Carter Brown Library, Roger will create and oversee a collections conservation program for both libraries, including the assessment, treatment, and documentation of the libraries’ sizable distinctive special collections with a focus on the conservation of bound materials. He will also play an active role in expanding access to these collections for a global scholarly community through both campus-based and digital outreach.

The majority of Brown University Library’s special collections are located at the John Hay Library, one of seven facilities within the University Library system. The Hay’s holdings include more than three million items in several hundred named collections of books, manuscripts, and prints. Overall, the University Library’s collections include approximately seven million volumes and over 15,000 linear feet of manuscripts and archives. 

The John Carter Brown Library is a world-class collection of materials focused on the early Americas. An independently administered and funded center for advanced research in history and the humanities located on the Brown campus, the JCB is home to more than 65,000 exceptional and rare books, maps, and manuscripts related to the early Americas from the 15th through the early 19th centuries. This position is the second full-time, joint position between the JCB and Brown University Library.

Michelle Venditelli noted that “We are thrilled to have Roger head this inaugural position. An active member of the professional conservation community, Roger will also bring his collaborative spirit, expressed through expanding access to the profession and mentoring postgraduate conservation fellows.”  Karin Wulf said that “having Roger join our team at the JCB, and expand our joint work with Brown University Library, is equally exciting. We’re so pleased to welcome him to Providence.”

Roger is currently the Book and Paper Conservator at Northwestern University Libraries. During his time at Northwestern, he initiated the Adaptable Conservation Book Support project, collaborating with undergraduate engineering students to create a DIY and open-design tool that has been implemented in conservation labs around the world. Previously, Roger worked at the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia and interned at Smithsonian Libraries. He completed his master’s degree in conservation studies at West Dean College and the University of Sussex. He is a Professional Associate member of the American Institute for Conservation and currently serves as an editor for the Book and Paper Group Annual. Recently he has been involved in writing and illustrating Conservation of Books, a comprehensive overview of the field to be published by Routledge next year.