Announcing the Winner of this Year’s Undergraduate Prize for Excellence in Library Research 

Brown University Library is pleased to announce that Brian Thompson ’24 is the recipient of the 16th annual Undergraduate Prize for Excellence in Library Research, supported through the Center for Library Exploration and Research. This award, established in partnership with the Office of the Dean of the College, recognizes undergraduate projects that make extensive and creative use of Brown University Library’s collections, including print and primary resources, databases, and special collections. The winning project is honored with a $750 prize. 

L-R: Niamh McGuigan, Director for Library Exploration and Research; Brian Thompson ’24; Joseph S. Meisel, Joukowsky Family University Librarian; Maan Alsahoui, Joukowsky Family Librarian for Middle East Studies

Brian Thompson ‘24 “Remembering Benefit Street: Black Heritage and Displacement in College Hill” 

Urban Studies

Brian Thompson’s research project, “Remembering Benefit Street: Black Heritage and Displacement in College Hill,” recounts a chapter in the history of urban renewal in College Hill, with special focus on the Black residents who were displaced from their homes and communities. The research is presented as a digital project in the form of a story map, which combines narrative description with historical images and maps to provide an interactive, visual account of the transformation of Benefit Street. The project was completed for Lauren Yapp’s Fall 2021 Urban Studies course, “Heritage in the Metropolis: Remembering and Preserving the Urban Past.” Dr. Yapp commended Brian for the “zeal and focus” he brought to his research, and noted that the story map “created a clear and compelling experience for the viewer, giving a glimpse into the history of the neighborhood and the changes it underwent.”

Brian’s research started with “College Hill: A Demonstration Study for Urban Area Renewal,” an influential report conducted by the Providence Preservation Society, which he found in Rockefeller Library. Drawing on the collections of Brown University Library, the Providence Public Library, and the Providence Preservation Society, Brian employed archival research methods to locate photographs, oral histories, and a range of other primary source materials that document the history of urban renewal in College Hill, as well as the lives of former residents. Brian also made excellent use of the relevant secondary literature in heritage and urban studies, strengthening his primary source research by making strong connections to academic work in this field. 

The resulting project distills this research into an engaging, clearly documented visual story that enables the reader to see Benefit Street through a new lens. “Remembering Benefit Street” is an outstanding example of the value of exploring new formats for presenting academic research.