PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — A larger-than-life banner of Charles Willson Peale, founder of one of America’s first museums, welcomes visitors to an exhibition of more than 150 items from Brown University’s collections. From A.A. to Zouave: Collections at Brown will be on display at the Annmary Brown Memorial from Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2007, through Friday, May 30, 2008.
Students of the American Civilization Department’s “Methods in Public Humanities” course curated the exhibition, which is sponsored by the John Nicholas Brown Center Public Humanities Program and the Brown University Library. The exhibition is free and open to the public.
The objects on display range from the coffee pot that fueled the late night meetings of Bill W. and Dr. Bob as they pioneered Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.), the world’s first 12-step recovery program, to a hand-knit cap from a Civil War Zouave regiment. (The latter took its name and sartorial inspiration from the elite French North African colonial units of the 1830s.) Among the more unexpected items in the exhibition are toy soldiers, a mosaic fragment from ancient Pompeii, books from Hitler’s personal library with his notations in the margins, a script from the television show Mork and Mindy, and recordings of Ghanaian music.
“The John Nicholas Brown Center Public Humanities Program co-sponsored the exhibition to provide an opportunity for students to explore the depths of the University’s collections, to work with librarians and curators, and to understand the complexity of interpreting artifacts for the public,” said Steven Lubar, director of the program. “The Public Humanities Program supports this work so that students can get a hands-on experience of working with collections and exhibitions.”
From A.A. to Zouave: Collections at Brown represents the varied richness of human history and the depth of the University’s collections, gathered from the Brown University Library, the Haffenreffer Museum, the Bell Gallery, and elsewhere. Objects are grouped by collection themes, such as “Iconic Objects,” “Passionate Collectors,” and “Mapping the World.”
“By acquiring and preserving collections such as these, we salvage some of the production of the human experience,” said Samuel A. Streit, associate University librarian for special collections. “It is a responsibility that we have to the past – and to the future.” Streit notes that the University’s special collections, which are housed at the John Hay Library, are open not only to the Brown community but to the general public as well. “We invite anyone who is interested in exploring the more than 2,500,000 items in our collections to come visit,” said Streit.
The exhibition also marks the 100th anniversary of the Annmary Brown Memorial. Built in 1907 by Rush Christopher Hawkins as a tribute to his wife, Annmary Brown Hawkins, the granite structure at 21 Brown St. is an art gallery and mausoleum. Visitors to From AA to Zouave: Collections at Brown can also view the couple’s crypt at the rear of the building.
From A.A. to Zouave: Collections at Brown also features a cell phone tour, made possible in part by OnCell Audio service, a product of OnCell Systems Inc., Rochester, N.Y. Exhibit visitors will be able to dial a number on their cell phones and then, guided by exhibit labels, retrieve more information (and sometimes music) specific to the item they are viewing.
The Annmary Brown Memorial is open Monday through Friday from 1 to 5 p.m., but will be closed Dec. 21, 2007 through Jan. 1, 2008.
John Nicholas Brown Center Public Humanities Program
The John Nicholas Brown Center administers the Department of American Civilization’s Master of Arts program in public humanities. Students in this program gain a thorough understanding of the history, theory and methods of the public humanities and the practical skills needed for jobs in museums, historical societies, and other humanities and cultural-resource organizations.
Brown University Library
Consisting of six libraries and a collections annex, the Brown University Library houses more than 3.5 million volumes, 40,000 serials, and 23,000 electronic journals. The library sits at the nexus of academic life on campus, providing scholarly resources and material for Brown faculty, students, and visiting researchers. Special collections material, stored at the John Hay Library, includes one of the seminal collections of American poetry and plays, the most comprehensive collection of military iconography, and a prominent collection of material on the life and political career of Abraham Lincoln. The library also hosts several digital collections on diverse topics such as the Italian risorgimento, Yiddish sheet music, and Napoleonic satires. The John Hay Library is open to the public Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.