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Special Collections for Teaching and Research at Brown University

Class sessions at the John Hay Library

Hay Library staff collaborate with faculty at Brown and other universities to provide hands-on, in-depth introductions to using primary sources, as well as semester-long opportunities for research and engagement.

To request a class session, fill out the form on our Class Visits page. If you have not previously taught a session at the Hay, or are teaching a new class, we recommend meeting with a Hay Library staff member to discuss requesting materials and class format.

Classes can take many forms, and we're happy to tailor the session to your class goals. Classes are most successful when tied to an assignment or final paper/project, whether worked on in the class session (such as a writing prompt), involving individual student visits to the special collections reading room (please talk to staff before assigning these visits to your students), and/or follow up visits with the entire class.

Our schedules and rooms fill up quickly; we ask that you request your class session at least two weeks in advance. Requests for materials must arrive at least one week in advance of the session to give staff time to gather everything. To request material, please create in account in our online system, and use links in Josiah to request individual items. (Let us know if you need help requesting).


The Hay Library's Reader Services staff can hold materials on reserve for individual researchers or for classes for as long as they are needed.  A caveat is provided for classes or projects requiring voluminous amounts of material, as storage space within the building is sharply limited.

Reader Services requests as much advance notice as humanly possible for materials to be kept on reserve for classes and course projects.  Please contact Ann Dodge, Reader Services Coordinator, for details.   


The acquisitions budget for special collections is modest when compared with those of other institutions of Brown's size and scope.  While some collections have dedicated endowments that support their development, others lack funds for ongoing acquisitions.  Within these constraints, curatorial staff at the Hay make every effort to align new purchases with research trends and with the curriculum.  We invite faculty and students to submit suggestions for future acquisitions.  Please contact the appropriate member of the curatorial staff, as identified below.


COLLECTION                                                CONTACT

Military Collection                                           Peter Harrington

Brown University Archives                             Jennifer Betts

American History & History of Science           Holly Snyder

Medieval manuscripts & Incunabulae             Bill Monroe

Romance languages & Latin America            Patricia Figueroa

American and British Literature                      Heather Cole

LGBT Collections and Popular Culture          Heather Cole

Comics                                                           Jordan Jancosek

Magic, Stamps                                               Tiffini Bowers


Brown faculty and students are welcome to consider putting together an exhibit using Special Collections materials as a class project. An exhibition proposal may be submitted to the Library's Exhibition Committee for consideration either by campus mail or electronically. Faculty are encourage to consult curatorial staff about material in Special Collections that they are interested in using as part of an exhibit proposal.

Because the Library's exhibit calendar fills up quickly and the preparation process takes time, exhibition proposals should be submitted at least six months before the date desired for exhibits in the John Hay Library’s Willis Reading Room, Lownes Room, and Bopp Seminar Room, and in the Rockefeller Library, the Orwig Music Library, and the Annmary Brown Memorial. For exhibits in the main Exhibition Gallery in the Hay Library, proposals should be submitted at least eighteen months to two years before the date desired.

The following criteria are used by the Exhibition Committee to evaluate exhibit proposals, although not all proposals need meet every criteria:

1. Originality of exhibition content

2. Quality of concept, writing, and materials

3. Suitability of physical form to the exhibition venues

4. Alignment with Brown’s curriculum

5. Association with Brown’s initiatives or programs

6. Historical or educational significance

7. Relationship to the academic programs or current and/or developing library research collections.

8. Ability to highlight or stimulate interest in Brown University Library’s resources or collection development

9. Inclusion of partnerships with other local, regional, or national cultural institutions that contribute to the awareness of the Libraries’ resources, collections, and services

10. Availability of exhibit space

The Exhibition Committee reserves the right to approve all proposals, review publicity materials, and make decisions regarding the duration and placement of a physical exhibition within a library or for an online exhibit.

Application Process

Listed below are the required steps one should follow when submitting an exhibition proposal:

1.Please send the following information to

Preferred location

Types of materials to be displayed

Preferred dates for display

Course description and syllabus

2. The Exhibition Committee will review the proposal and, based on the Exhibition Selection Criteria and/or schedule, and will contact the applicant in a timely manner.

3. The Library will add accepted exhibitions to the calendar for the exhibit venue and to the Brown University Library calendar.