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University Archives and Manuscripts

Information about how to conduct research in University Archives and Manuscripts.


There are over 60,000 photographs depicting campus scenes, buildings, groups, events, student activities, athletic teams and events, and individual faculty members, students, and alumni preserved and accessible in the University Archives.

Other photographs may be found in enormous leather-bound class albums owned by graduates from 1857 to 1904. There are about 100 of these albums containing photographs of seniors, buildings, and student groups. The Robinson Collection of athletics depicts 125 years of Brown athletics. The earliest photograph is a daguerreotype taken of the class of 1847 as seniors. There are also drawings, etchings, and cartoons, and several hundred glass slides of campus scenes around the turn of the century.

Photographs are organized into four broad topical series, described as follows:

The original photographs in the Photograph Collection are available for consultation by researchers in the Special Collections Reading Room at the John Hay Library. Contact us via the Question Form for assistance.


Digitized Photographs

Images of Brown presents digital facsimiles of original documentary images.  The visual history of Brown has been captured in a variety of ways, from samplers, woodcuts, drawings, and paintings to daguerreotypes, glass-plate negatives, photographs, posters, postcards, and slides.

Consisting of over 75,000 items, the image collections of the Brown University Archives depict campus scenes and views, buildings and gates, University clubs and societies, events, student life and customs, and athletics. Represented also are many individual images of the university presidents, corporation members, faculty members, administrators and staff, students, and distinguished visitors.

Two of the earliest scenes of Brown are captured in a sampler stitched by Abigail Adams Hobart depicting University Hall and the first President’s House in 1802 and an engraving by John Worrall of College Hill in 1808.

The prints predate the photographs and include drawings, etchings, and cartoons of events and campus scenes as well as whimsical sketches of student life done by artistic students of the 19th century. Class Albums assembled annually by students from 1856 to 1904 contain photographs of campus scenes, student groups, and individual shots of graduating students. Scrapbooks include candid photographs illustrating campus life from as early as 1884. The Edward North Robinson Collection of Brown Athletics includes images of athletic contests, student-athletes, teams, and athletic facilities and fields. Architectural drawings and plans capture the built environment of Brown.

The collection can be browsed by title, subject, or keyword.


Related Essay: Picturing Brown: The First Views of the College

Brown University Portrait Collection

The Brown University Portrait Collection dates to 1815, the year Brown acquired its first portrait — a painting of its founding president James Manning. As the collection has grown over the years the subjects of these portraits have included administrators, faculty, students, trustees, and benefactors. Today the catalogue of the Brown Portrait Collection totals over 300 paintings, drawings, and photographs. 

Contact Nicole Wholean, University Curator/Registrar, with questions about the Brown University Portrait Collection.

Questions about Brown University Library art holdings (including the Annmary Brown Memorial) should be submitted via the request form.