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Community Organizing Archive

Joint project of the University Library and Swearer Center for Public Service. Comprised of archival and manuscript papers of activists (with a focus on Brown alumni) engaged in public service through non-governmental organizations.

Donation Inquiry

Please describe the materials in the John Hay Library's online Donor Inquiry Form

All offers are reviewed by the Acquisitions Committee to determine if the materials fit within our collecting areas. The Committee will respond to your offer as quickly as the demands of a busy academic schedule will allow.

Ad Hoc Archive Committee

Ken Galdston ’68

Jim Dickson ‘68

Robert Cohen '68

Larry Gordon '70

Abby Stranahan '87

Katie Cohen 2013

Marion Orr, Fred Lippitt Professor of Public Policy, Department of Political Science, Brown University

Welcome to the Community Organizing Archive

Preserve the record of your activism

Brown alumni working as community organizers are actively seeking to preserve for the future the record of community organizing and activism in the late 20th century.  Established in April 2007, the Brown Community Organizing Archive is an effort by the Swearer Center for Public Service and the Brown University Library to document the activities of Brown alumni and others in the field of community organizing and social activism. 

The John Hay Library at Brown University, home of the University Archives and Manuscripts, has agreed to accept, archive and store for posterity personal papers and organization records pertaining to community organizing. While actively recruiting the papers of Brown alumni, the COA will accept records and papers of any community organizing activities. We will particularly welcome records and papers pertaining to community organizing in Rhode Island and Southeastern New England.

Specifically, we ask you to consider, either now or in the future, sending relevant materials to the Community Organizing Archive. Whether this occurs when you clean your office, prepare for retirement or transfer, or need to remove the clutter from your house – please save these pieces of history for future generations.

What to Send

Contact us:

Please contact Special Collections staff to discuss potential donations.  Staff must consider the size, scope, and conditions of collections prior to accepting any donations.

Special Collections Staff

Jennifer Betts, University Archivist (

Holly Snyder, Ph.D., Curator of American Historical Collections and North American History Librarian (

 What to send?

Documents and materials relating to the structure and work of activist groups, organizations and centers in all areas of activity (education, labor, health, anti-poverty, civil rights, feminism, GLBT, etc.)

Documents and materials relating to individual activists

Curriculum, teaching aids, outlines, placards, signs, notes, buttons, bumper stickers, and other materials related to activists and their work

Pictures, year books, albums, diaries, journals – e.g., all published and unpublished accounts of organizing efforts and events

Video tapes, audio recordings, and other multi-media

What not to send?

Employment records (e.g., pay stubs or other material with social security numbers)

Toxic substances

Invoices and other routine business records

How to send it?

Before sending materials please contact the University Archivist at or (401) 863-6414.

Leave material in the original order and either send in the original boxes (if they are sturdy, in good condition, and can be easily lifted by an average person), or in cardboard “bankers boxes” (a cubic foot box with carry handles).

Label it as it was filed in the drawers.

E-mail an inventory (  The inventory may be detailed (folder-level) or general (box-level).

Frequently Asked Questions

What about “sensitive” material? 

If the materials you would like to donate are of historical importance but include sensitive information that involves living persons and should be kept confidential, we can seal it until such time as it may no longer be sensitive and can be made publicly available without causing harm.  Please give us a call to discuss any potentially sensitive situations.  We’ll be happy to advise you. 

Tax implications of sending materials?

Consult your tax advisor.  We can provide a list of independent appraisers, should you wish to get an appraisal done for tax purposes.  Please note that the John Hay Library is unable to pay for appraisals and is prohibited by law from appraising materials itself. 

Can my colleagues or children have access to the material? 

All collections in the John Hay Library are available to the public, unless restricted by the donor.

Can I get the materials back – or copies thereof?

Once materials are donated to the Archive, they become the property of the Brown University Library.  We are happy to make copies for our patrons, but you should not donate any materials to the Archive that you are still actively using or think you or your children might possibly want to keep for sentimental reasons.

Can I get bankers boxes from the John Hay Library?  There is no ready supply of such boxes at the Library, except in special circumstances. 

What will be weeded out?

Archivists are a cautious lot, and we tend not to throw things out.  However, we will dispose of duplicate materials (e.g., 5 or more duplicates of the same item), personal items without evocative or historical value (i.e., form letters from credit card companies), and published materials that do not have intrinsic personal value (such as an author inscription) and that can readily be found elsewhere in the Library’s collections.

Do I have to send it to Brown, or are there other places I can archive my records?

There are a number of institutions throughout the country that accept records pertaining to activism and community organizing.  A list of these is attached.  You need not send your records to the Community Organizing Archive at Brown, but we do hope that you will send them somewhere, so that they can be preserved for future generations of researchers and activists.