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Arts & Culture

Hay Library invites class of 2021 to explore collections

Family weekend events hope to encourage student engagement with wide-ranging collections

Contributing Writer
Monday, October 15, 2018

The John Hay Comic Book Collection includes roughly 60,000 comics viewable by request and is currently expanding its offerings. Six comics will be displayed during Family Weekend.

The John Hay Library held an open house for sophomores in the Lownes Room this past Friday.  The room featured a variety of items drawn from the Hay’s major collections to showcase the manifold subject interests attended to by the library.

“(We based) the display on items appraised on ‘Antiques Roadshow,’” said Ann Dodge, the reader services librarian. “We went through their archives (to see) what we have that they appraised. It turned out to be a beautiful cross-section of the collections.”

Some of the items displayed at the open house include a daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe, early texts from the Church of Latter Day Saints, poems by Phillis Wheatley, selected comics and more.

“There’s an absurd amount of wild stuff, like a color book; someone wanted a visual guide to every single color and you flip through and see the rainbow, which is so cool,” said Shira Buchsbaum ’19 who serves as the special collections assistant for the Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays and is a former Herald reporter.

The Hay opted to deliberately gear this open house toward sophomores.

“First-years at this time are still getting settled and aren’t necessarily thinking about long-term research projects in the future,” Buchsbaum said. “Juniors and seniors may have already taken up research, so sophomore year is a prime time to catch students who are already settled at Brown and may be looking for more academically-oriented projects but aren’t quite sure where to start.”

Additionally, students who attended the Hay’s open house during Senior Week have expressed certain regret.

“One of the comments we always hear was ‘I wish I had known about all this cool stuff when I was still a student,’” Dodge said. “We’ve been trying to find ways to bring in more first-years and sophomores to get them to feel like the collections in the Hay are for them.”

The items appeal to a broad range of interests.

“I’m interested in conducting research at some point, and I thought it would be a good idea to familiarize myself with the objects that Brown has,” said Rohan Dalvi ’21. “I’m interested in history and find primary sources from past ages really interesting to look at.”

As part of Family Weekend, the Hay is hosting an event similar to the open house Friday, Oct. 19 called “You Saw It on Antiques Roadshow,” which will run from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the Lownes Room on the second floor. The Hay usually conducts an event for Family Weekend, and this year they plan to display selected comics that are also displayed on “Antiques Roadshow.” Six comics will be displayed, two from each of the following series: “Black Panther,” “X-Men” and “Icon.”

“We are promoting these (comics) because they’re not only really interesting, but they’re promoting women of color,” said Jordan Jancosek, special collections survey librarian and curator for the comic book collection. “We are currently expanding the collection to include comics that are more representative of the world around us — more people of color, women, LGBTQ+ community, New England and Providence comics too.”

The John Hay Comic Book Collection comprises roughly 60,000 comics and is free and open to the public.

“If you’re interested in the material, there is definitely some unexpected stuff (at the Hay) and even if you’re not, then you might discover something that you find interesting,” Dalvi said. “It might lead you down some path, so it’s always good to explore new things.”

“The Hay is a really special place (though it) can come off as intimidating and imposing,” Buchsbaum said. “I really encourage students to come inside and request materials even if you aren’t necessarily pursuing a research project; anything you can think of, we probably have a book or game or figurine or something related to it, and you can request it and look at it and feel invigorated that Brown has access to it.”

The Hay maintains a variety of programming, complementing “You Saw It on Antiques Roadshow” with such exhibits as “The Poetry of Science: Dante’s Comedy and the Crafting of a Cosmos” and “The Brown Bear: A History” as well as “Blooming in the Noise of the Whirlwind: Women Poets from the Harris Collection,” which will open Oct. 22 and be on display at the Hay until Dec. 17.

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