A Brown University Library Exhibition

Introduction

This exhibit offers a selection of pictorial works of engravings, original photos and books taken from the collections of the John Hay Library at Brown University. Many of them belong to the Military Collection bequeathed by Anne S.K. Brown, while others have been acquired by the Library through purchases or donations throughout the years.

The inspiration behind the exhibit came from the Library's digital project "Paris, Capital of the 19th century," a work in progress designed to give students and faculty a visual tool to complement their study of history, art and literature from 19th century Paris. While the web site currently contains only images, it will soon offer access to a variety of Library materials related to nineteenth-century Paris. It is our hope that the juxtaposition of texts, images and other media will highlight the interrelation of political events with the philosophical, cultural and social movements of this time period, thereby facilitating its study and research across disciplines.

A bibliography of selected Brown University Library holdings, Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century, is available on the Library web site.

Throughout the 19th century, the streets of Paris played a major role in its historical development. They provided the stage for the insurrections of 1830 and 1848, as well as the siege of 1871; political figures such as Napoleon I, Charles X, and Louis-Philippe, used them as a venue for pompous inaugurations or as a route for hasty escapes. Many of the streets themselves underwent drastic transformations and the changes introduced to the urban landscape of the city reflected the political, economic and social events of the time period. For example, monuments such as the Colonne Vendôme, were built, dismantled and rebuilt several times within a relatively short time frame, mirroring the changes in the political climate.

Several of the street scenes we have selected for the exhibit include or represent an individual character or a social class. They evoke the light and dark side of the history of Paris, the comedy and the tragedy that made up the daily lives of the proletariat, the bourgeoisie and the wealthy classes during this tumultuous and ever-changing time period. Whether it is the daily spectacle of a boulevard or the representation of a unique event of historical importance, these images provide a realistic account of the Parisian life of the 19th century. As Victor Hugo once said "La rue est le cordon ombilical qui relie l'individu à la société." (The street is the umbilical cord that links the individual to society).

This exhibit has been prepared by Dominique Coulombe, Library Subject Specialist in French Studies, and Sharon Larson, a graduate student in French Studies. Many thanks to our colleagues at the John Hay Library and in the Center for Digital Initiatives for their assistance in mounting this exhibit. Please feel free to contact Dominique Coulombe or Sharon Larson with questions or comments.


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