Special Collections libraries are wondrous places. Part library, part museum, they are repositories of the written word and of all manner of material culture and ephemera. At the John Hay Library you can view Shakespeare’s first published folio of 1632 or Batman comic books, cuneiform tablets circa 1800 BCE and Orwell’s hand-written manuscript for 1984. A first edition of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass shares space with pencils labeled “Thoreau” manufactured by the family of Henry David. And fine and folk arts abound, compare, for example, Peter Baumgras’ oil portraits of Abraham Lincoln and a portrait of Theodore Roosevelt collaged from postage stamps.
November 2010 marks the 100 anniversary of the John Hay Library, named for a member of the class of 1858. Perhaps the most famous Brown graduate of his day, John Hay accepted the position of private secretary to Abraham Lincoln at the age of 22, and thus began a long career in government. In addition to numerous diplomatic posts, he served as Secretary of State under Presidents McKinley and Roosevelt. Hay also worked as a journalist and had a great love of poetry. He died in 1905 while serving as Secretary of State. In 1906 Andrew Carnegie provided funding for the library in honor of his late friend.
Pictures from the Hay celebrates the Hay centennial through a selection of visual materials—paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, artifacts and documents. The exhibitionis organized around subject areas. Some, such as the Sciences, the Military, and Book Arts, reflect the strengths of the collection, while others, notably Rites and Ceremonies, and Entertainments and the Arts—which depict social activities—are drawn from many sub-collections. The exhibition provides, of necessity, a limited glimpse of the many important works of visual art and culture found within the five million books, monographs, manuscripts, broadsides, photographs, prints, postage