New exhibition on view: The Americas on Fire

April 18, 2017 - 9:00am

Of all terrestrial species, only humans ever learned to control fire. They domesticated it to warm their homes, ignited it to turn plants and animals into food, stoked it to transform wood into power, and channeled it to refine ore into currency. Manipulated by human hands, fire became a weapon of war and a conduit for communicating with the gods. Europeans and Native Americans also used fire for unspeakable cruelty during the period of conquest as they fed one another to the flames in the name of their gods. And yet for all the ways that humans used fire to their own ends, it proved a rebellious servant that frequently eluded control by its putative masters. 

The collections of the John Carter Brown Library record the inextricable link between fire and all facets of the American experience. The Americas on Fire, guest curated by historians Jake Frederick (Lawrence University, USA) and Júnia Furtado (Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil), depicts fire harnessed for agriculture, embraced as a mechanism for communicating with the divine realm, and wielded in combat by Native Americans and European colonizers alike. The exhibition sheds light on how the human experience of the Americas has – for better and for worse – always been shaped by fire.

Join us on Friday, April 28, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. as Jake Frederick formally introduces the exhibit.