History of the Association of Friends and Fellows

The Association of Friends and Fellows of the John Carter Brown Library supports the growth of the Library’s collections and programs in a variety of ways, and is intimately associated with the history of the institution. For nearly a century and a half the Library has actively collected and preserved one of the world's most important records of the colonial experience in the Americas.

Primarily a collection of materials printed before 1830, the JCB endeavors to assemble books, maps, prints, and selected manuscripts concerning the three hundred years during which the Americas were discovered, explored, settled, and developed by Europeans and Africans. The study of the European encounter with the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere is integral to the Library’s work.

John Carter Brown of Providence was one of the first men to collect seriously in the field of the colonial history of the Americas. By the end of his life in 1874, his library already had a reputation as a center for research, and many of the items he acquired with the purpose of making them available for scholarly use have never again appeared on the market. One of the Library’s greatest strengths is that John Carter Brown’s work has been carried on ever since without interruption. John Nicholas Brown, son of John Carter Brown, continued adding to the Library’s holdings until his death in 1900, and successive librarians have expanded the collection to over forty-five thousand items of primary source material relating to the Americas.

By 1944, however, it had become clear that not enough funds were available for all of the responsibilities that the Library had undertaken. Recognizing that continued growth is essential for a healthy institution and that the Library’s great heritage had to be sustained, a group of sympathetic friends of the Library joined together to form the Associates. Since that time thousands of new acquisitions for the Library’s research collections have been, directly or indirectly, the result of their interest and support. In addition, this group provides unrestricted research funds for qualified scholars to come to Providence and use the Library's resources on a regular basis. A comprehensive list of scholars supported by Association funds can be seen here.

In 2015, the Library expanded the Associates group to include former fellows and other friends of the Library, inaugurating a new Association of Friends and Fellows. Now numbering in the hundreds, and growing, members of the Association of Friends and Fellows presently come from nearly all fifty states and many foreign countries. Their contributions continue to make it possible for the Library to continue in its pre-eminent role as a center for research on the New World between 1492 and 1830 and on the impact of the Western Hemisphere’s discovery on the course of European history.

Association members are informed of all Library publications, including exhibition catalogues, facsimile editions, and monographs of bibliographic or historic concern, nearly all of which are made available to members at a discount.

The Annual Meeting of the Associates is held each spring in the Library, and there is usually also a fall event. The membership has occasional less formal gatherings and receives notices of lectures, conferences, and other events taking place at the Library throughout the year.

Annual Contributions:

The minimum contribution for membership in the Association of Friends and Fellows is fifty dollars ($35 for former fellows; $25 for students), although most of our members prefer to give larger amounts. Our hope is to attract people who have a genuine interest in sustaining the Library’s collecting and who wish to support its numerous programs for the encouragement of advanced scholarship and public education concerning the American and European past.

Please join or renew your membership with the Association online or send a check to The Association of Friends and Fellows, The John Carter Brown Library, Box 1894, Providence, R. I. 02912. Checks should be made payable to The John Carter Brown Library.