Hello World

January 25, 2013

Welcome to the new Brown Center for Public Humanities blog, part of a larger project of rebranding: a new logo, a new website, new ways to describe what we do.


Looking back, looking ahead

It is useful, at various times in the life of an institution, to stop and think about what it is doing, how it has changed, and how it describes its work. It is easy to fall into a shorthand that makes perfect sense to those on the inside but is meaningless to those new to the place. Language that seemed perfect in describing mission and programs a few years back no longer is accurate. We’ve changed and the way we talk about ourselves has changed. The words on our website haven’t kept up.

And so, about a year ago, we decided to look at the Center and see if what we said about it accurately reflected who we are and what we do. This was prompted, as is so much of life today, by technology. Our website, cutting edge half a decade ago, was obsolete. And as long as we were building a new website, why not rewrite everything on it? It was a good time to look at the way we described the program to see if it fit what we were actually doing.


As is so often the case, the project grew. We were very fortunate to have Ken Roberts, Chairman Emeritus of Lippincott, volunteer to help us think about rebranding – and to use this as an opportunity to teach students in the program about branding. Never let a teaching moment go to waste! We surveyed stakeholders including alumni, students, and community members. We asked questions: what do they know about us? What do they think we do?

And we listened, and made changes. The biggest step was rethinking the way we referred to ourselves. Our name – the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage – is perfectly descriptive, but, as we were told, unwieldy. And in our shorthand form – the JNBC – perfectly meaningless to most of the world. And so we will now call ourselves, in public spaces, the Brown Center for Public Humanities. Our official name remains the same, of course.

We changed our logo. Our old logo was confusing: what was the relationship between the JNBC and the Public Humanities Program, and between the two of them and Brown University? Now: a single logo. A rather attractive one, too, rich with symbolism and meaning. (It’s left as an exercise to the student to figure it out.)

We’ve rewritten our mission statement and some basic descriptive text. We are more focused on the public sphere and less on mediating between the public and the academic than we were, and the new language reflects that. It’s clearer, too. After eight years of thinking this place through, we have a pretty good idea about what we’re doing now.

New website

And, of course, the new website. That’s what started this whole process. It’s technologically up-to-date and easy to update. It fits in the new Brown web framework. It’s easier to navigate. Our events should be easier to find. Community members, students, and potential students should be able to discover the information they’re after.

Talk to us

Let us know if it works. And let us know what you think of all of this – our new name, logo, website…  The public humanities cares about audience. You’re our audience. Talk to us.

--Steve Lubar

Public Humanities Events