Conferences play an important role in the life of the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage.  They are conceived to pinpoint new areas of inquiry and emerging practices in the public humanities or to generate thought and action around a specific social, historical or cultural issue.  Drawing a dynamic mix of local, regional, national and even international speakers and attendees – including scholars, artists, activists, curators, writers, entrepreneurs and cultural professionals – the Center’s conferences provide a space for shared reflection, generating new approaches, new partnerships and new public projects. 


Past Conferences

Inheritance-Conference_Slide_0.jpegInheritance: How Communities Are Responding to Controversial Artwork (April 27-30, 2022)

Inheritance (April 27-30, 2022) brings together activists, curators, educators, tribal leaders, artists, historians, heritage workers, and policy makers to explore the range of strategies that institutions and communities are using to respond to contentious representations of race, Indigenous lifeways and history in public art and architecture.  Over two days on Zoom, speakers from the US, UK and Canada will offer first-hand accounts of initiatives and actions that resulted in the removal, reinterpretation, or recontextualization of public and commemorative artworks, heritage sites and museum collections, while others will present on efforts to protect and preserve sites that have been ignored or under-resourced.  We are in the midst of a reckoning, as communities seek to reshape how (and whose) history is told and commemorated in public space. This may entail radical changes to the art that hangs on our walls, the monuments in our public squares, and the stories that are told at historic sites as the public landscape that we have inherited continues to evolve.

This symposium, organized by the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage at Brown University, includes a mix of online and in-person events and opportunities over four days.  In-person events at the Public Humanities Center include an artist’s talk and participatory performance with Haus of Glitter on Wednesday, April 27; an exhibition opening for Jazzmen Lee-Johnson’s Not Never More on Thursday, April 28, which responds to the Center for Public Humanities’ controversial wallpaper; and an Unconference on Saturday, April 30.  The symposium takes place on Zoom on Thursday, April 28 and Friday, April 29, with opportunities for audience conversation during breakout sessions at the end of each day.  Please check the Program page for a detailed schedule of events.       

The symposium and all associated events are free and open to the public, but registration is required.  Inheritance is made possible through a grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art.

REGISTER HERE | Download a program here!

All virtual panel discussions were recorded. Videos will be posted as soon as they are available.

radicalcartographynow_webheader-1-1-1024x327 (1)_0.jpgRadical Cartography Now: Digital, Artistic and Social Justice Approaches to Mapping (September 27, 2019)

In the public humanities, counter-mapping and “radical cartography” are emerging as powerful tools to critique institutional authority and imagine alternative ways of thinking about place.  Radical Cartography Now: Digital, Artistic and Social Justice Approaches to Mapping brought together historians, activists, social practice artists, digital humanists, and community members whose maps reveal new histories, new knowledge and new ways of co-creating artwork in and with communities. 

Some of this work is driven by innovations in Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping technologies and their increasing ease of use, while other radical cartography projects are created by hand, often with the participation of artists or designers working with local communities.  In the process, radical cartographers are changing the nature of maps, chipping away at what Benedict Anderson called “the alignment of map and [colonial] power,” and democratizing maps and map-making. 

The conference was accompanied by an exhibition at the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage titled Map It Out – Providence (September 26 – November 14), an exhibition of hand-drawn maps created by Providence and Rhode Island community members in collaboration with the Toronto-based artists Gwen MacGregor and Sandra Rechico. The maps reveal our community’s experiences, and propose new ways of understanding the geography of our city and state.  Exhibition attendees are welcome to add their own maps to the exhibition. 

Radical Cartography Now Conference is now available to view in full here

The conference, the exhibition and all associated programs are free and open to the public, but registration for the conference is required.

66023_JNBC_Hacking Heritage_poster_0.jpg4th Annual Hacking Heritage Unconference (Rescheduled to March 16, 2019 due to incliment weather)

What we choose to preserve often tells us more about what we value in the present than it does about our past.  That’s why conversations about what to preserve and what to demolish — what to archive and what to throw out — are so fierce.  We can’t save everything, can we? So what shall we save? Who gets to make these decisions? How does this effect you, your family, your community, your neighborhood, your city, your state, your country and our world?

Hacking Heritage is a participant-led unconference where attendees can propose session discussions on any topic related to preservation, history and heritage.  This year, Hacking Heritage is partnering with Year of the City: The Providence Project, a year-long series of public programs that explore the life, culture and history of Providence’s twenty-five neighborhoods, so we encourage session discussions related to Providence’s past, present and future, but propose a discussion about a topic that interests you whether it’s related to Providence or not.  And think outside of the box: sessions don’t need to follow any format.  They can be discussions, but they can also be a space for collaboration on a new project with new partners, or a community art-making workshop.  It’s a great format for all kinds of participation, and you don’t have to propose anything to come.


curatescape unconference_1.jpgCuratescape Unconference (October 11-12, 2018)

How do you use Curatescape? Propose a session or come to listen and share. 

The John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage at Brown University, Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and the Rhode Island Historical Society invite you to save the date of October 11-12, 2018 for an unconference devoted to Curatescape.  The unconference will kick off with dinner on October 11, followed by sessions all day on October 12, and it will be held at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.  

Who is invited to attend? All Curatescape Licensees + any and all other individuals who use Curatescape for digital curation projects, or are interested in learning more about Curatescape.


18567_JNBC_Hacking Heritage 3_Final (2)_0.jpg3rd Annual Hacking Heritage Unconference (May 12, 2018)

Heritage.  Who owns It?  How do we use it?  How do we change it?  Hacking Heritage, now in its third iteration, invites questions and conversations about how and why we protect, interpret, manage and market our cultural heritage that may be uncomfortable, provocative, critical, or, as one of our steering committee members put it, just plain weird. It is a place to gather and talk together about things like experimental preservation, marginalized stories, historic houses, monuments, sites of conscience and digital heritage.



Alumni Conference (October 27-29, 2017)

2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the first M.A. degrees awarded by the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage (it is also the 38th anniversary of the program’s founding as the John Nicholas Brown Center for the Study of American Civilization in 1979 and the 22nd anniversary of the year it became part of Brown!).  Come celebrate these milestone and participate in a weekend-long conversation about the past, present and future of the field we call the public humanities.

Guantánamo, Going Forward: What’s Next for Current and Former Detainees? (September 15, 2017)

17058_JNBC_Guantanamo_FNL (2)_0.jpg

A half-day symposium included speakers from the arts, legal advocacy and academia, and Mohamedou Ould Slahi, former detainee at Guantánamo and author of Guantánamo Diary.  They addressed the current situation at Guantánamo and prospects for those still detained; the experiences of and possibilities for former detainees, including apology and reparation by national governments; and how individuals and institutions can advocate and act for change.




15820_JNBC_Hacking Heritage_Poster_FINAL_1.jpg2nd Annual Hacking Heritage Unconference (March 11, 2017)

Hacking Heritage is a participant-led unconference for scholars, students, designers, artists, preservationists and anyone else with an interest in cultural heritage and public history.  It is an opportunity to discuss, debate and to "hack" cultural heritage; to design and prototype experimental heritage programs and interventions; and to make new connections with the humanities scholars, preservation and community advocates, museum professionals, tactical urbanists and public artists who are at the forefront of rethinking cultural heritage and preservation programs for the 21st century.




14975_C JNBC_Prison Education Evite_FNL (1) (1)_0.jpgPrison Education Movement: Does Brown Have a Role? (September 16, 2016)

What are the country’s leading universities doing to help rectify the problems caused by mass incarceration? Increasingly, they are establishing education programs in prisons, and/or “prison-to-college pipeline” programs to support positive re-entry to give current and formerly incarcerated men, women and youth the opportunity to earn BA-level credits or BA degrees while in prison, or to support them in doing so upon release. The Prison Education Movement: Does Brown Have a Role? asks what it would take to establish a Brown Program for Prison Education, and how Brown can work with other Rhode Island institutions to strengthen existing higher education programs in the state’s prisons and to develop new ones. The conference brings together local and national leaders in the prison education movement to speak about their programs, the state of this growing field and Brown’s potential contribution to college-level educational opportunities for Rhode Island’s incarcerated population of more than 3,000 men and women. To see the conference program, please click here.

Conference videos:

Teaching in the Prisons

The Prison-to-College Pipeline 

Concluding Remarks


13526_JNBC_Hacking Heritage Conference Poster_v5 (1)_0.jpgHacking Heritage (March 12, 2016)

Hacking Heritage was a participant-led “unconference” for scholars, students, designers, artists, professionals and anyone else with an interest in cultural heritage, preservation and public history. It provided an opportunity to discuss and debate issues related to cultural heritage; to design and prototype experimental heritage programs and interventions that reach new audiences; and to make new connections with the humanities scholars, preservation and community advocates, museum professionals, tactical urbanists and public artists who are at the forefront of rethinking cultural heritage and preservation programs for the 21st century.



12506_20765_JNBC_New Tour Conf_Poster_FNL_0.jpgThe New Tour: Innovations in Place-based Storytelling (September 24-25, 2015)

Suddenly, it seems, tours are everywhere: the number of available digital place-based tours grows every day as historical societies, libraries, museums, independent artist-designers and entrepreneurs publish tours of historic or cultural sites, public art, “lost” landscapes, entire cities and more, some relying on a mix of geo-location and text, others on multi-media features like archival photographs, video and audio recordings to create a more immersive experience.  Meanwhile, the old-fashioned docent- or citizen-led tour is not only still alive and well, but is undergoing its own renaissance, as social activists and educators design tours that stimulate civic and political engagement. What are the challenges and opportunities associated with designing and implementing place-based tours — and where is this field headed? The New Tour conference brought together the activists, historians, artists and entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of rethinking and redesigning tours for the 21st century to discuss these and other questions.  Participants included Michael Epstein, Walking Cinema; Therese Kelly, Los Angeles Urban Rangers; Denise Pinto, Jane’s Walk; and Marc Ruppel, National Endowment for the Humanities.

Conference Videos:

Day 1

Day 2 - Morning Sessions

Day 2 - Workshop

Day 2 - Afternoon Sessions