Portraits are often overlooked in the daily life of a Brown student, tucked away in the halls of old buildings or hung above eye-level in Sayles Hall. But must a portrait be framed? A portrait can also be an object, a scene, a story, or a collection of items.
These are some of the hidden portraits at Brown. They are illustrations of our university, sometimes framed but often not, that give us a peek into the history of the institution. I hope this tour will serve as a starting place for you to uncover many more hidden portraits through encouraging the practice of historical thinking and creative place-making.
Just as portraiture is an institution with a long history and strict canon, Brown is also such an institution. But this tour will uncover how even within an institution, change is possible. Traditions can, and should, be challenged. How Brown articulates and displays its history is crucial to aiding or hurting its community members’ identity and sense of place. While history is never neutral and historical accuracy is elusive, being intentional in the methods of the presentation of figures who played a role in the shaping of the University is of utmost importance in facilitating a sense of belonging.
Curated by Brown University student Maya Omori in "Portraiture: Pre-histories of the Selfie" (Fall 2018) and serves as her capstone project.
Locations for Tour
Special thanks to those who brought history to life through guiding me through Brown's immensely rich archives: Jennifer Betts, Raymond Butti, and Mary Murphy.
Special thanks to Ron Potvin for providing me with a platform to share these stories with the public through RhodeTour because we all are interpreters of the past and agents of change for the future.
And last but not least, a very special thanks to my advisor and mentor Professor Holly Shaffer (History of Art & Architecture) for her continuous support and enthusiasm throughout this process. She inspires me to constantly draw meaning from place and interrogate history to challenge institutions for the better.