Ra Ra Brunonia: Images of Brown

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Though Spring Week Weekend is now a thing of the past, the Brown University Library offers a unique tool to help you relive the moments of old (old truly being the operative word). The digital “Images of Brown” portal serves as a comprehensive database of images that captures the archival history of any and all that is affiliated with the University. Though I am sure you are quite overwhelmed by the frequency of the Ra Ra Brunonia column, there is always room for more. The vast archive holds images that range from buildings to athletic contest to campus-wide events—now you don’t even have to walk up to the Ladd Observatory (yes, we have an observatory). For all of you legacies out there, this is your chance to possibly dig up some serious dirt on the parents. Though this database could be construed as an antiquated form of Facebook stalking, let’s just tell ourselves that this is a (slightly) more productive method of procrastination. As such, we have compiled a number of images to give you a taste of all that the archive has to offer (but seriously, try to find your parents). Brown is truly an old institution and the database has the evidence to prove it. But, like a fine wine, Brown seems to have aged well. Scour away!

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Main Green circa 1879. Where are all my slack-liners at?!

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Ra Ra Brunonia: Graduate Center Bar

If only you could see more

If only you could see more

G-C-B. Three letters that have an incredibly unique connotation within the context of the Brown bubble. Though a simple Google search yields results that include a recently cancelled sitcom on ABC, “Global Corruption Barometer,” and “Genomics and Computational Biology,” on College Hill, the three letters bring to mind one thing and one thing only: the Graduate Center Bar. The Graduate Center Bar occupies a place of magic and mystery for the majority of one’s time at Brown. Faint conversation rings throughout campus: “I heard they serve free drinks there!” “I can’t wait to turn 21 so I can have my first beer!” “Why are you sitting with us?…” Despite the somewhat legendary status of the bar, the GCB does have quite a unique historical relationship with Brown as an institution.

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Ra Ra Brunonia: Rhode Island Hall


Rhode Island Hall seems to be one of the more unnoticed buildings on the Main Green—some only know it as Joukowsky, while others have never set foot inside. Little do people know that Rhode Island Hall has an incredibly cool history… and even used to home to a large collection of taxidermy (among other things). Yes, you read correctly.

Rhode Island Hall was built in 1840 to create new space for the Departments of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, Mineralogy, Geology, and Natural History. Its name reflected the fact that the building was almost funded entirely by Rhode Islanders. The second floor of Rhode Island Hall was also Brown’s Museum of Natural History, which displayed a large variety of taxidermy and osteological species. Continue Reading

Bibby B

Ra Ra Brunonia: A history of bears

After a brief hiatus (and it has actually been brief this go-round!), Ra Ra Brunonia is BACK with a titillating installment on bears aplenty, bears galore. As Nick Bibby’s bronze, indomitable bear sculpture travels to Providence by boat in a massive reinforced steel container, it only seemed appropriate to dive into Brown’s century-long, storied relationship with its beloved mascot, the bear. For contemporary students, the robust Kodiak bear in Meehan Auditorium reigns as the most Ursus arctos presence on campus. According to Encyclopedia Brunoniana, alumni Ronald M. Kimball ’18 and John J. Monk ’24 solicited funds to donate that Kodiak bear to the University in October 1948, and they were even thoughtful enough to cover the cost of the bear’s mothproofing.

Brown University, Providence, RI by Elliott Erwitt

In 1955, the legendary documentarian Elliot Erwitt photographed the Kodiak bear, entitled the image “Brown University, Providence, RI,” and included it in his book Museum Watching. The Kodiak bear’s portrait is in good company within this oeuvre: Erwitt shot some of the most iconic images of the 20th century, ranging from grieving first ladies, to scenic trysts, to celebrities, to whimsical compositions of dogs. But, as photogenic and statuesque as Meehan’s Kodiak bear is, there were days long ago when Brown’s mascot could be found beyond the confines of a glass case…

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Ra Ra Brunonia: Boot scrapes demystified


Ever notice those metal contraptions bookending the Faunce Steps? These masterpieces of metal-smithing are not simply ornamental. They have a name: boot scrapes. These simple items first gained popularity in 18th-century Europe, when wealthy pedestrians walked through muddy city streets cluttered with horse manure and sewage and then employed the scrape to avoid tracking filth into their homes. The French call boot scrapes decrottoirs, which literally translates to “excrement removers.” As a traditional New England town, and a metropolis in one of the original colonies, Providence boasts architecture with boot scrapes galore. Boot scrapes also lurk by Faunce House’s Waterman entrances, and near the doors of historic homes on College Hill.

Although boot scrapes tickle the fancies of antique dealers and historians alike, the modern pedestrian tends to overlook these artifacts. The odd modern pedestrian who does notice the boot scrape approaches it in a bewildered state.

Have no fear! We’ve reevaluated the boot scrape’s relevance in the modern world, and established the top five ways to usher these Brunonian boot scrapes into the 21st century.

1. An anchor for your Pilates exercise bands

Exercise Bands

Studies show that one should regularly perform activities that engage your hamstrings and glutes, and we all walk past Faunce each day, so why not incorporate the building and its regal boot scrapes into your workout regimen? Who needs the Nelly when you can do Pilates in front of everyone on the Main Green? By simply tying a Pilates exercise band around one of the building’s many boot scrapes, you can limber up in a matter of minutes. Can anyone say: stretching time?!

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Ra Ra Brunonia: RISD


Ra Ra Brunonia is back with another exciting installment about our slightly more creative/hip counterpart down the hill, RISD (pronounced riz-dee).  Though a journey to the Rhode Island School of Design does require a bit of a trek, the school holds an incredibly deep-rooted history that is rightly overlooked by the impressive work that is regularly pumped out of the institution. While Brown does indeed pride itself on the being the ‘Creative Ivy,’ the buck stops right around Benefit Street, where scores of students with drafting boards will literally etch out the artistic dreams of Brunonians. I’m sorry, someone had to say it.

Despite the seemingly mysterious aura it exudes, RISD serves as an unbelievable resource for Brown students and should neither be overlooked nor avoided. Yes, RISD may be notorious for its cutthroat critiques, six-hour studios and Olneyville Warehouse parties, but at the end of the day, we are all children of the great city of Providence and should get along as such. Reading through the sarcasm, the city of Providence is quite relevant to RISD as an institution and truly provided the backbone for its establishment.

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