Richard Brown, Newberry Library exec who helped make 'history relevant to the general public,' dies at 91
Historian Richard Brown joined Chicago’s Newberry Library in the early 1970s, retired in 1994 as its academic vice president and continued to be involved with the library for the rest of his life. “If you wanted to identify the people who really were responsible for creating the modern independent research library, Dick Brown would be one of the handful of people who did that,” said Newberry President and Librarian David Spadafora.
In an email to Newberry colleagues, Spadafora talked about Brown’s efforts to secure grants to advance the library’s mission.
“Dick made savvy use of grant opportunities, especially from the National Endowment for the Humanities,” Spadafora said in his email. “Newberry-based, N.E.H.-funded summer seminars and institutes for high school and college teachers became the norm here. They were matched by a growing number (of) fall, winter and spring pedagogical programs for local teachers and adult learners.”
Spadafora said Brown applied his ideas and his influence more broadly for other independent research libraries like the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., and the Huntington Library in California.
“So in addition to playing this role at the Newberry that was critically important, he did something similar on the national scene in his quiet, gentle way,” Spadafora said.
“For Dick, the humanities were for everybody,” said James Grossman, a former vice president of research and education at the Newberry. “The lecture series, adult seminars, all the public programs that you see at the Newberry now were in essence either created or developed by Dick Brown.”