Browne Popular Culture Library
PCL MS-107: Ray B. Browne Collection
Scope and Content
Ray B. Browne’s collection records his scholarly interests in literature, history, folklore, and cultures, but more significantly it is a window into the revolutionary development of a popular culture studies program at BGSU which in its zeal to study everyday life upset the academic apple cart late in the 1960’s. Browne, credited as a “founding father” of the popular culture movement was enticed to come to BGSU with the prospect of starting the Journal of Popular Culture and the establishment of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture consisting of a research library and a press. Like revolutionary Thomas Paine, Ray Browne admitted that to propel a cause forward one needed a press to disseminate the creedo and an army (Popular Culture Association) to promote and put it into practice. Later the development of a Department of Popular Culture offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees would legitimize the study of ordinary life.
Within the correspondence, organized into categories for better access, one detects Browne’s eagerness to have colleagues publish within the popular culture field, to read papers at conferences, to provide financial support for programs and to encourage study and generally to keep the popular culture fires burning brightly in academia. BGSU correspondence is especially rich, offering a glimpse into how Browne built the program, worked tirelessly to promote his vision and was undaunted by obstacles.
The donor/prospective donor correspondence and copies of Browne’s outgoing correspondence convey his personal philosophy of the study of popular culture and reflect the considerable energy he expended and frustration he endured in furthering this cause through collection development, overseeing the Center, the Popular Press and the publication of its many volumes and periodicals, chairing the Popular Culture Department and serving as secretary-treasurer of the Popular Culture Association and the American Culture Association.
Further documentation on the development of popular culture studies at BGSU and elsewhere and Browne’s nurturing of these activities can be found within his subject files and literary manuscripts, especially among the shorter works: Articles (see published articles among the printed materials), statements, policies, pleas for assistance and the like. The subject files relevant to the Popular Culture Department and its degree programs would also be helpful for such research. His dialogue with the National Endowment for the Humanities within the subject files and in the grant proposal files are especially helpful to understand Browne’s passion for the “New Humanities,” as he called his approach to culture studies, and his longstanding concern that “new” projects with a different approach were not getting funded. His plans revealed in the subject files are vast and include proposals for a Living Archives – audio library, Popular Culture Hall of Fame, a museum and more international conferences and involvement with PCA and ACA.
Those interested in the specific research topics of Ray Browne might wish to consult the five cubic feet of research files (created to accommodate extensive materials accompanying the literary manuscripts), most of which focus upon his study of the Alabama folk song/lyric. Some files for specific publications and projects can be found in the research files as well as in the correspondence. A study of the longer literary manuscripts especially those concerning the Alabama folk song/lyric will require some effort since these are incomplete, fragmented and difficult to organize. An information sheet written by Browne has been duplicated and added to these records to assist the researcher in understanding the complicated evolution of the manuscript on its way to publication. A considerable number of his and other authors’ shorter literary manuscripts were undated and have been given circa dates.
Graduate student theses and dissertations from the late 1970’s until approximately 1992 within Popular Culture and American Studies programs are included under other authors’ longer literary manuscripts. These and some class files reflect Ray’s mentoring of students in the programs during his tenure and record those topics being researched at the time.
The Browne Collection contains many literary manuscripts of other authors including class papers, conference papers, articles for possible publication in one of Browne’s periodicals as well as some book manuscripts submitted to the Popular Press. All literary manuscripts have been broken into categories of longer or shorter works by either Ray Browne or by other authors.
News clippings and articles gathered into scrapbooks by the Department of Popular Culture during Browne’s tenure as chair, have been added to his collection since they provide a broad overview of department activities and faculty projects during this particularly dynamic time in the department’s history. Additional news clippings and articles (some duplicated above) were retained by Ray Browne and feature him interviewed in such publications as Newsweek, Time, Rolling Stone, People, the Nation, the National Enquirer to mention a few.
Some clippings include recognition for Browne’s wife, Pat, for her work with the journals and as editor and manager of the Popular Press. Those wishing to study her role within the development of the popular culture program and the Popular Press in particular, would find the most information within the clippings. A very small number of letters sent by her are sprinkled throughout the correspondence and a tiny travel journal possibly kept by her during the Browne’s 1980 travels in India appears in the Popular Culture Department subject files. These are the only evidence of her activities present in the collection.
Printed material files arranged in alphabetical order have been created to better organize a vast array of brochures, clippings, newsletters, small publications and the like on a myriad of different topics related to collections of popular culture items, folklore societies and others retained by Browne.
Reel to reel audio recordings probably made in the 1950’s primarily for Browne’s Alabama folk lyric research have become too brittle to be accessible. Cassette audio recordings document mostly sessions from popular culture conferences and interviews with Ray Browne and others in the field.
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