Robert P. Emlen Senior Lecturer in American Studies

Robert P. Emlen is Senior Lecturer in the Department of American Studies. His courses in material culture studies include "Houses and their Furnishings in Early America," "Gravestones and Burying Grounds," "American Folk Art," "The Neoclassical Ideal in America," and "The Arts and Crafts Movement in America." He also teaches courses each year in the cultural history of the decorative arts in the Department of the History of Art & Visual Culture at the Rhode Island School of Design.

His research has been published in leading journals of American material culture and art, including American Furniture, The American Art Journal, Connaissance des Arts, Folk Art, Imprint: Journal of the American Historical Print Collectors Society, Old-Time New England, Rhode Island History, and Winterthur Portfolio.

Mr. Emlen also holds an appointment as Brown's University Curator, with curatorial responsibility for the art collections and historic properties furnishing the Brown campus.

Brown Affiliations

Research Areas

scholarly work

Picturing the Shakers in the Era of Manifestations (Clinton, NY: The Couper Press, 2015)

"How the Shakers Came to Feel More Comfortable with Pictures on Their Walls” Shaker Museum|Mount Lebanon Journal 1, no. 1 (Winter 2012)

"Black Shaker Minstrels and the Comic Performance of Shaker Worship,” American Communal Societies Quarterly 4, no. 4 (October 2010)

“Slave Labor at the College Edifice: Building Brown University’s University Hall in 1770,” Rhode Island History 66, no. 3 (Summer, 2008)

"Shaker Villages and the Landscape of Gospel Order” in Jean Burks, Shaker Design: Out of this World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008)"

"Picturing Brown: The First Years of the College” in “Imago Brunoniana:A Brown University Library Digital Collection” (2006)

"Colonial Relics, Nativism, and the DAR Loan Exhibition of 1892" in Peter Benes, ed., New England Collectors and Collections (Proceedings of the 2004 Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife): (Boston: The Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife, 2006): 171-187

"Canterbury Views: The Enduring Image of a Shaker Village, " Imprint: Journal of the American Historical Print Collectors Society 28, no. 2 (Autumn 2003)

"The Last Shaker Village Views: Joshua Bussell's Unexpected Return to the Drawing Board," The Magazine Antiques 164, no. 2 (August, 2003): 90-95

"Tokens of Remembrance: Two Rediscovered Portraits by Erastus Salisbury Field," Folk Art 28, no. 1 (Spring 2003): 38-45

"The Seril Dodge-Avis Brown House," in Clair W. Dempsey, Richard E. Greenwood, and Wm. McKenzie Woodward, eds., "The Early Architecture and Landscapes of the Narragansett Basin (Newport, Rhode Island: The Vernacular Architecture Forum, 2001): 69-70

"Shaker Furniture and Shaker Architecture in Enfield, New Hampshire: Reconstructing Material Life in Form, Time, and Place" in Peter Benes, ed., Rural New England Furniture: People, Place, and Production. (Proceedings of the 1998 Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife): (Boston: The Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife, 2000): 180-197

"A House for Widow Brown: Architectural Statement and Social Position in Providence, 1791 ," Old-Time New England 78 (Fall/Winter 1999): 5-33

"Nicholas Brown" in John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography vol. 3 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999): 721-22

"Shaker Villages" in Neil Larry Shumsky, ed., The Encyclopedia of Urban America: the Cities and Suburbs (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 1998): 424-426.

"Imagining America in 1834: The Meanings of Jean Zuber's Scenic Wallpaper 'Vues d'Amérique du Nord,'" Winterthur Portfolio 32, nos. 2/3 (1997): 189-210

"The Uniqueness of Shaker Architecture" (foreword) in Julie Nicoletta, The Architecture of the Shakers (Woodstock, Vt.: The Countryman Press, 1995)

"Brown House: Une demeure historique pour la civilisation américaine," Connaissance des Arts (January 1994)

"Picturing the Bay: Historical Images as Cultural Response to Narragansett Bay" in Deborah B. Brennan, ed., What a Difference a Bay Makes (Providence: Rhode Island Historical Society and RI Department of State Library Services, 1993)

"The Shaker Dance Prints," Imprint: Journal of the American Historical Print Collectors Society 17, no. 2 (Autumn 1992)

"A Sunday in a Shaker Village," The Shaker Quarterly 20, no. 1 (Spring 1992) [annotated edition of a 1872 account by Robert Watt]

"The Great Gale of 1815: Artifactual Evidence of Rhode Island's First Hurricane," Rhode Island History 48, no. 2 (May 1990)

"Retrofitting the Mansions: The Colonial Revival Impulse in the Brown Houses of Providence," in Joan Rich, ed., The Colonial Revival in Rhode Island 1890-1940 (Providence: The Providence Preservation Society, 1989)

Shaker Village Views: Illustrated Maps and Landscape Drawings by Shaker Artists of the Nineteenth Century (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1987)

"Shaker Village Views," Natural History 98, no. 9 (September 1987)

"A Centennial View of the John Brown House," Rhode Island History 45, no. 1 (1986)

"The Short Lived Partnership of Adrian Webb and Charles Scott," The Magazine Antiques 127, no. 5 (May 1985) (with Sara Steiner)

"An Embossed Leather Cockade by Providence Engraver William Hamlin," Rhode Island History 44 (May 1985)

"Wedding Silver for the Browns," The American Art Journal 16, no. 2 (Spring 1984)

"Ashton Willard Goes to Meeting," The Shaker Messenger 6, no. 2 (Winter 1984)

"A View of Providence: The Explication of a Landscape Painting," Rhode Island History 44, no. 2 (May 1984)

"Henry Barber and the Newport Sideboards" Newport History 56, no. 4 (Fall 1983)

"An Ordinary Chair by Thomas B. Parker," Rhode Island History 42, no. 4 (May 1983)

Contributing author. Buildings on Paper: Rhode Island Architectural Drawings (Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, R.I. Historical Society, 1982

"A Close Look at the Trade Card of Christopher Townsend, Jr.," Rhode Island History 40, no. 1 (February 1981)

"Rochambeau's English Sword," Rhode Island History 39, no. 3 (August 1980)

"Protective Custody: The Museums' Responsibility for Gravestones," Markers: The Journal of the Association of Gravestone Studies 1 (1980)

"The Best Shaker Chairs Ever Made," Maine Antique Digest 8 (March 1980)

"Rhode Island History Carved in Stone," Rhode Island History 39 (Feb. 1980)

"Nicholas Geoffroy Silvers a Looking-Glass," Catalogue of the Junior League Antiques Show, Providence, Rhode Island (March 1980)

"A Masterful William Clagget Clock: A Short Story in a Tall Case," The Magazine Antiques 118, no. 3 (September 1980)

"The Hard Choices of Brother John Cumings," Historical New Hampshire 34, 1 (1979)

"The Story of the Enfield Shaker Sap Buckets," Maine Antique Digest 7, no 4 (May 1979)

"The Great Stone Dwelling of the Enfield New Hampshire, Shakers," Old-Time New England 69, no. 3 (Winter-Spring 1979)

"A Gallery Guide to American Decorative Arts," Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1978)

"The Early Drawings of Elder Joshua Bussell," The Magazine Antiques 113, no. 3 (March, 1978)

"The Enfield, New Hampshire, Shaker Village." The National Register of Historic Places, United States Department of the Interior (1977)

"Raised, Razed, and Raised Again: The Shaker Meetinghouse at Enfield, New Hampshire, Historical New Hampshire 30, no. 1 (Fall 1975)

research overview

Robert P. Emlen studies issues of historical representations of place. He has published his research on the material life of 18th and 19th century America in the leading journals of American material culture. He is presently working on a companion book to his Shaker Village Views: Illustrated Maps and Landscape Drawings by Shaker Artists of the Nineteenth Century (University Press of NE, 1987.) The current project explores how Shaker life was illustrated in the popular press of the 19th century.

research statement

Robert P. Emlen's research interests are issues of historical representations of place. His current study, Picturing the Shakers , a companion book to his Shaker Village Views , explores how Shaker life was depicted in the popular illustrated press of 19th-century America.

Recently-completed research projects include "The Earliest Pictures of Brown," an online essay for Brown University Digital Initiatives, "How the Shakers Came to Be Comfortable with Pictures on Their Walls" in the Shaker Museum Mount Lebanon Journal for Winter, 2012, and Picturing the Shakers in the Era of Manifestations, published by the Couper Press in 2014.

funded research