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Administration & Programs

Harvard University Archives


The Harvard University Archives supports the University’s mission of education and research by striving to preserve and to provide access to Harvard’s historical records; to gather an accurate, authentic, and complete record of the life of the University; and to promote the highest standards of management for Harvard’s current records. The Archives mission requires staff to look both backward and forward to attend to tradition and to the future. Several important initiatives this past year exemplify this responsibility:

  • preparing the traditional insignia for the inauguration ceremony for Harvard’s 28th president; and
  • establishing the workflow for a test project to collect and preserve a sample of University web sites, providing guidance for the current management of University e-mail, and beginning discussions about the preservation of presidential e-mail.

Building the Collections

This was the first partial year of activity for a new collection-development unit, whose full attention will focus on University records appraisal decisions and initiating contacts with faculty and others whose papers form a significant part of the Archives collections. Together, University records and personal papers and records provide a comprehensive record of the life of the University stretching back to the 17th century.

A sample of the materials collected in FY 2007 by the University Archives includes:

268 cubic feet of University records, comprising

  • program administration records of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies;
  • records of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Committee on African Studies;
  • records of the Administrative Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences;
  • photographs of the renovation of the fourth floor of Emerson Hall and of Faculty of Arts and Sciences departmental faculty and visitors including Gregory Nagy, Christopher Braider, Claudio Guillén, Jurij Striedter, CzesĹ‚aw MiĹ‚osz, János M. Bak, Richard Sieburth, StanisĹ‚aw BaraĹ„czak, Dorrit Cohn, Sandra Naddaff, and David Perkins;
  • graduate-student field records from the Office of Ministerial Studies, Harvard Divinity School;
  • “Reflections on the Harvard Graduate School of Education, 1948–1985: An Oral History Recorded on the Occasion of Harvard’s 350th Anniversary,” with transcripts of interviews, from the Office of External Relations, Graduate School of Education;
  • executive correspondence of the director of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, Omeljan Pritsak;
  • records, photographs, audio tapes, and videotapes from the Center for Jewish Studies;
  • executive correspondence and related documents of Reginald H. Phelps, director of the Harvard Extension School and associate dean of GSAS; and
  • records of the director of the Maria Moors Cabot Foundation for Botanical Research.

121 cubic feet of faculty papers, including those of the following current and formers members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) and the John F. Kennedy School of Government (HKS):

  • Alfred Walter Crompton—FAS, natural history,
  • Gwynne Blakemore Evans (1912–2005)—FAS, English,
  • John Merriman Gaus—HKS, government,
  • Ronald Heifetz—HKS, public leadership,
  • Gerald James Holton—FAS, physics, history of science,
  • Farish A. Jenkins, Jr.—FAS, biology, paleontology, zoology,
  • James J. McCarthy—FAS, biological oceanography,
  • Ernst Mayr (1904–2005)—FAS, zoology,
  • Richard Pipes—FAS, Russian history,
  • Edwin O. Reischauer (1910–1990)—FAS, Far Eastern languages,
  • Frank H. Westheimer (1912–2007)—FAS, chemistry.

In addition, materials were added to the personal papers of Harvard President James Bryant Conant (1893–1978).

Serving Researchers

The collections at the University Archives are in active use year-round by those who visit the Archives and those who work remotely and contact staff via e-mail for assistance. The public services staff serves a broad audience, including not only University students, faculty, administrators, and alumni/ae, but also growing numbers of visiting scholars from around the world.

In FY 2007, public services staff (comprising reference and holdings management)

  • provided research assistance for 3,418 on-site patron visits and answered 2,244 off-site reference inquiries;
  • circulated over 8,237 items from the onsite stacks and reading room, and 4,809 items from the Harvard Depository;
  • created a web page on the history of the Harvard presidency;
  • reorganized 350 feet of the onsite stacks and created additional preservation and processing work space;
  • upgraded the storage and housing for 369 fragile items;
  • secured conservation treatment, rehousing, and digital photography for the Harvard Charter of 1650;
  • reestablished an environmental monitoring program;
  • drafted a disaster preparedness plan; and
  • completed a preservation and access project for Harvard student-strike posters from the 1960s.

Public services staff offered 20 presentations to more than 315 participants, providing substantial reference support for approximately 180 students in several Harvard courses, including History 1513, “History of Harvard Presidency”; a freshman seminar entitled “Harvard and the History of Higher Education”; and a social sciences course offered by the Division of Continuing Education.

The staff also provided instruction and tours for a wide array of Harvard faculty, staff, and administrators. These ranged from a tutorial instructors’ retreat for the history department to a Mormon genealogy research group organized by Professor Laurel T. Ulrich and, on behalf of the University Marshal’s Office, a tour for a group of university administrators from Taiwan.

Improving Access to Collections

The collections services staff are challenged by a need to bring legacy collections up to current standards of professional description and to maintain and improve control over contemporary collections comprising a wide variety of record formats.

In FY 2007, collections services staff

  • completed the full processing of the records and/or papers of President Charles William Eliot, 1824–1936, (115 cubic feet), President Nathan Pusey, 1907–2001, (9.2 cubic feet), and the John Harvard family collection (3 cubic feet);
  • completed the processing of a number of University records, including a large group of student records (123 cubic feet) and the Curriculum Collection, which includes faculty teaching materials, syllabi, student notes, and student assignments from the 17th through the 20th centuries (approximately 7,000 items housed in 504 cubic feet);
  • began the retrospective processing and preservation of the papers of Professor Josiah Royce, 1833¬1916;
  • began the preliminary processing of 77 new and legacy accessions of faculty papers (344 cubic feet);
  • surveyed the papers of Professor George Hunston Williams, 1914–2000, (350 cubic feet);
  • began to reorganize and provide retrospective cataloging for the records of the Harvard University treasurers from the 17th through the 20th centuries (350 cubic feet);
  • cataloged a backlog of theses, dissertations, and prize papers, creating approximately new 1,000 bibliographic records;
  • added 11 new finding aids to OASIS (Online Archival Search Information System);
  • cataloged and deposited approximately 350 images digitized prior to the development of the Digital Repository Service;
  • exported approximately 85,000 Aleph cataloging records to OCLC/RLIN, replacing legacy and obsolete records;
  • launched an iSite research guide to resources in the Harvard University Archives relating to Native Americans, with visual materials and links to related materials elsewhere at Harvard; and
  • selected books and serials for the Harvard–Google Project.

Serving Harvard’s Staff

In 1995, the Harvard Corporation charged the University Archives with the responsibility of overseeing a “comprehensive records management program throughout the University.” Records Management Services (RMS) fulfills that directive and establishes guidance and policy for records management at the University. In addition to promulgating records schedules and procedures, the RMS staff offers guidance documents on topics of particular interest to Harvard entities and manages the relations of University offices with off-site records centers. This year was marked by an increase in training sessions and workshops for individual offices and for Harvard staff.

In FY 2007, records management staff provided services to 305 individual University offices by

  • conducting five Archive review visits to offices, 241 client consultations and 188 follow-up consultations, six exit interviews, 48 peer consultations, and two surveys;
  • offering 39 training sessions for 467 University personnel during the year, including a new e-mail workshop that was particularly well received;
  • writing and gaining approval for 11 Special Records Schedules;
  • beginning a project to recall the 14,000 boxes in the Harvard Law School storage account, identify their contents, assign responsibility to offices or faculty, and destroy or return materials to storage;
  • working with the University Technology Security Officer and the Department of Procurement Management to draft a new University-wide contract for document destruction services for a full range of destruction service for University records in most formats and media; and
  • providing substantial support for the LDI-funded project to capture FAS web sites.