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Administration and 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:

  • contributing to the traditional activities associated with a Harvard presidential inauguration;
  • standardizing the acquisitions workflow, including procedures for onsite appraisals and consultations and implementing gift agreements and terms of access;
  • providing sustained focus and attention on under-documented areas of University activity; and
  • harvesting the web sites of FAS departments as a first step in collecting University records in digital format, located on the web.

The greatest challenge to the University Archives is managing the additional activities required to provide advice to offices and to determine the methods and means to collect electronic records while simultaneously creating up-to-date access tools for several centuries of legacy collections.

Building the Collections

This was our first year of full-time attention devoted to the comprehensive collection of both University records and personal papers of Harvard faculty. A sample of the materials collected in FY 2008 by the University Archives includes:

289 cubic feet of University records, comprising:

  • records from the Refugee Interview Program (Project on the Soviet Social System) including code books, questionnaires, and publications, Russian Research Center
  • inauguration planning records and memorabilia for the Rudenstine, Summers, and Faust inauguration ceremonies, University Marshal’s Office
  • research reports and data relating to campus life, curriculum, race relations and minority issues, admissions, housing and faculty recruitment, 1931–1977, Office of Research and Analysis
  • administrative records for Littauer Library and the Labor Collections, Manpower Industrial Relations Library 
  • records of Radcliffe Dean Drew Faust, including subject and correspondence files, Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study
  • scholarship fund stewardship files, Vice President for Alumni Affairs and Development, University Development Office, Donor Relations, Stewardship Programs
  • meeting records of the Committee on Patents and Copyrights, Office of Technology Development
  • matriculation records for each incoming Divinity School student, Harvard Divinity School

227 cubic feet of faculty papers, including those of the following current and former members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Graduate School of Education, and School of Public Health:

  • Francis M. Bator, Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Political Economy Emeritus
  • Elkan Rogers Blout, Professor of Biochemistry and Dean for Academic Affairs, Harvard School of Public Health
  • Allan M. Brandt, Amalie Moses Kass Professor of the History of Medicine, Professor of History of Science
  • Harvey Brooks, Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics, Emeritus
  • Roger W. Brown, John Lindsley Professor in Memory of William James
  • Jerome S. Bruner, Professor of Psychology
  • John Haller, Professor of Geology
  • Gerald James Holton, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics, and Professor of the History of Science
  • Farish A. Jenkins, Jr., Professor of Biology and Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology; Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology
  • V. O. (Valdimer Orlando) Key, Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History and Government
  • Wilbur Kitchener Jordan, Professor of History and President of Radcliffe
  • Duncan Luce, Alfred North Whitehead Professor of Psychology and Victor S. Thomas Professor of Psychology
  • Horace G. Lunt, Samuel Hazzard Cross Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Emeritus
  • Muhsin Mahdi, James Richard Jewett Professorship in Arabic
  • David Maybury-Lewis, Professor of Anthropology (in process)
  • Dwight H. Perkins, Harold Hitchings Burbank Research Professor of Political Economy
  • John Rawls, James Bryant Conant University Professor
  • Zeph Stewart, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities, Emeritus
  • Karl van Duyn Teeter, Professor of Linguistics, Emeritus
  • Sidney Verba, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library
  • Helen Vendler,  Arthur Kingsley Porter University Professor
  • Emily Dickinson Townsend Vermeule, Samuel E. Zemurray, Jr. and Doris Zemurray Stone-Radcliffe Professor
  • Frank H. Westheimer, Morris Loeb Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus
  • Morton Gabriel White, Professor Emeritus, Department of Philosophy
  • Stephen Williams, Peabody Professor of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Emeritus; Honorary Curator of North American Archaeology, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
  • Paul N. Ylvisaker, Dean, Harvard Graduate School of Education

 In addition, there were several notable alumni/ae and/or student manuscript acquisitions:

  • Anonymous student scrapbook of receipts, 1892–1895, from local Cambridge and Boston merchants, and bills for instruction and dining fees;
  • Joseph Kendall (AM 1810) 1808 mathematics notebook created as a sophomore (Kendall was later a Massachusetts State Senator and US Representative);
  • Harvard University Foot Ball Association—season ticket issued to Lawrence Smith Butler (AB 1898);
  • William Aaron Selz (AB 1938)—four handwritten, English class notebooks;
  • Harvard Club of Boston—printed program with menu and guest list, reminder card, and name card from a June 28, 1966 sponsored event, cocktails and dinner followed by Boston Red Sox vs. the New York Yankees baseball;
  • 1969 “strike” posters including “Roll Back Rent$” and “Strike for the Six”; and
  • Harvard–Radcliffe Collegium Musicum—medal, photos from 2007 tour of Australia, concert poster from Sydney, concert programs, memoranda, meeting minutes, and press clippings and releases.

As an initial step in a strategic goal to reformulate collecting activities, office procedures were tightened, surveys undertaken, and initial, assertive outreach activities instituted. In addition, to address a strategic goal of collecting more aggressively in under-documented areas, Administrative Fellow Emilyn Brown completed the data gathering on faculty engaged in teaching in Latin American studies at Harvard and created a long-range plan for building collections of papers from minority faculty.

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 a significant number of visiting scholars from around the world.

In FY 2008, public services staff (comprising reference and holdings management):

  • provided research assistance for 3,554 on-site patron visits and answered 2,091 off-site reference inquiries;
  • circulated over 9,442 items from the in-site stacks and reading room, and 4,278 items from the Harvard Depository;
  • created a display on the history of the Harvard presidency and the Harvard Charter of 1650 viewed by an audience of over 500 guests as part of President Faust’s inauguration activities;
  • gave twelve presentations about the Archives’ collections, assisted with a History Department tutorial instructors retreat, and led seven class presentations including Anthropology 1130 (Archaeology of Harvard Yard), History 1656 (Harvard and slavery Research Seminar), and GSE S-508 (Methods of Research in the History of Education); and
  • reorganized 188 feet of stack space to accommodate more collections.

To meet a strategic goal of restructuring the reference experience for patrons, the public services staff streamlined remote reference policies and procedures and created new guides to access biographical sources, Native American sources, and enhanced guides to frequently asked historical questions.

Improving Access to Collections

The collections service staff are challenged by a need to bring access tools for 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 2008, collections services staff:

  • completed the processing of 19 collections, including the papers of Professors Solon Bailey and John Haller, the records of the Harvard College Observatory/Boyden Station, and six additional cubic feet of photographs from the station located in Arequipa, Peru;
  • wiith a focus on processing the records of student organizations, created new access tools for the Phi Beta Kappa Library; Harvard Advocate; Harvard Aeronautical Society; Aesculapian Club; Adelphoi Theologia; Association of African and Afro-American Students at Harvard and Radcliffe; Harvard Black Student Association; and the Harvard Chapter of the American Student Defense League;
  • began a major project to process the papers of the American philosopher Professor Josiah Royce;
  • added 1065 new bibliographic, 4693 updated bibliographic, and 2730 new holdings records to HOLLIS
  • completed the Archives’ share of the Harvard–Google Project;
  • participated in the LDI web-archiving project (WAX) by developing new policies and practices for cataloging web-based archival collections; and
  • planned for an upgrade to the local collection information systems with the expertise of the HUL database specialist.

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, RMS staff offer guidance documents on topics of particular interest to Harvard entities and manage the relations of University offices with off-site records centers. 

In FY 2008, records management staff provided services to 290 individual University offices by:

  • issuing a revised General Records Schedule in an online-only version;
  • fulfilling 3,634 orders for University offices;
  • conducting two archive-review visits to offices, 189 client consultations, 120 follow-up consultations, 51 peer consultations, and 30 surveys;
  • offering 29 training sessions for 264 University personnel;
  • writing and gaining approval for seven Special Records Schedules;
  • issuing a new guideline, “Recordkeeping Guidelines for University Committees”;
  • coordinating with the University Information Security Officer to ensure that RMS practices and policies are compliant with and supportive of the University’s enterprise security policy;
  • beginning work on a revision of University e-mail guidelines, now undergoing legal review; and
  • continuing work on the LDI-funded WAX project by entering the first batch of “harvested” FAS department web sites into the DRS.

A strategic goal for the University Archives is to better coordinate records activities with other Harvard offices. As a first step, records management staff coordinated an agreement with IKON, the University’s provider for copying and scanning services, and the records management offices at Harvard Business School and the Longwood Medical Area, to include records management in discussions about imaging with Harvard offices.