Harvard's Institutional History and Records

Over four centuries of archival and manuscript documentation of Harvard’s intellectual, cultural, social, religious, and administrative history.
A telegram from Harvard President James B. Conant to U.S President Franklin D. Roosevelt after the December 7, 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor.

The Harvard University Archives holds records and publications produced by more than 800 administrative, academic, and research units at Harvard over the course of nearly four centuries.

A picture of an old page in a book with many handwritten signatures.
Handwritten list of graduates, including Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard. College Book 1, 1639-1795
Harvard University Archives

The collections document the significant moments in Harvard history, but they also reveal compelling stories that are recorded in everyday operational records, adding rich dimension to the over 380 years of documented life at Harvard.

Harvard’s records document the University’s evolution from a small college to a modern research university of international scope. They encompass all facets of University life, from teaching and learning to dining services, residential life, building construction, and fundraising.

In addition to providing a comprehensive record of Harvard’s internal operations, these collections record the University’s involvement in local, national, and world events. More broadly, the University’s records reflect the emergence of higher education in the United States — tracing the development of academic disciplines, pedagogical trends and institutional finances. They also highlight the history of intellectual life and social and political change at and beyond Harvard.

An architectural drawing of plans for restoring the Indian College building at Harvard.
Conjectural restoration of the Indian College, one of Harvard's earliest buildings, by H. R. Shurtleff, circa 1936. View Details.
Harvard University Archives

The collections comprise over 53,000 feet of materials. Items include archives, manuscripts, audio-visual materials, photos and drawings, rare books, digital collections, and theses, dissertations, and prize papers dating from the 17th century to the present.

The materials document educational trends, scientific research, and developments in many fields of study.

Highlights from the collection include:

Accessing These Materials

This guide details how to access materials held by the Harvard University Archives.