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.
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.
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:
- Records and papers of Harvard’s first president, Henry Dunster
- Early Harvard College faculty minutes
- Correspondence between Harvard Treasurer John Hancock and Harvard President Samuel Langdon at the start of the American Revolution
- 19th century records from the Harvard College Observatory’s station in Arequipa, Peru
- A recording of a radio address given by Harvard President Abbott Lawrence Lowell on the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, February 17, 1932
- Photos of Martin Luther King Jr. during a visit to Harvard in 1965
- 21st century websites
Accessing These Materials
This guide details how to access materials held by the Harvard University Archives.