Harvard’s history is long and complex, spanning nearly 400 years. From the colonial period to the Information Age, the university has seen the world around it transform dramatically. It has not, however, been a static witness to these changes. Harvard has always been dynamic, evolving and adapting to the needs and interests of its community at any given moment. That change is driven by the decisions, discoveries, and insights of individuals who make up the Harvard community.

The Harvard University Archives collects, preserves, and makes available for research the documentary evidence chronicling Harvard’s long history. Generations of historians have investigated Harvard’s history, and their observations and arguments help us understand how the institution has changed over time, from its beginnings as a small college in a far-flung English colony, to its present status as a global leader in education and innovation. However, these histories inevitably (and necessarily) leave out the stories of thousands of individuals who have played an important role in making Harvard what it has been, is, and will become.

Harvard Lives showcases items from the collections of the Harvard University Archives that represent aspects of the lives of some of those individuals who have shaped Harvard, and, in turn, been shaped by it. Shown here are some of the students, faculty, staff, and visitors whose lives add dimension and depth to stories already told about Harvard and those yet to be told. These are only vignettes—brief glimpses into complicated lives. Each deserves further investigation, and we encourage you to visit the Archives, dig deeper, and add to the story. Like Harvard itself, this exhibit is dynamic—new faces will be added and new stories will be explored periodically.