Archives News: Archivists at Work on Hidden Collections

Photograph, Professor Paul Doty teaching at the Conant Laboratory, 1960s. Harvard University Archives, HUM 177.

Hidden Collections Project Highlights 20th-Century Faculty Collections

The Harvard University Archives is employing innovative processing methods, locally dubbed “more analysis, less arrangement,” to enhance researcher access to the personal archives of four Harvard faculty members: Samuel Beer, Paul Doty, Samuel Huntington, and Norman Ramsey.  The processing project, made possible by the Harvard Library’s Hidden Collections initiative, will allow archivists to improve existing inventories and then collaborate with graduate student subject specialists in Harvard academic departments to analyze collection content and create detailed descriptive guides for each collection. While there will be minimal rearrangement of items in a collection, the content rich descriptions in the guide will optimize keyword access and discovery through web search engines. 

Representing the intersection of 20th-century science, politics and education, all four faculty members were key figures in their respective fields whose influence continues through the work of their students and associates active today. The Samuel Beer collection chronicles Beer’s extensive involvement in the Democratic Party, and his role as an adviser to President Kennedy. Chemist Paul Doty’s collection documents his involvement in international arms control efforts and contains correspondence with public figures such as John F. Kennedy and Henry Kissinger. Conservative political scientist Samuel Huntington’s archive documents his roles as consultant to the US Department of State during the Vietnam War and as White House consultant to the National Security Council. The archive of physicist Norman Ramsey, a Nobel Prize recipient who worked on the Manhattan Project and was the first science adviser to NATO, details his mid-20th-century atomic research.

In total, over three hundred feet of archival collections will be ready for research use in July 2015.  Archives staff will then evaluate feedback from researchers, project staff, and public services staff to determine the effectiveness of the processing techniques used during the project for implementation into regular processing workflows.          

Please contact the Archives reference staff at for more information.