The Harvard University Library (HUL) is pleased to publish the Directory to Photographs at Harvard, an online guide to the photograph collections held in libraries, archives, museums, and teaching hospitals throughout the oldest university in the United States. The Directory serves as a general reference for students and researchers intent on exploring the collections.

Photographer unknown, Harvard Psychological Laboratory, Students Measuring Reaction Time, 1892, Albumen print, HUP-SF Psychology Lab, Harvard University Archives [click for larger image]Important publications record Harvard’s efforts over the course of more than 160 years to make, collect, and document photographs, including Photographs at Harvard and Radcliffe: A Directory,[1] published by the Harvard University Library in 1984; and The Invention of Photography and Its Impact on Learning,[2] published by the Library in 1994. When, in 2001, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded the University Library’s Weissman Preservation Center a grant to assess the preservation needs of Harvard’s photographs, the 1984 Directory served as the Center’s map to the collections. An important product of the Mellon preservation assessment is this updated version of the Directory. It offers readers a bird’s-eye view of research resources that span more than a century and a half, from the dawn of photography to the present day.

It is estimated that 51 repositories at Harvard hold approximately 7.5 million photographic images. The collections are described in brief directory entries, which can now be updated readily as more accurate data are gathered, new discoveries are made, and new images are acquired. Printed copies of the directory can be made for personal use.

We are fortunate that growing appreciation and use of photographs has been accompanied at Harvard by overall advances in stewardship of the collections. With the implementation of VIA, Harvard’s online “Visual Information Access” catalog, the ability of librarians, archivists, and curators to catalog visual objects; and of students, scholars, and researchers to find them, has been enhanced dramatically. The development of the Harvard Depository, which opened in 1986, affords opportunities to store collections under conditions that promote the longevity of paper, plastics, and other substances of which photographs are comprised. Now, with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Weissman Preservation Center has established a photograph conservation program to preserve the collections and to contribute to ongoing cataloging and rehousing initiatives.

As the historical and contemporary role of photography as a vehicle for recording and interpreting our natural and built environment is increasingly understood and appreciated, it is hoped that the outcome of these efforts will be to ensure that photographs survive and can be located, identified, and replicated for very long-term use.

We would like to acknowledge the contributions of Weissman Preservation Center staff members: Melissa Banta, Curatorial Associate, who conducted the 2002 Mellon preservation survey of photographs and edited this Directory; Stephen Chapman, Preservation Librarian for Digital Initiatives, who oversaw production for the online directory; Jane Hedberg, Preservation Program Officer, and Thea Burns, Helen H. Glaser Conservator, who assisted with the survey and helped with the final editing of this publication; Barbara Movius, Staff Assistant, who helped with the gathering of information and preparation of the Directory; and Sergey Trishin, Database Specialist, who assisted with the design of the survey project database. We are also grateful to Paul Messier, founder of Boston Art Conservation, who with Ms. Banta conducted the 2002 Mellon preservation survey and developed the project database from which the Directory was produced.

We are most appreciative of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Angelica Rudenstine, Program Officer, Museums and Conservation, for their championing of the field of photography and for their support.

Finally, we are indebted to, and would like to thank, the many librarians, archivists, and curators at Harvard who work so closely with the Weissman Preservation Center and to such good ends, and who supplied the collection descriptions and digital images that follow.

Jan Merrill-Oldham
Malloy-Rabinowitz Preservation Librarian
   in the Harvard University and the Harvard College Library
Weissman Preservation Center

1 Harvard University Library, Photographs at Harvard and Radcliffe: A Directory (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Library, 1984). [return to text]

2 Louise Todd Ambler and Melissa Banta, eds., The Invention of Photography and Its Impact on Learning: Photographs from Harvard University and Radcliffe College and from the Collection of Harrison D. Horblit (Cambridge: Harvard University Library, 1989). [return to text]

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