Harvard Libraries: Day Two of the Open Archives Tour

Harvard Libraries: Day Two of the Open Archives Tour

Archival treasures on display

Photo: Documents bearing John Hancock's well-known signature were part of the July 10 Harvard University Archives exhibit during the Cambridge Open Archives tour.

Revolutionary-era patriot John Hancock shared the spotlight with "Unabomber" Ted Kazcynski, local poet E. E. Cummings (e. e. cummings to some), and aviator Amelia Earhart in special displays at three Harvard libraries on July 10. It was Day 2 of “Famous and Infamous,” Cambridge’s Fourth Annual Open Archives Tour, a.k.a. the Archives Crawl.

The July 9-12 Open Archives event featured displays at a dozen local libraries and collections, three on each of the four days. The Day 2 tour, reported here, included historical treasures at three Harvard sites: the University Archives and the Houghton and Schlesinger Libraries. Destinations for Days 1, 3 and 4 are listed at the bottom of the page. For a report on Day 1 of the tour, see Siobhan Bredin's article: Cambridge Open Archives City Collections Tour 2012. Her piece includes an interview with Gavin Kleespies, Executive Director of the Cambridge Historical Society, which organizes the event.

Baseball player's jacket, 1912, worn by Richard Bowditch Wigglesworth, Harvard Class of 1912Photo: Harvard's baseball team played the Red Sox on April 9, 1912, in the inaugural game at the brand-new Fenway Park. The game was called after seven innings on account of cold and snow, with the Sox ahead 2-0. This Harvard baseball uniform, part of the University Archives collection, was worn by Richard Bowditch Wigglesworth, Class of 1912.

Although the terms “Famous” and “Infamous" were part of the Cambridge Open Archives Tour description, exhibits were not labeled as such. Participants were free to decide who were villains and who were heroes.

This Day 2 tour began with the Harvard University Archives, located on campus in the Pusey Library. Class reunion items featuring United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Theodore "Ted" Kaczynski -- both of them Harvard graduates -- were among the exhibits.

Roosevelt (Class of 1904; U.S. President 1933-45) appeared in the display with his classmates and his wife Eleanor in a panoramic photo taken at the White House. The class was marking its 30th graduation anniversary. He was president during the Great Depression and World War II.

Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski was a member of the Class of 1962. His mail bombs protesting the intrusion of technology into human life killed three people and injured 23 others between 1978 and 1995. His 50th reunion class note was on display; in it he gives his address as “U.S. Penitentiary-Max, P.O. Box 8500, Florence, CO 8126-8500. He lists his occupation: “Prisoner,” and his awards: “Eight life sentences.”

Other documents in this collection bore the iconic signature of John Hancock (Class of 1754). During the Revolutionary War he was Harvard’s Treasurer -- a rather unsatisfactory one, according to Public Services Archivist Barbara Meloni, who introduced the show.

“No money came in or went out here for two years,” Meloni said. “Of course,” she added, “he was really busy.”

His message, dated March 21, 1775, says he was “. . . Being prevented by various Avocations from Compleating the College Accounts.” The "various Avocations" looming up for him that spring included the Siege of Boston and the beginning of his term as President of the Second Continental Congress.

Open Archives Left: Tour leader Kenneth Selnick inspects Chef Julia Child's trophies, among them an Emmy and a Cordon Bleu medal, at the Schlesinger Library.

After an hour the group, led by Kenneth Selnick, moved on to the nearby Houghton Library. Selnick was volunteering with the tour on behalf of the Historical Society.

At the Houghton Library there were more wonders to explore with the help of Peter Accardo, curator and Coordinator of Programs. Endowed by Arthur A. Houghton, Jr. (Class of 1929), a Corning Glass executive and bibliophile, this library is Harvard’s principal repository for rare books and manuscripts. Circulating through the elegant rooms, tour members admired shelves of incunabula -- books printed before 1501. They saw portraits of Samuel Johnson and a collection of his works, and they passed through a show of writings and art by nonsense poet and nature illustrator Edward Lear. Great names flew by: Montaigne, Milton, Donne, Mather, Masefield, Keats, the Alcotts, John Updike.

A special display here included a rare copy of the first book printed in British North America, the Whole Booke of Psalmes (1640). An application for admission to Harvard by Edward Estlin Cummings (later known to many as e. e. cummings), was on the table, along with a typed draft of one of his poems: “the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls.” Cummings graduated in 1915.

Accardo showed the group a unique item from the collection:   a handsome field glass, said to have been captured in battle and given to George Washington. He revealed an interesting fact about it.

"The story was a fake," he said.

The final stop on the tour was the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, located at 10 Garden Street. Named for Harvard history professor Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. and his wife, feminist Elizabeth Bancroft Schlesinger, this library dates from 1943, when suffragist and Radcliffe graduate Maud Wood Park ’98 gave her alma mater a collection of materials focusing on women’s rights.

Amelia Earhart's baby book has a lock of her hair.Johanna Carll of the Schlesinger staff discussed the library's history and holdings. Papers of Harlem Renaissance writer Dorothy West, the Boston-born author of The Living Is Easy, were on view. An Emmy award and a Cordon Bleu medal recalled master chef Julia Child, a long-time Cambridge resident. Aviator Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) was represented by photos and correspondence and a baby book with a lock of her hair (left).

Bette Davis on COYOTE poster"She said making money through sex was no different from any other work." The COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics) collection documented that organization's beginning in 1973; its mission was to assist prostitutes and homosexuals. Bette Davis was a poster girl for COYOTE's "Hookers" Film Festival (below, left) in 1977. COYOTE founder Margo St. James identified herself as a prostitute, according to Carll.

Library staff members at all three locations told tour participants that independent researchers can access these and other Harvard collections. It is not necessary to be connected to Harvard or to a research institution, they said, but arrangements must be made in advance. More information about the process is available through the Library Privileges Office.

“I can’t believe that I could actually come in here and handle these things,” one tour member said.


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Open Archives tours took place on July 9, 10, 11, and 12. The Harvard tour, Day 2, was on the 10th. The other tours were:

-- Day 1, City Collections: Cambridge Historical Commission; Cambridge Room of the Public Library; Cambridge Public Works Department.

-- Day 3, Cultural Collections: Mount Auburn Cemetery; Cambridge Historical Society; Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site.

-- Day 4, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Collections: MIT List Visual Arts Center; MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections; MIT Museum.
"Women of Courage," Schlesinger Library, Harvard
"Women of Courage" (right), a publication featuring photos by Judith Sedwick and based on the Black Women Oral History Project, was sponsored by the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College. Cover photo: Alabama nurse Eunice Rivers Laurie. Copies were available at the library.