How We Care for Collections

The collections of the Harvard University Archives are kept in environmentally-controlled, secure, closed areas and do not circulate outside of the reading room of the Archives except for transportation to storage, preservation and reproduction treatments or in exceptional circumstances.

All material collections donated to the Archives are placed in archival, acid-free containers and appropriate folders to ensure long-term preservation of the materials.   Some archival collections may contain materials that have physically deteriorated or are fragile. If necessary, staff will consult with professional conservators to decide upon appropriate treatment.  Electronic and born digital materials have their own preservation needs that are addressed on a case by case basis, with some data currently migrated into a preservation format.

Collections donated to the Harvard University Archives are inventoried, cataloged and curated by experienced professional archivists. Basic information about the Archives’ collections is available in the Harvard Library online catalog, HOLLIS, and in most cases is searchable via Internet browsers and through Harvard’s OASIS system.

When cataloged collections are opened to researchers, Archives staff makes them available to patrons in a secure and supervised reading room in accordance to the donor’s instructions and/or University records policy.  When the department is closed, the facility is protected by an electronic security system and by the security staffs of the Harvard Library and Harvard University.

The Archives reading room is open to the public.  A wide variety of researchers uses the Archives’ collections, among them historians, scientists, genealogists, print and broadcast journalists, filmmakers, faculty, students, and Harvard staff and administrators.

The Archives uses items from its collections in exhibits displayed at the Archives research facility. Digitized materials are available through a variety of online resources.