Campus & Community

Mellon gift of $2.1 million will help save photographs

2 min read

With a $2.1 million gift from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Harvard University Library will establish a comprehensive, Universitywide preservation program for Harvard’s holdings of more than 7.5 million photographs. The Mellon Foundation is providing a $1.25 million matching grant to endow the position of senior photograph conservator in the library’s Weissman Preservation Center as well as $850,000 to help launch the new program during a six-year start-up period.

Commenting on the Mellon Foundation gift, President Lawrence H. Summers stated,

An online
‘Directory to Photographs at Harvard’ provides a concise overview of the University’s holdings and the 47 repositories in which they are located.

“Harvard’s library holdings are among the University’s core assets – assets that benefit our own faculty and students as well as scholars around the world. The University’s photographic holdings are of tremendous value, providing unparalleled documentation of conditions worldwide, often of a world that is no longer available to us. With new support from the Mellon Foundation, the Harvard libraries will be dynamic stewards of these holdings for the benefit of the world community, now and in the generations to come.”

Sidney Verba, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and director of the University Library, described the Mellon gift to Harvard as an unparalleled opportunity. “Because of the Mellon Foundation’s vision and generosity, Harvard can create a photograph preservation program that is unique among American universities and that leverages new sources of support. The program will ensure that Harvard’s monumental collections of photographs can be made available for widespread use today, and are preserved for future generations.” Since 1997, the Mellon Foundation has awarded more than $10 million in support of photograph conservation nationally.

Harvard has collected photographs for more than 160 years. Holdings in the libraries, archives, museums, and teaching hospitals span the history of the medium in all its facets, from daguerreotypes to digital images, and document an encyclopedic range of subjects, from art history to zoology. In 2003, with prior support from the Mellon Foundation, Harvard’s Weissman Center completed an assessment of the nature and condition of the University’s collections.