A Transcendent Vitality: Harvard at 375

3 min read

To honor the University’s dynamic history, the Harvard University Archives has mounted an extensive 375th anniversary exhibition entitled “A Transcendent Vitality.” Through this seven-month, commemorative exhibition in Pusey Library, the Archives shines a celebratory light on its unique research collections as they illustrate Harvard’s history and anticipate the University’s continuing impact.

According to University Archivist Megan Sniffin-Marinoff, “Rich history, cherished traditions, and social impact are significant hallmarks of the University’s first 375 years. Because the Archives is the official repository of Harvard history, our holdings uniquely express both the University’s history and its aspirations up to the present day.”

The exhibition takes its title from remarks by Harvard President Charles W. Eliot on the occasion of Harvard’s 250th anniversary in 1886:

  • And universities are among the most permanent of human institutions. They outlast particular forms of government, and even the legal and industrial institutions in which they seem to be embedded. Harvard University already illustrates this transcendent vitality.

“A Transcendent Vitality” includes more than 85 items, organized by century. Materials range from Ann Radcliffe’s 1643 bequest—for Harvard’s first scholarship fund—and Harvard’s 1650 Charter to a 1947 watercolor by the noted African-American artist Allan Rohan Crite and President Faust’s first e-mail to the Harvard community.

Exhibition visitors will see manuscripts, letters, maps, miniatures, photographs, cyanotypes, and even a board game and a dining hall tray designed by Walter Gropius. Because of the fragility and light sensitivity of many of these materials, in many cases digital copies will be displayed.

“A Transcendent Vitality” is on view until May 25 in the lobby of Pusey Library from 10 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday (excluding holidays). During the week of October 11, visitors can access the exhibition directly from Harvard Yard through the main doors of Pusey Library. For all remaining dates, access is by way of the Lamont Library main entrance.

The Harvard University Archives is the oldest and one of the largest academic archives in the United States. It collects, preserves, and provides access to a comprehensive record of life at Harvard. The collections in the Harvard University Archives, which date from the 17th century to the present, are used by scholars of American social, intellectual, and academic history; by historians of Harvard, including University departments studying their own histories; by students learning the methodology of historical research; and by the general public. The collections support teaching and related research by faculty and students at Harvard, administrative research by University staff, and in-depth historical research by scholars from around the world. For more information, visit the Archives web site at