Excursion to Harvard University and Archival Repository Guide Writing
By: Ariadne Argyros
Most people know Harvard because of its reputation as one of the top colleges in the United States, but a lesser known fact is that the school played a rather unusual role in the early days of the American Revolution. In the early days following the start of the Revolutionary War, Harvard turned its campus over to the newly formed American army where soldiers would sleep, train, and fortify Cambridge during the Siege of Boston. Schooling was temporarily moved to Concord, MA due to concerns about student safety; apparently, there were concerns that students would associate with the prole and therefore indecorous soldiers. Remember, this was 1775, a time when only young white males of considerable means were encouraged to pursue higher education. Many of the soldiers were made up of working-class boys and men; fraternization between the two groups was actively discouraged.
During the soldiers’ stay at the college, five Harvard buildings were used to house 1,600 troops. Hollis and Massachusetts Halls held 640 soldiers each; Holden Chapel held 160; and Stoughton Hall bunked 240. Harvard Hall also served a similar function. Hundreds of tents and barracks were put up in Harvard Yard. Upon British surrender in March of 1776, the American troops headed south out of Boston, leaving a trail of damages in their wake. The troops had torn the metal roof off of Harvard Hall to melt into bullets, stripped brass doorknobs, box locks, and some of the interior woodwork from the building.
Archival Repository Guide
Last week I wrote a little bit about my work with the archival repository guide for the Boston National Historical Park Collections. I made a rough outline of what I wanted the guide to say and how it might look, and then I got to writing. This project has definitely been a challenge for me because I don’t have access to the finding aids, the collections, and only one of the other guides that I tracked down from other National Historical Parks, National Parks, Historical Societies, or universities has created a guide whose format is even somewhat similar to mine. So, it looks like this guide may well be one of the first of its kind! I have been using the Charlestown Navy Yard Historic Resource Study (HRS) and the Boston National Historical Park Collection Management Plan as a collections information guide. Many of the Navy Yard’s collections are listed in these two resources and by putting them together, I have the names and dates of the collections as well as the amount of material per collection and some brief entries summarizing materials. I still keep in constant contact with my supervisor and ask him questions whenever I am unclear about something, but I do believe that this project is really starting to come together. I am very excited to see what it will look like when it’s finished!