Tag Archives: Harvard University

Register for: We Keep the Dead Close

Date & Time:
March 25, 2021
12:00pm – 1:00pm

Author Talk:  We Keep the Dead Close, A Conversation with Becky Cooper
In 1969, a Harvard archaeology graduate student named Jane Britton was killed in her off-campus apartment in Cambridge. Her murder remained unsolved until late 2018, when police announced a break in the case. We Keep the Dead Close is the story of author Becky Cooper’s ten-year pursuit for answers.  Join us for a conversation with Cooper as she discusses her research into a murder that gripped the nation more than 50 years ago. 

A native New Yorker, Becky Cooper graduated from Harvard College in 2010.  She is a former New Yorker editorial staff member and author of We Keep the Dead Close (2020) and Mapping Manhattan

We Keep the Dead Close was featured in the Boston Globe MagazineNew York Times, and Washington Post.


Mystery Photo Revealed: Science Edition


Two weeks ago, we posted this mystery photo above.  We got some good suggestions, including Polaroid.  But this was a really tricky photo.  I know there are a lot of scientists out there who use an updated version of this machine:  a mass spectrometer.  This one is from 1938 and was located at Harvard.  Here’s the caption:

Sifts Atoms
Cambridge, Mass. Dr. Alfred O. Nier, of Harvard University with his “Atomic Sleeve,” known technically as a mass spectrometer and the function of which is to detect the presence of rare isotopic forms and also to give accurate measures of the relative abundance of different isotopes present in an element.  Isotopes are atoms of the same element which differ in weight.  Ordinary lead has four isotopes weighing 204, 206, 207, and 208 atomic units.  With the use of Dr. Nier’s apparatus scientists will be able more easily to determine the relative age of given mineral deposits through their isotopic characteristics.

Boston Herald, June 2, 1938.  Photograph by Acme Newspictures, Inc.



Turn of the 20th Century Harvard Students Have Fun

From the Cambridge Room Collection, Postcards (028).

This 1909 photo postcard of Harvard students playing a game of Tug of War – possible across the Charles River – is a new acquisition to the Cambridge Room Collection.  We’ve seen a lot of historic postcards of Cambridge and Harvard, but this one is definitely unique.

Conflict at Harvard: The University Responds


Members of Harvard’s Committee on the University and the City, 1969.

In response to the SDS publication, Harvard, Urban Imperialist, the University formed a committee called the University and the City and began formally reporting on its role in Cambridge and Boston.  The University and the City, published in 1969, seeks to address what the University sees as “urban issues” and “find solutions to urban distress and malaise, poverty, economic imbalance, racial inequality, and diseases of mind and body.”  At the time, Harvard was facing protests from both faculty and students.  “Among the issues in the Faculty of Arts and Science alone,” states the report, “Black Studies, faculty recruitment, the opening of faculty meetings to students, the future of the Graduate School, merger with Radcliffe, the ROTC programs, academic freedom in the classroom, the decision-making process of the Faculty itself, and ‘student power.'”

The report shows how each school’s (Business, the Kennedy School, School of Education, Arts and Sciences, etc.) curriculum contributes to urban development through volunteer efforts and research projects.  It also explains how the University gives the community access to its resources through its museums and the use of some athletic facilities.  A very different perspective emerges – one that doesn’t address the SDS’s concerns relating to property, expansion, rent, or class – but nevertheless shows the other side of the story.

Future Congressman Barney Frank, executive assistant to the Mayor of Boston, leads a seminar on urban politics at the Kennedy Institute.


Student Protests at Harvard 42 Years Ago

Occupy Harvard officially ended last night, which brings to mind another era of protests at Harvard some 42 years ago.  In 1969, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) published Harvard, Urban Imperialist, a 19 page polemic against the University’s increasing expansion into Cambridge.  Fearing that Harvard was responsible for a “class substitution” in which the majority working-class manufacturing city would be supplanted by a center for training and housing highly specialized technicians whose roles would be to “carry out government and private research, and for exploiting the latest technologies in lucrative private industries,” the SDS issued three demands.

1.  Harvard must roll back the rents in the apartments it owns to the January 1, 1968 level.
2. Black and white workers’ homes in Roxbury will not be torn down to make room for the Harvard Medical School expansion.
3. The University Road apartments will not be torn down to make way for the Kennedy Memorial Library (which is now the Kennedy School for Government).

The publication concludes with the following:

“Abolish ROTC!”
“No Expansion!”
“No Punishment!”

Stop by the Cambridge Room to read the full publication.

Occupy Harvard

Harvard Yard, November 10, 2011.  Photograph courtesy of the Cambridge Chronicle.

The Harvard Crimson has recently published two special editions on Occupy Harvard with articles ranging from restricting freedom of speech on college campuses to the University’s refusal to allow Ahmed Maher, Egyptian revolutionary and Nobel Peace prize nominee, to address the protesters.  Both editions can be read online here.

For those of us who live and work in Cambridge and often pass through Harvard Yard, it is rather disconcerting to see the police presence and padlocks on every gated door.  When was the last time Harvard University, which prides itself on being part of the Cambridge Community, closed its gates to the public?  Was it during the student protests of the late 1960s early 1970s?  Was it during the Harvard Square riot of April 1, 1970?  Does anyone know?

The Ash Street Dog

The Ash Street dog, photograph courtesy of Jan Devereux.

Jan Devereux of CambridgeCanine has been digging into the mystery of the 100-year-old dog statue on Ash Street.  Is it a second century Roman sculpture, an English garden statue from the Victorian era, or a replica of the Molossian dogs that guard the entrance to the Uffizi in Florence?  Read the full story here and learn about the ancient dogs of Greece and the not so ancient history of Ash Street (which in the 1830s used to be called Bath Lane due to Harvard’s bath houses being located in the area.)

A Photo a Day: Quincy Street circa 1860s

This photograph, probably taken in the 18760s or 1870s, shows a very different view of Quincy Street, which is today flanked on all sides by enormous Harvard University buildings:  The Fogg Art Museum (currently under renovation) and the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts on the east side of the street and Harvard yard on the west side.  It is such a Victorian vision of Cambridge – try to envision it the next time you’re walking down Quincy.

Here are a few closeups of the people pictured: