Guide to the Research Collections



The library holds strong resources on higher education, both in the United States and abroad. Files of Index Generalis, Minerva, and The World of Learning are complete. A good collection of society publications includes those of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars, Association of American Colleges. Association of American Universities, Association of Graduate Schools, College Entrance Examination Board, and the International Association of Universities. Extensive holdings on the history and development of higher education embrace surveys, works on academic freedom, and material on the role of philanthropy in education, as well as general treatises. The most notable feature of these resources consists of long files of the publications of American and foreign colleges and universities. The Research Libraries attempt to secure catalogs and announcements of courses for American undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools (excluding law, medicine, and veterinary medicine) and to maintain files of superseded issues for historical research. For some institutions (e.g., Bowdoin, Brown, Dartmouth, Yale) the retrospective files begin as early as the 1820s and 1830s, while for other important universities the collection now covers approximately a century--in both cases there are occasional gaps.

Administrative reports, chiefly those of presidents and treasures, are also noteworthy. Relatively few sets are complete; the period 1920-40 offering the richest representation. The Research Libraries generally acquire certain types of unofficial publications (histories, collections of photographs, reminiscences): other types are generally excluded (alumni bulletins, class reports, year-books and other student publications, song books). There are, however, alumni magazines for some Eastern institutions (e.g., Brown, Dartmouth, Princeton, Smith, and Williams) and fewer for other institutions not in the East (e.g., the Universities of Chicago, Michigan). Alumni directories are acquired for their value as biographical reference works.

Two collections in the Manuscripts and Archives Division contribute to the history of higher education: a portfolio of correspondence (1873-85) from Cornelius Vanderbilt and his son, William Henry Vanderbilt, with Bishop H.N. McTyeire on the founding of Vanderbilt University; and the extensive personal papers of John Houston Finley. Covering the period 1900-40, the Finley papers include correspondence, writings, reports, and diaries relating to Finley's editorial work with McClure's Magazine and the New York Times, his association with Grover Cleveland, and his service as Commissioner of Education of the State of New York. The collection is housed in 90 boxes, 2 volumes, and 39 steel cases.

An unusually large and complete group of publications deals with Harvard University, embracing a nearly unbroken file of catalogs and announcements from the nineteenth century to date, together with the reports of the president, treasurer, and departments of the University. Included are Harvard Alumni Bulletin, Harvard Lampoon, more than 400 class reports, and a number of books about the institution. Not classified with these general titles are monographic series and other publications of individual faculties, institutes, and centers, which are shelved with appropriate subjects. The Public Catalog contains about 4,000 entries for the university. There are similar but less extensive holdings for Columbia, Princeton, and Yale. Other major universities are represented by smaller files.

Material on overseas universities is strongest for Australian, British, Canadian, and other British Commonwealth institutions. The sets of Calendars for major universities in these countries extend back many years, but holdings of administrative reports are less extensive than those for American institutions. The Commonwealth Universities Yearbook, of which the library possesses a complete set, provides basic information. A much smaller collection covers other continental, Asian, African, and Latin American institutions. There are publications from nearly all major universities, but in many cases files are incomplete and not current.

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Two other types of university publications, monograph series and doctoral dissertations, require special comment. In the subjects of collecting interest the Research Libraries have assembled extensive holdings of monograph series published by universities which are usually classified under subject. Only general series (for example, studies in the humanities) are classed with university publications; these form a very limited portion of the total monographic publications issued from major universities.

The Research Libraries actively collected American and foreign doctoral dissertations before 1940; when the custom of publishing American theses ceased and the War made most foreign studies unavailable their acquisition decreased markedly. Since the 1960s the Research Libraries have acquired certain American titles (almost exclusively on microfilm) and some foreign works listed in national bibliographies, selected as publications of value to scholarly users. The collection contains the volumes of summaries of doctoral dissertations that major American universities commonly issued until expanded coverage in Dissertation Abstracts led to their discontinuance. The annex houses a collection of more than 750 bound volumes of foreign dissertations not fully cataloged. The majority of these are from German universities (Berlin, Bonn, Breslau, Erlangen, Jena, etc.); there is a small representation from Swiss, Dutch, and Swedish institutions. The greater number are from the period 1920 to 1940, although a few are as early as the seventeenth century.

There are more than 5,000 volumes on Greek letter societies; the nucleus of which (1,300 items) dates from 1921, when Beta Theta Pi deposited the William Raimond Baird collection. Long runs of the periodicals published by individual fraternities and sororities constitute the most notable feature of these resources and account for as many as 80 percent of the volumes. The library has files of the magazines of Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Tau Omega, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Lambda Chi Alpha, Sigma Chi, and Sigma Nu; many runs lack only a few early volumes. Additional publications include yearbooks, manuals, song books, and national and local directories of individual fraternities. The Manuscripts and Archives Division holds the records and documents of Delta Upsilon Fraternity and its constituent chapters from the 1880s to the 1930s, housed in 50 boxes and various volumes of minute books; some of the chapter records date from as early as the 1840s. The set of Baird's Manual of American College Fraternities is complete from 1879, and Banta's Greek Exchange and Yearbook of the National Interfraternity Conference are complete from the first volumes. Despite the strong emphasis on social fraternities, the holdings encompass some material relating to the history of Phi Beta Kappa and of Sigma Xi; for the former the Research Libraries have acquired a number of directories and histories of individual chapters. There is little about other Greek letter honor societies, although the publications of some (e.g., Sigma Delta Chi) are available.

Information on many other aspects of educational conditions and school life in the United States from the late eighteenth century to the present appears in a number of collections in the Manuscripts and Archives Division. Diaries, correspondence, composition and exercise books, and other material contribute to studies of elementary and secondary, as well as higher education. A full listing appears in the division's published catalog (Boston: G.K. Hall & Company, 1957, 1: 265-70).