History of Boston

Resources for the History of Boston research project.

Online/Library Resources

Resources from the Nobles Archive

  • Classbook
  • Nobleman
  • Nobles Bulletin

Research Tips and Tricks

  • write down EVERYTHING
  • use quotes if you want to search for an entire phrase together (eg. “Talya Sokoll”  will only find results that have her name together, if you just search Talya Sokoll it will find all pages that have the word Talya and the word Sokoll anywhere on the page, not necessarily together.)
  • Obituaries are a great place to start.
  • Check out institutions they were associated with (Harvard, their hometown, their company)
  • Read between the lines – notice connections that may not be obvious.  If you think something is a lead follow it through.
  • If you don’t quite find something the first time, find other ways of approaching the question.  Use synonyms.
  • Think “what would the language on the page say?”, not what are you looking for.

Town Information




Harvard Archive Online Search

To search for materials you will need to use HOLLIS, which is the name of the Harvard online catalog. Here’s how to get started:

Go to hollis.harvard.edu

1. Click the “HOLLIS” tab above the search bar, the click “Advanced Search”
2. On the Location drop-down menu, choose “Harvard University Archives”
3. Use the Keyword box to start your search; later in the search you might consider using one or more of the other boxes or limiting your search to certain dates. You can search for names, certain class years, hometowns, college majors or activities and many more details about your subject.
4. When you have a results list, click on each record to see details. You might need to click on the link to the index or finding aid for more information.
5. When you find something that looks promising, write down the call number so you can see it when you get to the archive.

These collections may be a good place to start:

  • the Freshman Register for the Class of 1915 (call number HUD 315.01);
  • the Class Anniversary Reports for the Class of 1915 (call number HUD 315.xx);
  • Class of 1915 Class Album (call number HUD 315.04); and
  • individual biographical files (call number HUG 300) on some of the Noble and Greenough alumni.

I would also recommend talking to an archivist about your research either before you go to the archive or when you get there. The archivist knows the collection very well and can help you find what you’re looking for. You can email or call an archivist before your visit, or find one once you arrive.

Phone number: (617) 495-2461
Email Address: archives_reference@harvard.edu
Ask an Archivist: http://askarc.hul.harvard.edu/
HUA Website: http://library.harvard.edu/hua


What should I expect when I go to an archive?

First, you need to be prepared before you go to the archive. Make sure you have done some research in HOLLIS or talked to an archivist and have a good idea of where you want to start. Sometimes certain materials are stored off-site, so you might need to request them a day or two before your visit.

When you get to the archive, you will need to register and sign in. Make sure you bring a photo ID for this. You will also be asked to store your belongings in a locker or a coatroom because archives have restrictions on what materials they let you bring in. Restricted items at Harvard include coats, bags, purses, pens, food and drink.

Information from the Harvard University Archive:

  • At Harvard, students will need to obtain a temporary Harvard ID in order to enter Lamont and Pusey Libraries. When they visit, their first stop on the Harvard campus must be the Widener Library Privileges Office, accessible through the main entrance of Widener Library across the yard from Tercentenary Theater. Please see http://map.harvard.edu/mapserver/campusmap.htm for more detail. The staff of the Privileges Office will help the students obtain the proper credentials to gain access to these buildings and the University Archives.
  • Our Reading Room is in Pusey Library in Harvard Yard and is open to researchers Monday through Friday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. We recommend that each student review our website for more information. When each student arrives in our Reading Room they will need to register as Archives’ researchers and sign our daily log. (The sign-in/registration process takes no more than 10 minutes.)
  • All of the collections listed above are stored on site in closed stacks and can be made available to students shortly after they are requested.
  • If you wish to conduct more in-depth research at Harvard, we recommend that you search the Harvard University online library catalog, HOLLIS, to search for pertinent holdings. A HOLLIS search should help students identify specific call numbers they wish to have available. A search may also reveal holdings at other Harvard libraries that may be of interest. Therefore, if students are to be directed to use HOLLIS, we recommend that they also contact us at archives_reference@harvard.edu at least three business-days before they arrive to provide us with call numbers of interest in case the items need to be retrieved from storage ahead of their visits.

How do I do research in an archive?

Hopefully by the time you’re there, you’ve already done some preliminary research online and in HOLLIS and talked to an archivist. You can come with a list of collections or boxes you want to see. You will sit at a table in the reading room and the archivist will go into the stacks and bring out the materials you want to look at.

For each box you want to see, you will need to fill out a call slip and give it to the archivist. When he or she brings you your box, be very careful to keep the materials in that box in the same order they came in. When you are done with one box, let the archivist know and he or she will bring you another box.

You can take notes on what you find or bring a camera to take pictures. Make sure you record where you found your information so that you can go back to it later if you need to. If you want to photocopy something, talk to an archivist to see if that’s allowed, but I would recommend taking pictures instead (no flash!) because you will be charged for photocopies.

If you are having trouble finding anything or understanding how things are organized, don’t hesitate to talk to the archivist again. Archives can be a bit confusing sometimes and the archivists know that. They want to help you find what you’re looking for.