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Harvard's Social Museum Collection

City and Suburban Homes Co., Kitchen of two room apartment in model tenement buildings, Avenue A. Estate, 78th and 79th Streets and Avenue A, New York City, c. 1903, photograph on display board
City and Suburban Homes Co., Kitchen of two room apartment in model tenement buildings, Avenue A. Estate, 78th and 79th Streets and Avenue A, New York City, c. 1903, photograph on display board.

The Social Museum at Harvard University was established in 1903 "to promote investigations of modern social conditions and to direct the amelioration of industrial and social life," in the words of its founder, Professor Francis Greenwood Peabody. Peabody was a leader in social reform, teaching popular courses on social ethics as early as the 1880s and forming the Department of Social Ethics in 1906. Peabody believed that "problems of the social order," represented by the rapid influx of immigrants thought to be largely unfamiliar with the principles of democracy, in large measure, took Americans by surprise.

To support his program, Peabody and his staff assembled a large collection of photographs, diagrams, and publications related to the then-burgeoning international social reform movement. He classified these works by topic and place, and made them accessible to students and scholars in the Social Museum at Emerson Hall at Harvard through at least the 1930s.

The Social Museum's astonishing cache of pictures and related documents includes important bodies of work by such pioneering documentary photographers as Lewis Hine Pittsburgh Survey series, ca. 1908) and Frances Benjamin Johnston Hampton Institute series, ca. 1900). The collection of photographs resides in the Fogg Museum, Harvard Art Museums (on permanent deposit from the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts).

Browse the Collection

Photographs, Display Boards, Visual Materials, Maps

Archival Materials

Publications

Peabody, Francis Greenwood. The Social Museum as an Instrument of University Teaching; A Classified List of Collections in the Social Museum of Harvard University to January, 1908. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1908.

Peabody, Francis Greenwood. The Approach to the Social Question: An Introduction to the Study of Social Ethics. New York: Macmillan, 1909.

Peabody, Francis Greenwood. The Social Museum as an Instrument of University Teaching; A Classified List of the Collections in the Social Museum of Harvard University in February, 1911. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1911.

Finding Aids

Harvard Divinity School. Andover-Harvard Theological Library. bMS 381 Peabody, Ephraim. Papers, 1831-1884. Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard Divinity School.

Harvard Divinity School. Andover-Harvard Theological Library. bMS 486 Peabody, Francis Greenwood. Addresses and Lectures, 1915-1923. Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard Divinity School.

Harvard Divinity School. Andover-Harvard Theological Library. bMS 13001 single files/3 (19): Writings of Francis Greenwood Peabody. Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard Divinity School.

Other Resources