Harvard University’s archival and manuscript repositories house more than 45,000 collections, according to a 2010 survey, which include nearly 190,000 linear feet of boxes. (One linear foot is equivalent to about 2,000 items or pages.) Harvard’s collections contain approximately 400 million items, from single pages to folders. There are 35 miles of manuscripts at Harvard, said University Librarian Robert Darnton, in one report, “much of it unprocessed.” Sadly, many of these documents are never seen by historians, scholars, or genealogists. Now the University plans to make many of the documents easily available on the World Wide Web.
Of the material surveyed, about 6,900 linear feet — around 30 million pages — date from the 17th and 18th centuries. This includes 1,654 relevant collections at 12 Harvard repositories, according to Ceilyn M. Boyd, a Harvard Library senior project manager. Chief among the Harvard sites for these Colonial archives — about 60 percent of which are in English — are the Harvard University Archives, Houghton Library, and the law, business, medicine, and divinity Schools.
This effort will require years to complete but the process has already started. By December, librarians and archivists expect to conserve and digitize at least 109 of the relevant collections. About 33,000 images have been digitized so far from three Harvard repositories.
You can read a lot more about this project on an article by Corydon Ireland in the Harvard Gazette at http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2013/11/a-colonial-goldmine/.
My thanks to newsletter reader Patti Hacht for telling me about this article.