Digging Veritas

Tobacco Pipe From Harvard Yard 

Colonial tobacco pipe from Harvard Yard.

In Spring 2008, the HYAP class Anthropology 1131: Archaeology of Harvard Yard held a closing seminar that included representatives of the Harvard University Native American Program, local indigenous peoples, students, Harvard stakeholders, and local historical archaeologists. The goals of the seminar were to review archaeological findings and discuss potential exhibit goals and themes.

In summer following this seminar, three undergraduate and graduate interns reviewed and revised themes from student papers and the seminar day. Additionally, these interns met with representatives from Aquinnah, Mashpee, Nipmuc, and Massachusett communities, as well as the Massachusetts Historical Commission and Harvard Graduate School of Education. These stakeholder groups shared stories, information, research ideas, expectations, and interests. Interns synthesized these various viewpoints, identifying three key exhibit themes and drafting an exhibit text that foregrounds the student voice, while taking into account the multiple perspectives of the colonial past and its legacy for the future.

Exhibition & Collection

The resulting exhibition Digging Veritas: The Archaeology and History of the Indian College and Student Life at Colonial Harvard opened at the Peabody Museum November 10, 2008. The exhibit presents how today’s Harvard students make sense of student life at colonial Harvard and the role of the Indian College in Harvard’s early years. As the students searched for meaning in the material remains of Harvard students of the past, three themes emerged: literacy and the Indian College; rule (breaking) and religion; and negotiations of social status. Student curators used primary archival sources, objects, and collaborator input to consider each of these topics. Students were encouraged to explore their own identities as Harvard students in relationship to the past and to contemporary stakeholders.

To view artifacts on display in the Digging Veritas exhibition, visit  Collections Online and choose "NA: Exhibit; Digging Veritas" or "NA: Exhibit; Digging Veritas–stratigraphy" from the list.