Lecture: The Ground Remembers: Archaeology of Harvard's Founding

Listen to the lecture.

Underground, Harvard curates a buried archive of its own history in artifacts, building remains, and landscape traces. This year, the 375th anniversary of Harvard College's founding, inspires us to reflect on how we remember Harvard, and what those memories mean to us today and into the future. 

The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology presents the free lecture, "The Ground Remembers: Archaeology of Harvard’s Founding,"  on Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 5:30 P.M. at the Geological Lecture Hall (24 Oxford St., Cambridge). The lecture will be followed by a public reception at the Peabody Museum (11 Divinity Ave.).

The 375th anniversary will be marked by a variety of offerings to engage the university’s vast and varied community. This tradition of punctuated commemoration has been part of the Harvard experience since at least the bicentennial gala of 1836. That fall, the “new” College seal was unfurled on a banner: it reintroduced the once-forgotten veritas shield, designed in 1643, to over 300 gathered alumni and created a durable university symbol. Every formal moment of remembrance is an opportunity through which the institution recreates itself and redefines its importance.

There are many ways we remember Harvard: some official, some unofficial; some shared, some intensely private; some widely known, some preserved within particular communities; some written, many more maintained through oral stories and anecdotes. Material culture―physical things and places―is another essential source of memory.

The Harvard Yard Archaeology Project allows us to access this material archive and has become an important source of memories about Harvard’s beginnings. Excavated printing type and foundation stones join the veritas shield in representing the myriad legacies of Harvard’s early days and the diverse individuals who made up its early community. How do such artifacts manifest Harvard and its founding? How do they challenge established stories and provide new answers? Through recovery and interpretation, material residues of the past can become part of living memory.

The speaker is Christina Hodge, a co-instructor of the Harvard course, Archaeology of Harvard Yard, and a senior curatorial assistant at the Peabody Museum.

Related exhibition Digging Veritas: The Archaeology and History of the Indian College and Student Life at Colonial Harvard.

Harvard Yard Archaeology Project