About the Archives

The Academy's archival collections reflect more than 200 years of "useful knowledge" generated by Academy members in service to the common good. These materials illuminate both the Academy’s rich history and, more importantly, the intellectual heritage of the nation.

The records of the Academy, dating back to 1780, reflect the intellectual history of the nation from its earliest years, and document the history of Academy membership, program initiatives, and scholarship.

Since its earliest years, the Academy has long understood the importance of its historical record: the first Statutes placed the responsibility of long-term recordkeeping on the Academy’s secretaries, both for supporting Academy business and maintaining the history of the organization. As a result, over the centuries the Academy accumulated more than two thousand feet of papers, books, and other items of historical value that represent a record of both the Academy and the intellectual history of the United States. In commemoration of the organization’s 225th anniversary in 2005, the Academy created an archives initiative that would inventory, organize, and describe this valuable record of materials.

The Archives of the American Academy preserve, maintain, and make accessible the special collections of papers, books, artifacts, artwork, and audiovisual materials that capture the rich intellectual history of the institution. Reflecting three centuries of “useful knowledge,” these materials chronicle the Academy’s early scholarly pursuits in medicinal studies, meteorological observation, and the study of natural history, to the Academy’s efforts today in advancing public policies and fostering debate over the leading scholarly questions of the day, such as the state of American education, alternative energy sources, science and the general public, and the global nuclear future. The Archives is preserving the collections of the Founders and early Members of the Academy, as well as documenting the body of work from the late eighteenth century to the present. In maintaining these collections and making them accessible through publications, exhibits, and a newly established digital archive, the Archives offers a window into the history, heritage, and valuable contributions of the Academy.

Holdings include correspondence, minutes, and other institutional records, as well as publications and the work of studies spanning more than 200 years, many of which are in original manuscript or are no longer in print. As a primary goal of the Archives is to make these materials as accessible as possible to a wide audience, finding aids to the processed collections and select digital images are made available online as they are completed.

The Academy Archives is located at the Academys headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Processed materials are available for onsite use by request. A how to guide has been created to provide information on accessing the materials.

To submit an inquiry, or for more information, please contact the Archives Department via the Contact the Archives web form above or 617-441-6128.

In maintaining historical collections and making them accessible through publications, exhibits, and online, the Archives offers a window into the history, heritage, and valuable contributions of the Academy.