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HUV 53.1

Photographic views of Memorial Church, 1931-1986: an inventory

Harvard University Archives

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Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: HUV 53.1
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Title: Photographic views of Memorial Church, 1931-1986
Date(s): 1931-1986
Quantity: 0.5 cubic feet
Quantity: 156 photographs
Language of materials: English
Abstract: Built in 1932, Memorial Church is Harvard University's chapel and part of the University's interfaith network. It serves dual purposes as a war memorial and as an interdenominational Protestant church, offering daily Morning Prayer services, Sunday services, monthly compline, and special services on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day and major Christian holidays including Holy Week, Easter, and Christmas. The Photographic views of Memorial Church provide a visual record of Harvard University's chapel and one of its war memorials, its grounds, and the surrounding area from 1932 to 1986. All 156 images are gelatin silver photograph prints with the exception of two postcards, and they have primarily been received from the Harvard Film Service, the Harvard University News Office, the Harvard Alumni Bulletin, or individuals.

Acquisition information:

These images were acquired by the Harvard University Archives from the late nineteenth century through the late twentieth century.

Processing Information:

This finding aid was created by Amanda Sherman in February 2016.
Description of the Photographic views of Memorial Church, 1931-1986, was supported by the Harvard Library's Hidden Collections initiative.

Researcher Access:

Open for research.

Online access:

All of the images have been digitized and are available online. Links accompany detailed descriptions.

Preferred Citation:

Photographic views of Memorial Church, 1931-1986. HUV 53.1, Harvard University Archives.

Related Materials

Collections in the Harvard University Archives:

Historical Note

Built in 1932, Memorial Church is Harvard University's chapel and part of the University's interfaith network. It serves dual purposes as a war memorial and as an interdenominational Protestant church, offering daily Morning Prayer services, Sunday services, monthly compline, and special services on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day and major Christian holidays including Holy Week, Easter, and Christmas. The church opened its doors for services of all religions in 1958, and the first non-Christian ceremony was held in the church in 1966, when services for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, were celebrated. Harvard Hillel holds ceremonies for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in the church, and both Hindu and Muslim groups have also used space in the church for their services.
Since 1766 when chapel services moved from Holden Chapel to the newly built Harvard Hall, the University chapel has shifted locations in 1814 to University Hall and then to a newly-built Appleton Chapel in 1858. When Morning Prayer attendance became voluntary for students in 1886, Appleton Chapel was deemed too large for Morning Prayer services, but high attendance made the chapel too small for Sunday services. Members of the Harvard community discussed building a more space-appropriate chapel, but a plan to build one did not materialize until after World War I when President Abbott Lawrence Lowell combined a proposal for a war memorial dedicated to Harvard graduates who fought in the war with the need for a chapel. The plan was controversial, as some alumni believed that a church was not a suitable memorial in form or in cost. Some believed a church was inappropriate to commemorate a group of soldiers who were religiously diverse, and others believed that a war memorial was needed, but that Harvard had other pressing space issues that could be resolved by building a smaller memorial and constructing a building other than a church.
Nonetheless, the plans to build Memorial Church moved forward in 1926 when the idea of a church memorial was approved by the Corporation, The Overseers, the President, the Board of Preachers, the Associated Harvard Clubs, and the Harvard Alumni Association. A fundraising campaign headed by Allston Burr raised $800,000, and the architecture firm Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch, and Abbott designed the Georgian-style church with an 170-foot bell tower and Greek Revival porticos with Classical columns on the south and west sides. The completion of Memorial Church marked the finalization of the Tercentenary Theatre, a large open space in the Yard where commencement is held every year. The Tercentenary Theatre is created by a border of four buildings: Widener Library to the south, Sever Hall to the east, Memorial Church to the north, and University Hall to the west. Memorial Church is made up of a large auditorium and a smaller chancel named Appleton Chapel to commemorate Samuel Appleton, the donor of the original Appleton Chapel which had previously stood on same site. The chancel, where the choir sits for Sunday services, is separated from the auditorium by a woodwork screen with a door in the middle, and it is also used for smaller services, such as Morning Prayer. Also in Memorial Church are the offices of the Board of Preachers, the Buttrick Room, the Pusey Room, and the Sperry Room. The bell in the spire was a gift from President Lowell, and it reads, "In memory of voices that are hushed."
Directly below the bell tower is the war memorial room, which holds the World War I memorial. Also part of the memorial room is a statue, "The Sacrifice," which was originally a memorial to Robert Bacon (Harvard College Class of 1880), who was ambassador to France and served on General Pershing's staff when he died in 1919. Bacon's wife donated the statue to Harvard to be a part of the World War I memorial. Other war memorials can also be found throughout the church, including a separate World War I memorial plaque for German soldiers, a World War II memorial for both Allied and Axis soldiers, a Korean War memorial, a Vietnam War memorial, a World War I memorial for Radcliffe College graduates, and a plaque for Medal of Honor recipients. Another memorial in the church was the Isham Memorial Organ, given by Ralph Isham (Harvard College Class of 1889) in honor of his son, Albert Keep Isham (Harvard College Class of 1915), who served in World War I and died in 1931 at the age of 38. Decades of regular use led the organ to be replaced in 1967, and the addition of two organs, one in 2010 and the other in 2011, replaced the 1967 organ. Finally, an outer wall bears a plaque and a stone from St. Saviour's Church, now called Cathedral Church, in Southwark, England where John Harvard was baptized.

References

Arrangement

The photographic views of Memorial Church has a legacy arrangement reflecting over 100 years of interfiling individual photographs of the structure from many sources into one collection. The images are arranged into fifteen folders, with the photographs loosely arranged in chronological order. This collection is part of the Harvard University Archives Photograph Collection: Views, in which Archives staff compiled images, whether acquired individually or removed from larger collections, and arranged them in categories based on locations, buildings, or landscape features for ease of reference.

Scope and Content

The Photographic views of Memorial Church provide a visual record of Harvard University's chapel and one of its war memorials, its grounds, and the surrounding area from 1932 to 1986. All 156 images are gelatin silver photograph prints with the exception of two postcards, and they have primarily been received from the Harvard Film Service, the Harvard University News Office, the Harvard Alumni Bulletin, or individuals.
Exterior photographs show the church and its grounds from a variety of angles. These views display students walking in Harvard Yard and sitting on portico stairs, students in gowns during commencement, a steeplejack climbing up the spire, and the remains of a tree that had fallen on a portico during Hurricane Carol in 1952. The surrounding area and buildings are also visible, mostly consisting of neighboring University buildings and the Tercentenary Theatre. Interior photographs show the auditorium, Appleton Chapel, and the war memorial room. Along with images of the empty church, interior images also show pews full of worshippers and people visiting the war memorials.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2016 February 26.

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