History of the UU Collections

Harvard University, including Harvard Divinity School, developed a strong connection to the Unitarian movement in America beginning in the early nineteenth century; these ties continue to be reflected in the richness of Harvard Divinity School Library's Unitarian resources. In 1961, when the American Unitarian Association merged with the Universalist Church of America to form the Unitarian Universalist Association, the library also began collecting Universalist materials in depth.

John Thornton Kirkland
John Thornton Kirkland

When the Unitarian Universalist Association closed its Historical Library in 1967, many of the books and periodicals, and nearly all the pamphlets and manuscripts, came to the Harvard Divinity Library. In the years since this original gift, the Unitarian Universalist Association has presented to the library much of the archival records of the old American Unitarian Association and continues to periodically transfer its current archives.

Thomas Whittemore
Thomas Whittemore

In 1975, Harvard Divinity Library received the library of the Universalist Historical Society, then housed at Tufts University. This unique collection comprised books, pamphlets, periodicals, and records of Universalist organizations—national, state, and local—and the papers of some of the leading Universalist ministers. Grants from the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program in 1976 helped to integrate this collection into the library.

A grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) in 1992 made it possible for the library to sort, arrange, and describe nearly 1,200 feet of institutional records (primarily those of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Council of Liberal Churches, the Universalist Church of America, and the American Unitarian Association. A similar grant from the NHPRC in 1994 provided funding for the processing of the records of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and its predecessors, the Universalist Service Committee and the Unitarian Service Committee.

The combination of these gifts has made Harvard Divinity Library's collection unrivaled as a resource for the study of Unitarianism and Universalism.

For more information, see:

  • Alan Seaburg, 'Some Unitarian Manuscripts at Andover-Harvard.' Harvard Library Bulletin, v. 26, no. 1 (Jan. 1978), pp. 112-120.
  • Alan Seaburg, 'The Universalist Collection at Andover-Harvard.' Harvard Library Bulletin, v. 28, no. 4 (Oct. 1980), pp. 443-455.
  • Alan Seaburg. 'An Enlightened Ministry: Andover-Harvard Theological Library, 1950-1980.' Harvard Library Bulletin, v. 29, no. 3 (July 1981), pp. 307-320.
  • Maria Grossmann, Unitarian Universalist Publication Microfilmed under Grants from the U.S. Department of Education and Available in the Andover-Harvard Theological Library. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Library, 1983.
  • Alan Seaburg. 'Unitarian Resources at Harvard University.' American Unitarianism, 1805-1865, edited by Conrad Edick Wright. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society and Northeastern University Press, 1989. Pp. 253-261.
  • Timothy Driscoll, 'Documenting an Institutional History: The Unitarian Universalist Archives Project at the Harvard Divinity School.' The Proceedings of the Unitarian Universalist Historical Society, v. 23 (1995), pp. 39-65.
  • Timothy Driscoll, 'Unitarian Universalist Service Committee Archives at the Harvard Divinity School: A Brief History and Collection Guide.' The Journal of Unitarian Universalist History, v. 25 (1998), pp. 41-57.