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Baker Outreach: Bringing History to Today's Research

Published: 12/15/2005

Research associate Mark Rennella, who has a PhD in American History, was ascending the stairs inside Baker Library recently when his eyes fell on a display case showcasing materials from Historical Collections. "I was drawn to the materials on emerging global markets," Rennella says. "They resonate with my own work on Boston in the late nineteenth century, which analyzes the effect of global travel on intellectual and cultural history in Boston." On further review, Rennella recognized an opportunity to consult the materials in the writing of his forthcoming book, The Boston Cosmopolitans: Artists and Intellectuals Encounter the World, 1865–1915.

Rennella's experience is one that Karen Bailey, Outreach Program Lead for Historical Collections, hopes to duplicate many times in the coming years. The recently launched outreach program's goal is to bring the historical collections into the daily life of the HBS and HU community, and to the public as well. This means identifying materials from thousands of manuscripts and printed resources spanning seven centuries, ranging from textile manufacturing to business ethics, and integrating these materials into HBS's teaching, learning, and research programs. It also means leveraging what the School knows, in a multitude of forms and formats, so it can be used in the classroom, via the Web, and in faculty seminars and research programs.

Bailey is organizing physical and virtual exhibits, faculty seminars, and research programs to ensure that the past help inform the present, and to ensure the future does not repeat too many of the same mistakes. The first outreach program focused on market bubbles, and includes a Baker lobby exhibit of materials documenting the South Sea Bubble, a virtual exhibit, and the soon-to-be-launched multimedia capsule on the parallels between the South Sea Bubble and the Internet Bubble.

Thanks to the de Gaspé Beaubien family, the Outreach Program begins what will hopefully be a long and successful journey toward bringing the lessons of history into today's context.

The collections are available for use in the de Gaspé Beaubien Reading Room, located on the first floor of Baker Library adjacent to the historic lobby. Digital copies of some of the collections can be found online.

Contact: Historical Collections.

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