College Life

Water color painting depicts the view from a study in Hollis Hall: In the foreground are books and a windowledge. In the distance, through the window, other buildings are visible, as well as a vast stretch of lawn, trees, and a hill in the far distance.

Image: Jenks, William, 1778–1866. Prospect from a study, in the north entry of Hollis Hall, ca. 1797. HUV 2196.10, 990123510730203941. Harvard University Archives.

The 17th- and 18th-century collections in the Harvard University Archives paint a detailed picture of daily life and material culture at Harvard College, as well as in Cambridge as a whole and New England in general.

Harvard's administrative records, kept by the College Steward and Butler, document goods and services purchased from the local community and track patterns of consumption. Disciplinary records document student misbehavior both major and minor. Student diaries and letters home offer glimpses of personal habits and family life.


Finding collections

Search HOLLIS, the Harvard Library catalog, to find descriptions and links to online content for 17th and 18th century collections in the Harvard University Archives.

  • Use the terms listed below as a subject in a HOLLIS advanced search.
  • Use "Harvard in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries" as a title in a HOLLIS advanced search.


Subjects include:
Cost and standard of living
Young men

Genre terms include:
Account books
Commonplace books
Family papers
Harvard students’ letters


Collection descriptions in HOLLIS or finding aids in HOLLIS for Archival Discovery:


See also Colonial North America at Harvard Library for online access to 17th and 18th century collections held by the Harvard University Archives and other special collections and archives at Harvard.