Boston's Top 10 : Harvard University (part 1)

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America’s most prestigious university – named in honor of its principal benefactor, John Harvard, in 1638 – has nurtured, tortured, and tickled some of the greatest minds of the past 350 years. It has hosted everything from global economic summits to kool-aid acid tests, and educated everyone from future US presidents to late-night talk show hosts. Visitors craving contact with the Harvard mystique are in luck, since much of the university is open to the public.

Harry Widener Memorial Library

  • Harvard Yard

  • 617 495 2411

  • Access only if accompanied by someone with valid Harvard ID

Massachusetts Hall

  • Harvard Yard

  • Open to the public but no tours

Harvard Lampoon

Lampooners have made you laugh more than you might ever know. Aside from The Harvard Lampoon proper being the world’s oldest humor magazine, nearly every successful contemporary American comedy to reach a TV or movie screen boasts an ex-Lampooner on its writing staff. One well known ex-Lampooner is Conan O’Brien of The Simpsons fame.

Students refuel at the Harvard Coop bookstore café (

1400 Massachusetts Ave
, 617 499 2000)

Harvard Film Archive, Carpenter Center, screens art and documentary films most nights (

Quincy St
, 617 495 4700).

Pick up a copy of the student-run newspaper The Crimson to see what issues are exercising some of the world’s greatest minds.

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Top 10 Features
  1. Massachusetts Hall

    The university’s oldest building, constructed in 1720, acted as a meeting place for revolutionary soldiers. It continues to be a focal point of resistance movements, most recently in 2001, when students occupied the hall’s administrative offices in an effort to secure a fair wage for the university’s employees.

  2. John Harvard Statue

    The statue’s inscription “John Harvard, Founder 1638” conceals three deceptions, hence its nickname “The Statue of Three Lies”. First, there is no known portrait of John Harvard, so the sculptor, Daniel French, used a model; second, John Harvard did not found the university – rather it was named after him; and last, the university was not founded in 1638, but in 1636.

  3. Memorial Hall

    Built over 14 years, Harvard’s memorial to its fallen union army alumni was officially opened in 1878. Conceived as a multipurpose building, it has hosted graduation exercises, theatrical performances, and assemblies of all kinds.

    Memorial Hall
  4. Harvard Yard

    Harvard’s mixed residential and academic yard became the standard by which most American institutions of higher learning modeled their campuses.

  5. Harry Widener Memorial Library

    The Widener is the largest university library in the US. It houses a special collection of rare books, including a Gutenberg bible and early editions of Shakespeare’s collected works.

  6. Museum of Natural History

    Never mind George Washington’s taxidermied pheasants, the enormous Brazilian amethyst geode, or the world’s only mounted Kronosaurus skeleton. Check out the glass flowers: 830 species of plants, painstakingly replicated in brilliant, colorful glass.

  7. Fogg Museum

    During renovation of its building, until 2013, highlights of the Fogg’s collection of Western art from the Middle Ages to the present, including Impressionist works, will be on display at the Sackler Museum.

  8. Busch-Reisinger Museum

    This museum shares space with the Fogg Museum and will also be closed until 2013. Selections of its German expressionism and Bauhaus-related exhibits will be on display at the Sackler.

  9. Sackler Museum

    Until 2013, the Sackler will display a selection of the best pieces from the Fogg and Busch-­Reisinger museums, as well as continuing to exhibit works from its own collections of Asian, Egyptian, Islamic, and Indian art.

  10. Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology

    Housing one of the world’s most comprehensive records of human cultural history, the Peabody caters for the Indiana Jones in all of us. Highlights include The Hall of the North American Indian, a permanent Mesoamerica exhibit, and a new gallery devoted to frequently rotating temporary exhibits.

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