“This is Harvard’s best kept secret”: exploring the campus never before seen on film.

Harvard University is an internationally renowned and acclaimed institution for its academic excellence and rich history. The iconic shots of the university's majestic red-brick buildings, prestigious libraries and bustling Harvard Yard are well known and have been the subject of numerous films and documentaries. However, there is a lesser-known side to this prestigious campus, an enigmatic world that has remained a secret from cameras - the university itself! Actually, Harvard has never authorised any filming on its premises. So, go on an adventure to discover Harvard's best-kept secret: its campus! Grab your backpack and let us guide you through the hallowed halls of this academic haven, discovering the unknown aspects that make Harvard such a unique and mesmerising destination.

Historic Harvard Building

- © Marcio Jose Bastos Silva / Shutterstock

1. The Johnston Gate

The gate was built in 1889 as a gift from Samuel Johnston in memory of his son, Samuel Johnston Jr., who passed away in 1887 while still a student at Harvard. It serves as a memorial to honour his son's life. The gate is located at the northeastern entrance of Harvard Yard, which is the historic centre of Harvard University's campus and is one of the main gates leading into the Yard. The Johnston Gate has become a significant symbol of Harvard University and its traditions. It is a popular spot for photographs, especially for graduating students, who often take pictures with the gate to mark the end of their academic journey at Harvard. The gate is open to the public, and visitors can freely walk through it to explore the Harvard Yard and enjoy the historic atmosphere of the Harvard campus.

The Johnston Gate

- © 365 Focus Photography / Shutterstock

2. The John Harvard Statue and the Harvard Yard

The John Harvard Statue and Harvard Yard are both iconic symbols and historic locations within Harvard University's campus in Cambridge. The John Harvard Statue, also known as the Statue of Three Lies, is a bronze sculpture located in Harvard Yard, the historic centre of the university. The statue is called the Statue of Three Lies because the landmark is made up of three major lies marked on the monument. First, the statue is not a representation of John Harvard, there are no representations of him alive, second, he is not the founder of Harvard university but is more the first major benefactor, and finally, Harvard wasn’t founded in 1638 like indicated on the monument, but rather in 1636. The statue was erected in 1884 and is a tribute to John Harvard, a young clergyman who died in 1638 and left his library and half his estate to the fledgling institution that would later become Harvard University. He is often referred to as the university's "founder." Harvard Yard is a large, grassy courtyard surrounded by several Harvard University buildings, including dormitories, academic buildings, libraries, and serves as the heart of the campus. The Yard is a popular gathering place for students, visitors, and members of the Harvard community. It is a scenic and historically significant area, preserving many centuries-old buildings and landmarks. Commencement exercises and other important university events often take place in Harvard Yard, making it a central location for many Harvard traditions.

The John Harvard Statue and the Harvard Yard behind

- © Jay Yuan / Shutterstock

3. The Libraries

While Widener Library dominates the lens in the most visual depictions of Harvard, some lesser-known libraries are also interesting to discover. The Houghton Rare Book Library stands as a sanctum of literary gems, housing invaluable manuscripts and rare editions that have influenced the course of human thought. The Andover-Harvard Theological Library, with its neo-Gothic architecture, welcomes us into a realm of theological wisdom and scholarly exploration. It is within these hallowed halls that students and researchers dive into the timeless wisdom that spans across continents and centuries.

The Widener Library

- © Marcio Jose Bastos Silva / Shutterstock

4. The many museums

Harvard University is home to several museums and galleries that house a wide range of art, historical artefacts, scientific collections, and cultural exhibitions. 

The Harvard Art Museums are a group of three distinct museums—the Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum—consolidated into one institution. These museums collectively hold an extensive collection of artworks from various cultures and time periods. The collections include European paintings, Asian art, Islamic art, ancient art, and much more.

The Peabody Museum is dedicated to the study and exhibition of human cultural history and archaeology. It holds vast collections of artefacts and ethnographic objects from indigenous cultures and civilizations worldwide, providing insights into the rich diversity of human societies.

The Harvard Museum of Natural History is a popular destination for those interested in the natural world. It houses an impressive array of specimens from the realms of palaeontology, zoology, mineralogy, and geology. Highlights include dinosaur fossils, a giant Kronosaurus skeleton, a comprehensive glass flower collection, and numerous mineral and gem specimens.

The Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East focuses on ancient Near Eastern archaeology and culture. It showcases artefacts from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Israel, and other regions, offering visitors a glimpse into the civilizations that thrived thousands of years ago.

The Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments Museum features a collection of scientific instruments and apparatuses used throughout history, reflecting the advancements and discoveries in various scientific disciplines.

Harvard Natural History Museum

- © Papa Bravo / Shutterstock

Where to stay in Cambridge?

Stay in the beautiful Harvard Square Hotel in the lively Harvard Square. Located just north of Boston and the Charles River, "The Square" is full of life, culture and a university ambiance. The hotel is surrounded by Harvard University and its many museums, halls and libraries and sits right in the centre of an historic district. Rooms are equipped with a desk, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom.

Harvard Square Hotel Boston

Harvard Square Hotel

The Harvard Square Hotel is the centerpiece hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts's lively Harvard Square. Located just north of Boston and the Charles River, "The Square" is full of life, culture and university ambiance.
£186 /night

Editor’s tip: If you want to learn more about Harvard University and its history you can do a 45 to 60 minutes guided tour with the tour service of the university. 

by Faustine PEREZ
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