In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study’s founding, we are spotlighting 20 of our favorite moments, events, objects, exhibitions, and milestones from the Institute’s first two decades.
Over the course of the summer, we will be updating this page with new highlights as we count down to Tuesday, September 15, 2020—the Institute’s 20th anniversary lecture by Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter and creator of the 1619 Project. Some of these highlights may be familiar to you, and some may surprise you, but all provide a glimpse into a remarkable 20 years at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. We hope you enjoy our selections!
- America’s and Harvard’s Ties to Slavery
- Landmark Convening: Vision & Justice
- Interdisciplinary Inspiration: The Radcliffe Wave
- Predictor of Pandemics: Laurie Garrett at Radcliffe
- A Digital Journey through the Schlesinger’s Collections
- Doubly Hidden: Politically Conservative Women and the Archives
- Tadashi Tokieda | A Valentine from Möbius
- Min Jin Lee | What Are Koreans Like?
- Martha Minow | Should Law Foster Forgiveness?
- A Feast Worthy of Julia Child
- Summer Camp!
- A Friendship Formed in the Archives
- Research with (Personal) Impact
- 375 Years of Harvard, 375 Years of Women at Harvard
- Hillary Rodham Clinton | Democratic Resilience in Challenging Times
- Experience a Loving and Beautiful World
- Ayodele Casel | Diary of a Tap Dancer
- Corita Kent | Awash in Color
- Sara Bleich | The Shopping Game: How Policy Shapes Choice
- Naming Racism
Radcliffe is a unique school within Harvard—one that is interdisciplinary by design and animated by an institutional legacy of promoting inclusion and opportunity. This commitment to convening diverse perspectives and expertise makes Radcliffe a critical space for engaging with questions that demand cross-disciplinary exploration.
One particularly meaningful example of this is “Universities and Slavery: Bound by History,” the Radcliffe conference that took place on March 3, 2017. It explored the relationship between slavery and universities and helped to lay the foundation for the presidential initiative on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery. In the video clips below, we revisit highlights from the conference’s keynote address, in which the New York Times best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates calls on the scholarly community to refrain from placing limits on the study of enslavement.
Featuring more than 60 luminaries across artistic and scholarly fields, “Vision & Justice: A Convening,” held on April 25–26, 2019, examined the role of the arts in the construction of citizenship, race, and justice. It is extraordinarily difficult to select one moment from the many important and inspiring sessions that made up this landmark two-day event, but there is nothing quite like the virtuosic opening performance by Wynton Marsalis.
You can engage further with the themes at the heart of this convening by exploring the civic curriculum published in conjunction with the event—what Sarah Lewis, the assistant professor of history of art and architecture and of African and African American studies at Harvard who conceived the event, called “a visual literacy coursepack for the class we’re all in at the moment during this democratic age.”
On January 7, 2020, the scientific world learned of the Radcliffe Wave, a massive (9,000 light years long and 400 light years wide) gaseous wave made up of stellar nurseries that is one of the largest coherent structures ever observed in our galaxy. The findings—published in Nature by João Alves, the 2018–2019 Edward, Frances, and Shirley B. Daniels Fellow at Radcliffe; Alyssa Goodman, the faculty codirector of the science program at Radcliffe and the 2016–2017 Daniels Fellow; and coauthors that include Catherine Zucker, an astronomy PhD candidate at Harvard—overturn a 150-year-old theory of nearby stellar nurseries, giving researchers a revised view of the Milky Way.
True to its name, the Radcliffe Wave is a testament to the power of the interdisciplinary collaboration that happens here at the Institute. In João’s telling, vital to this discovery was coming to Radcliffe and seeing astronomical data through the eyes of a visual artist here—specifically, Anna Von Mertens, whose celebrated exhibition Measure was on view in the Johnson-Kulukundis Family Gallery in the fall of 2018. Below, we return to the moment when João unveils this discovery to his fellowship cohort:
Laurie Garrett is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who specializes in global public health and foreign policy. These days, she is better known as Cassandra (see Frank Bruni’s May 3, 2020, op-ed in the New York Times) for her predictions of infectious disease outbreaks—and the failures to contain them. The Radcliffe community knows this remarkable foresight better than most.
On October 27, 2017, Garrett delivered the keynote address during “Contagion: Exploring Modern Epidemics,” which convened epidemiologists, journalists, physicians, public officials, scientists, and sociologists to look at new ways of tracking epidemics using big data and social networks to predict and stem the rise of emergent diseases. In the video clip below, we hear Garrett deliver a stark warning about how the lack of public health governance could lead to dire consequences during a global outbreak.
Each year, the Institute convenes leading experts from around the globe to grapple with cutting-edge scientific questions in a daylong symposium. You can view Laurie Garrett’s full keynote address, in addition to videos of our recent symposia “The Undiscovered” and “Making the Cut: Promises and Challenges of Gene Editing,” on our website.
Launched to celebrate the Schlesinger Library’s 75th anniversary in 2018, 75 Stories, 75 Years is a digital exhibition that tells stories about women’s history through objects and documents in the Schlesinger’s collections. In addition to providing the conceptual framework for this anniversary series, the exhibition is a perfect illustration of how the Schlesinger utilizes technology to increase awareness of—and access to—a nuanced and often surprising historical record of American women.
Begin your journey with the handwritten (and hand-drawn) meeting minutes of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective as they prepared the first major revision of their groundbreaking work, Our Bodies, Ourselves:
6. Doubly Hidden: Politically Conservative Women and the Archives
As the nation’s foremost archive on American women’s lives, the Schlesinger Library seeks to document the full diversity of women’s thought and lived experience over the long span of the country’s history. As part of this work—and under the leadership of Jane Kamensky, the Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the Schlesinger Library and the Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences—the Schlesinger Library has sought to connect with socially and politically conservative women, who have long been underrepresented in institutional archives.
On October 27, 2016, the Library hosted “Righting the Record: Conservatism and the Archives,” which explored the consequences of documenting only one side of history and examined possible solutions. In the video clip below, we hear Jane describe how politically conservative women have been “doubly hidden” by gender and ideology.
Tadashi Tokieda is a mathematician who invents, collects, and studies toys—simple, familiar objects that can be found or made in minutes, yet which, with some imagination, can exhibit behaviors so surprising that they intrigue scientists for weeks. Or, in Tokieda’s case, a career.
As the 2013–2014 William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Fellow at Radcliffe, Tokieda explored the potential of toys to inspire new research, teaching methods, and aesthetic models. He also encouraged us to have some fun. In one of Radcliffe’s most popular videos, Tokieda wishes viewers a happy Valentine’s Day through a simple demonstration using paper, tape, and scissors.
“If I didn’t have really interesting, weird questions, I wouldn’t want to write fiction,” says Min Jin Lee, the acclaimed novelist and Radcliffe’s 2018–2019 Catherine A. and Mary C. Gellert Fellow.
Lee explored some of her questions on February 12, 2019, during “Are Koreans Human? Our Survival Powers, the Quest for Superpowers, and the Problem of Invulnerability,” the 2018–2019 Julia S. Phelps Annual Lecture in the Arts and Humanities. In the video clip below, she tells the story of being asked “What Are Koreans Like?” during an interview. Her answer might surprise you.
Lee’s full lecture is available online, in addition to a Radcliffe Magazine article that features Lee and her fellow writers Kaitlyn Greenidge, the 2018–2019 Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Fellow, and Lauren Groff, the 2018–2019 Suzanne Young Murray Fellow.
On November 8, 2017, guests at our weekly fellowship talk might have wondered if they had accidentally walked into a Harvard Law School seminar.
Martha Minow, a 2017–2018 Radcliffe Fellow, led a master class on law and forgiveness during her fellowship talk, “Should Law Foster Forgiveness? Child Soldiers, Sovereign Debt, and Alternatives to Punishment.” In the video below, we listen in as the former dean of Harvard Law School asks the audience to grapple with complex legal questions that were central to her fellowship project and subsequent book, When Should Law Forgive? (W. W. Norton, 2019).
Shortly after completing her Radcliffe fellowship, Minow was named a University Professor, Harvard’s highest faculty honor.
In honor of Julia Child’s 100th birthday in 2012, Radcliffe hosted a conference, “Siting Julia,” and an exhibition, “A Julia Child Centenary Exhibition,” that celebrated the iconic chef, whose papers are held by the Schlesinger Library.
As part of the celebration, Marylène Altieri, curator of books and printed materials at the Schlesinger Library, narrated short videos featuring some of her favorite items in the Julia Child Papers. In the clip below, she discusses Child’s collection of almost 5,000 cookbooks—including the 1712 edition of the foundational French text, Le Vray Cuisinier Francois—that make up part of the Schlesinger’s renowned culinary collection.
You can also hear Marylène describe a letter from Houghton Mifflin rejecting Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Paul Child’s original sketch for the set of The French Chef.
On April 10, 2006, the Schlesinger opened an exhibition on a topic that elicits nostalgia from many of us (especially this year). Summer Camp for Girls: Building Friendships and Campfires documented the experiences of girls at summer camps and the evolution of girlhood during the 20th century. Many camps highlighted in the exhibit were founded by women and were and are almost exclusively women-owned and -operated businesses.
The exhibition featured such camps as Camp Walden (Denmark, Maine), Camp Moy-Mo-Da-Yo (Limington, Maine), Camp Waziyatah (Harrison, Maine), Camp Kiwanee (Hanson, Massachusetts), and Camp Onaway (Hebron, New Hampshire). The silent video below, documenting camp life circa 1944, comes from the records of Alford Lake Camp in Hope, Maine.
Close friends of the Schlesinger might recognize this video as one of the items in the Library’s 75th anniversary exhibition (see highlight #5). You can explore the Schlesinger Library’s research guide to its audiovisual materials to discover other gems.
On September 8, 2019, readers of the New York Times Sunday Review learned of a remarkable friendship between Devi Lockwood, Harvard College Class of 2014, and Cora Brooks, a poet and activist 51 years her senior.
Even more remarkable is that they met through the collections of the Schlesinger Library for the History of Women in America, where Lockwood conducted research after receiving a Carol K. Pforzheimer Student Fellowship in 2012.
The piece, “The Trick to Life Is to Keep Moving,” is a moving testimonial to the power of the archives to deepen the undergraduate experience and promote cross-generational connections. And it demonstrates the critical importance of providing students with research and learning opportunities outside the daily pressures of undergraduate study and graduate work.
Launched in 1991 by Radcliffe College President Linda S. Wilson, the Radcliffe Research Partnership Program offers Harvard undergraduates paid research opportunities to work alongside leading experts in their fields and, increasingly, to collaborate with fellow students in different concentrations.
In recent years, Radcliffe fellows routinely hire teams of research partners to assist with such projects as testing the fairness of algorithms, coauthoring scientific journal articles, and conducting background research to inform new creative work. Along the way, students gain valuable skills and form lasting mentoring relationships. In the video below, we highlight the partnership between Hala Zreiqat, an expert in biomedical engineering and a 2016–2017 Radcliffe fellow, and Linh Nam ’20, a human evolutionary biology concentrator and potential beneficiary of Zreiqat’s work.
To learn more about this remarkable partnership, see “Undergrad and Radcliffe fellow bond over bones” in the Harvard Gazette. And head over to the list of 2020–2021 research partnership opportunities for a preview of what Radcliffe fellows and their research partners will be working on this coming year.
On the occasion of Harvard’s 375th anniversary in 2012, Radcliffe hosted “It’s Complicated: 375 Years of Women at Harvard,” a lecture by the historian Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz that explored the complex story of women at Harvard University.
In conjunction with the lecture, the Schlesinger Library created an online resource drawing from the Radcliffe College Archives that documents Radcliffe’s evolution from the Harvard Annex in 1879 to today’s Institute. You can start your exploration of this long history with Lady Mowlson, Ann Radcliffe, whose bequest established Harvard’s first endowed scholarship in 1643 and inspired the naming of Radcliffe College in 1894.
To learn more about the history of women at Radcliffe and Harvard, watch a video of “Struggling toward Coeducation,” a 2017 lecture by Nancy Weiss Malkiel AM ’66, PhD ’70.
On Friday, May 25, 2018, alumnae and friends gathered for Radcliffe Day—an annual celebration of Radcliffe’s past, present, and future—and to honor the 2018 Medalist, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Secretary Clinton spoke of democratic resilience and how she finds hope in the individuals and groups working to advance democratic values and ideals, including Radcliffe’s commitment to bringing together a diversity of leaders to discuss and debate big ideas. In the video below, Secretary Clinton reflects on the importance of radical empathy and civic engagement, and explains why she remains optimistic for a bright future.
Radcliffe Day 2018 also featured an expert panel, “Toward a New Global Architecture? America's Role in a Changing World,” and the Radcliffe Medal ceremony, including a personal tribute from Madeleine Albright and a keynote conversation between Secretary Clinton and Maura Healey ’92.
Described as “immersive, interactive, and genuinely entrancing” by the Boston Globe, the 2015 exhibition teamLab at Radcliffe: What a Loving and Beautiful World introduced the world to an innovative arts laboratory at Radcliffe: the Johnson-Kulukundis Family Gallery.
The interactive digital exhibition proved so enchanting that it was extended for a month, ultimately drawing nearly 4,000 visitors, including tours for students spanning preschool to graduate school. The video below provides a glimpse of the visually stunning exhibition and the artistic process of teamLab, a Japan-based consortium of artists, engineers, and computer scientists.
Hailed by the legendary hoofer Gregory Hines as “one of the top young tap dancers in the world” and by the New York Times as “a tap dancer of unquestionable radiance,” Ayodele Casel is an internationally sought-after artist and a powerful voice for the art form.
In residence at Radcliffe last year as the 2019–2020 Frances B. Cashin Fellow, Casel worked on Diary of a Tap Dancer, a theatrical work that aims to create a richer and more accurate picture of tap by centering the voices of its too-often unnamed women practitioners. Casel tapped her way through a memorable Julia S. Phelps Annual Lecture in the Arts and Humanities in February 2020.
Since her Radcliffe fellowship, Casel and her collaborator Torya Beard have created Diary of a Tap Dancer V.6: Us, a multigenerational and multicultural performance series commissioned by the New York City Center.
Corita Kent was an artist, educator, nun, and advocate for social justice. Her bold pop art prints broke down the divisions between sacred and secular, art and daily life. She is best known in the Boston area for Rainbow Swash, the rainbow-colored design on a 150-foot-high gas tank commissioned by Boston Gas in 1971.
In 2015, the Schlesinger Library curated an exhibition, Corita Kent: Footnotes and Headlines, that explored Kent’s teaching, artistic practice, and activism through her papers, letters, and images. Serendipitously, the Library was offered the chance to acquire an extremely rare set of colorful serigraphs that Kent designed for the Digital Equipment Corporation in 1976. A selection of the panels, now part of the Schlesinger’s collections, hang in the Library’s executive suite.
Explore the Schlesinger’s archival collections on artists.
In June 2019, Sara Bleich concluded her fellowship talk by reflecting on why she finds her area of research—obesity prevention and food policy—so interesting:
“…the way to have impact is not to have a single thing that works. The way to have impact is to figure out what are all the multiple things we can do in concert to really have an effect. That requires multiple lenses from multiple disciplines. It requires multiple types of stakeholders. And it requires a commitment to try to push the agenda forward.”
She could have been describing the ethos of the Radcliffe Institute itself—something she knows well as a Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor and the director of the social sciences program at Radcliffe. An expert on health policies for the prevention of obesity and diet-related diseases, Bleich has a talent for posing deceptively simple but profoundly meaningful questions that can fill important knowledge gaps and, ultimately, influence public policy to create a healthier and more equitable society.
In the video below, Bleich uses a shopping game—complete with young shoppers—to demonstrate how food policy can influence our overall health.
You can learn more about Bleich’s research by viewing her fellowship talk, “Health Policies for Obesity Prevention,” reading “An Order of Public Health—Hold the Fat Shaming” in Radcliffe Magazine, and revisiting the Radcliffe Day 2019 panel, “Nourishing America: Exploring the Intersection of Food and Justice.” Bleich is currently working on several projects relating to the food implications of COVID-19 and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
In early June 2020, as nationwide protests erupted over the police killing of George Floyd, Radcliffe hosted “Naming Racism,” an online discussion with Camara Phyllis Jones, the 2019–2020 Evelyn Green Davis Fellow at Radcliffe, and David R. Williams, the Frances Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health and chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The event, which engaged a record number of attendees for an Institute event, reinforced the critical importance of convening leading experts to grapple with pressing issues in our society. If you have not done so already, we invite you to watch Jones and Williams discuss strategies to help recognize and dismantle the system of racism and put in its place a framework in which all people can thrive.
You can view videos of other virtual discussions, including our series Health Inequity in the Age of COVID-19 and our Virtual Radcliffe Book Talks, on our website.