UN History Project Opens at Harvard University


Attention all UN enthusiasts and history buffs: a new project collecting archival history of the United Nations and international institutions launched yesteday at Harvard University. The UN History Project will be ground zero for historians, teachers, and anyone who wants to delve deep into the history of the UN.

“Research done about the UN has by and large been by political scientists or economists,” says project coordinator Dr Heidi J. S. Tworek, Lecturer on History and Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies at Harvard University. “It has not been done much by historians.”

The project aims to change that by serving as a virtual resource center for the scholarly study of UN history. It was launched through a grant from the United Nations Foundation. One of the UN Foundation’s board members, Professor Emma Rothschild, serves as an academic advisor to the project.*

The UN can sometimes been a confusing place and somewhat hard to penetrate for outsiders, so researchers spent the better part of a year contacting disparate UN agencies for information relating to their archives and then putting all those details in one place. (E.g. here’s how to gain access to the UNICEF archives in Secaucus, New Jersey.) If you want to find out how to get old video clips from the UN, or want to view to the latest statistical or demographic information released by the UN, the UN History Project has your answers.

The UN History Project also serves as a resource for professors to teach courses on the United Nations and for model UN clubs. There are study guides and even a neat-looking syllabus for a course taught last year called “United Nations: A Global History.”  Finally, the website offers a useful platform to enhance scholarly collaborations among the growing number of people interested in the history of international organizations.

“We hope there will be a growth in research in international organizations, which has been the trend in recent years,” says Dr. Tworek. “We want to spur more people to write books and major articles about the UN’s history.”

When they do, chances are a visit to the UN History Project will be their first stop.


Image is of Dumarton Oaks, the Washington, DC mansion where the first draft of the United Nations Charter was written.