12 Jun 2012

New Harvard Business School Exhibit Chronicles China Trade

Displays from Baker Library Historical Collections explore 19th century trading companies
Tea Production in China, 1790–1800. M25794. Museum Purchase, 1993. Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts. Photo: Baker Library Historical Collections

BOSTON—A new exhibit, A Chronicle of the China Trade: The Records of Augustine Heard & Co., 1840-1877, recently opened in the north lobby of Baker Library | Bloomberg Center on the Harvard Business School campus in Boston. Organized by the Baker Library Historical Collections, part of the School's Knowledge and Library Services, the exhibit is free and open to the public and HBS community. It will run until November 17, 2012.

"One of the world's most dynamic economies, China today is viewed by many as a land of opportunity," says Laura Linard, Director of Special Collections. "As the significance of China's role in the contemporary global business world has increased, so, too, has scholarly interest in the history of trade with China before the 20th century."

The exhibition, along with an accompanying publication and website, offers an opportunity to explore the world of American entrepreneurs doing business in nineteenth-century China through the lens of one firm, Augustine Heard & Co. The company, which ranked among the most influential American trading houses in China, was active from 1840 to 1877 under the direction of several generations of the Heard family of Ipswich, Massachusetts.

The Heard business records and personal papers constitute the most comprehensive and detailed collection on the China trade held by Baker Library. They include letters, diaries, and a wide array of company documents -- from partnership agreements and export lists to custom regulations and ship designs. "The vast record preserved by the Heard family conveys a professional as well as a personal perspective on the China trade," Melissa Banta, curator of the exhibit, said.. "The company flourished at the moment when Westerners and Chinese were formulating diplomatic relationships and putting into place the business mechanism that would bring China into the mainstream of world trade." The papers offer a unique window into events concerning Sino-Western relations as well as the day-to-day activities of American traders working in China in the mid-1800s.

Consisting of 800 volumes, 272 boxes, and 103 cartons, the Heard collection highlights a firm that prospered at the height of the China trade and met its decline with the advent of new technologies and the emergence of the Chinese as mainstream players in international trade.

Other organizations contributing to the exhibit are the Harvard Map Collection, Harvard-Yenching Library, Ipswich Museum, Ipswich Public Library, Massachusetts Historical Society, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mystic Seaport, Peabody Essex Museum, Shanghai Library & Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of Shanghai, and University of Hong Kong Libraries.

Visit http://www.library.hbs.edu/hc/heard/index.html to learn more about trade in China in the nineteenth-century and to view some of the items featured in the exhibit.

Contact the Baker Library Historical Collections (histcollref@hbs.edu) to request a copy of the exhibit's catalogue.

Exhibit Hours:

June 1 – September 4, 2012

Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.

September 5 – November 17, 2012
Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday, 12 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Closed July 4, September 3, October 8, and November 12

About Baker Library Historical Collections
Baker Library Historical Collections (www.library.hbs.edu/hc/) is a rich resource for scholarship in business and economic history and cross-disciplinary studies. Thousands of items - including business records, diaries and correspondence, research papers, rare books, ephemera, and visual materials - provide the documentary evidence that allows scholars to investigate firsthand the important business theories, organizations, movements, and individuals that have shaped our nation's history and globally influenced progress and developments today.


Laura Linard
Baker Library Collections

Kristen Raymaakers
HBS Marketing & Communications

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 250 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and PhD degrees, as well as more than 175 Executive Education programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching, to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. The School and its curriculum attract the boldest thinkers and the most collaborative learners who will go on to shape the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.