13 Mar 2009

Historical Collections Exhibit Examines Role of Primary Source Materials in Scholarly Research


BOSTON — Harvard Business School Knowledge and Library Services announces the opening of a new exhibit, "Primary Sources: Contemporary Research in Baker Library Historical Collections." Organized by Baker Library Historical Collections, the exhibit runs through September 11, 2009, in the North Lobby of the Baker Library | Bloomberg Center on the HBS campus.

The foundation for contemporary research and scholarship lies in the historical "primary source" materials available in libraries and archives throughout the world. These primary source are the surviving historical records (letters, reports, accounts, pamphlets, books, images, etc.) that allow a "story" to be told - evidence pieced together to describe and interpret history and challenge commonly held assumptions.

This latest Historical Collections exhibition examines the role of primary source materials in contemporary scholarly research by showcasing a selection of recent publications by HBS faculty and fellows that drew extensively from the historical documents held at the School. The following four publications are showcased in depth:

Harvard Business School Case Study: "The Ice King," by Associate Professor Tom Nicholas

Cutting Ice on Fresh Pond
Tudor Ice Company Collection
Tudor II, V. 11

In the summer of 1805, while sipping an ice-cooled drink at his family's country estate outside Boston, Frederic Tudor was first inspired to undertake an unheard-of venture: shipping ice from New England to the tropics. Although initially dismissed as impossible, his ice cutting and exporting business would eventually make Tudor one of America's first millionaires. The case study explores how Tudor managed operations in ports as far flung as New Orleans, Charleston, Havana, Bombay, and Calcutta, and how he overcame personal difficulties to create a successful business enterprise. In studying this case, MBA students focus on the relationship between optimism, risk taking, and entrepreneurship, as well as the various factors that drive entrepreneurial decision making.

Book: From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: the Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession, by Professor Rakesh Khurana (Princeton University Press)

Class in Management Control,
Advanced Management Program, ca 1944
HBS Archives Photograph Collection

This groundbreaking book examines the late nineteenth-century struggle - of that period's new managerial elite, who began working with major universities to establish graduate business education programs. Creating a profession of business management, however, required codifying knowledge and developing enforceable standards of conduct, efforts that are still the subject of controversy today. Drawing on a rich set of archival material from business schools, foundations, and academic associations, Khurana traces how business educators confronted the challenges of making business management a profession - from the Progressive era, though the Great Depression and the postwar boom years into the freewheeling capitalism of recent decades. However, this is not just a social history of business management - it is a call to action. Khurana argues that business schools have largely lost the battle for professionalism and instead have become purveyors of a product, the MBA, with students treated as consumers. Professional and moral ideals that once animated and inspired business schools have been conquered by a perspective that managers are merely agents of shareholders, beholden only to the cause of shared profits. The time has come, he concludes, to rethink the training of future business leaders.

Working Paper: "The Rise of Business Forecasting Agencies in the United States," by Research Fellow Walter Friedman
Walter Friedman's working paper examines the emergence of economic forecasting in the early decades of the twentieth century. Thoroughly investigating published and archival sources of that time, as well as subsequent research, Friedman explores the ongoing efforts of entrepreneurs, economists, and institutions to solve the puzzle of irregular, unpredictable economic growth. Through this study he addresses some of the reasons why business forecasting developed, how it evolved over time, and its long-term impact on business practices. *Please contact HBS Communications to request a copy.

Book: A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men, and the Making of the United States, by 2003 Harvard-Newcomen Fellow Stephen Mihm (Harvard University Press)

Counterfeit Currency, 1854-1863
American Currency Collection

In this book, Stephen Mihm vividly describes the often fraudulent pre-Civil War economy, when the federal government neither printed paper money nor regulated the regional banks that did. With more than 10,000 varieties of cheaply printed currency on the market by the 1850s, counterfeiters thrived and flourished. A 2003 Harvard-Newcomen Fellow at HBS and now an assistant professor of history at the University of Georgia, Mihm lends structure to the chaos by telling the stories of corrupt bankers, engravers, police, and criminals and paints a fascinating picture of a country swimming in counterfeit currency and teetering on the brink of massive inflation. This publication examines early, freewheeling American capitalism before the development of a single national currency and its effect on a developing national character.

The Historical Collections exhibit also features ten other recent scholarly publications in which the premises were strengthened and enriched by the authors' access to historical documents at Harvard Business School.

Baker Library Historical Collections 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.

Visit www.library.hbs.edu/hc/research/index.html to learn more about current research conducted in Baker Library Historical Collections and to view some of the items featured in this exhibition.

For more information about Baker Library Historical Collections visit www.library.hbs.edu/hc/.

A gift from the de Gaspé Beaubien Family Foundation supports the activities, projects, and programs of the HBS Historical Collections, which include all HBS archival materials and serve as one of the most extensive business history resources for scholars, researchers, students, and other interested audiences from around the world. It also comprises the Kress Collection of Business and Economics, widely recognized as one of the world's premier rare book collections; the Business Manuscript Collection, with approximately 1,400 sets of original business manuscripts from the fifteenth through twentieth centuries; and a collection of original company documents and reports dating from the early 1800s to the present.

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.