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Old habits may die hard, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. David Gordon Lyon, founder of Harvard’s Semitic Museum, Hollis Professor of Divinity and Hancock Professor of Hebrew and other Oriental Languages began keeping a diary in 1870 as an undergraduate and continued throughout the rest of his life. The 38 notebooks Lyon filled capture world events and 40 years of life at Harvard through a unique and personal lens.
This rich record, held by the Harvard University Archives, will be soon be more accessible to researchers thanks to a grant to transcribe them from the Lasky/Barajas Dean’s Innovation Fund for Digital and Humanities. The grant was to Professor Peter Der Manuelian, director of the Harvard Semitic Museum, by Faculty of Arts & Sciences Curriculum Services.
Lyon’s brief, daily entries document his lectures, research and activities at Harvard as well as his prayers. In 1912, Lyon jotted down a reminder to write a note of condolence to the family of a victim of the Titanic disaster. In 1918, he chronicled local reaction to the end of World War I; Lyon celebrated by going “to the movies,” possibly newsreels.
Ephemerae were tucked in the pages—tickets, invoices and colorful birthday cards and Valentines from his wife. “He used them kind of like wallets,” explained Robin McElheny, associate university archivist for collections and public services.