Preserving Our Past with a Look to the Future

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Oct 29, 2019
by Salzburg Global Seminar
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Preserving Our Past with a Look to the Future

Salzburg Global Seminar shares historical records with Harvard University Archives Salzburg Global Seminar has partnered with Harvard University Archives to permanently house and make available for research its historical records

We are delighted to announce Salzburg Global Seminar has partnered with Harvard University Archives to permanently house and make available for research our historical records, fulfilling a wish by Salzburg Global's "fourth founder" Herbert P. Gleason. Our hope is this collection will engage researchers and  students interested in global intellectual and cultural history. We encourage you to learn more about Salzburg Global's connection with Harvard University below.

In 2009, Salzburg Global Seminar’s “fourth founder” Herbert P. Gleason put forward a proposal. He advocated for the organization to share its history with the Harvard University Archives, the oldest and largest academic archives in the United States, and thus the wider world. It was a chance for Salzburg Global to reconnect with the establishment its three founders hailed from and an opportunity to reaffirm the extraordinary relationship between both organizations.

Salzburg Global makes no secret of its connection with the Ivy League university. As mentioned, the organization was the brainchild of three Harvard men – graduate student Clemens Heller, college senior Richard “Dick” Campbell and English instructor Scott Elledge. In the summer of 1947, the trio had the vision to rebuild Europe by pursuing a “Marshall Plan for the Mind.”

The first program, known as the Salzburg Seminar in American Civilization, was a triumphant success. Faculty mostly came from Harvard University, including literary historian F.O. Matthiessen, Nobel Prize-winning economist Wassily Leontief, government professor Benjamin F. Wright and acclaimed historian Gaetano Salvemini. While the Harvard administration was less enthusiastic about the initiative, the Harvard Student Council provided part of the funding.

Gleason, also a Harvard alumnus, was selected alongside five other Harvard students through a university-wide competition to administer the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies summer program of 1949. He became the clerk of the Seminar after his graduation in 1950. He was a signatory of the original incorporation papers and remained a member of the board of directors until 2010. It’s perhaps no surprise to learn a young Gleason put forward another proposal at the time to expand the organization’s program of studies and think more globally.

Salzburg Global Seminar hasn’t looked back since and continues to flourish. Since 1947, the organization has welcomed more than 37,000 Fellows from more than 170 countries. Today, Salzburg Global challenges current and future leaders to shape a better world. Its multi-year series of programs aim to bridge divides, expand collaboration and transform systems.

Following Gleason’s call for action, which gained the enthusiastic support of Salzburg Global Seminar’s President and Board leadership, work began on cataloging and archiving past program materials including reports, lecture outlines, directories, and schedules. It was the start of a lengthy procedure, which was undertaken by various members of staff and interns. What followed was a significant learning process for the organization.

Sadly, Gleason was unable to see his initiative reach a successful conclusion. He passed away on December 9, 2013, at the age of 85 following treatment for cancer. Staff at Salzburg Global continued, however, to push ahead with Gleason’s wish and ensure another part of his legacy lived on.

By December 2017, an estimated 350 linear feet of textual records was ready to be shipped to the Harvard University Archives. After traveling by boat, the boxes arrived at the Archives the following month. Since being delivered, the records have been accessioned. The records will be shortly made available for researchers and the wider public, which will bring Salzburg Global further into the world.

Since its establishment in 1947, Salzburg Global has welcomed hundreds of participants who have held a connection with Harvard University. In recent years, Harvard Law School has been one of 11 schools to partner with the Salzburg Cutler Fellows Program. Now in its seventh year, the program convenes up to 55 students nominated by their law schools along with faculty and noted practitioners of international public and private law. Together they take part in a highly interactive exploration of leading-edge issues in international law, national security, international courts, the rule of law, and international finance, monetary and trade law.

In addition, some of Salzburg Global’s current staff and former interns have studied at the illustrious university. Stephen Salyer, president, and chief executive officer at Salzburg Global, has a Master’s in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Meanwhile, Charles E. Ehrlich, a program director at Salzburg Global, holds an A.B. in history and classics (Latin). His father also studied at Harvard at the same time as Heller, Campbell Jnr., and Elledge.

Julia Bunte-Mein served as a program intern in the summer of 2018. Bunte-Mein, who is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree at Harvard studying social anthropology and environmental studies said, “On the recommendation from an advisor from Harvard’s German Department, I looked into Salzburg Global and was very inspired by its programs bringing together diverse opinions to discuss today’s most pressing global policy issues. Now knowing the history of Salzburg Global’s founding by three Harvard students, who sought to overcome political divides through discussions of literature and humanities, it is not surprising to me that they came from Harvard…

“I find one of the principal benefits from my experience [at Harvard] has been engaging in complex, often controversial topics with students coming from vastly different geographic, religious, and political backgrounds around the world… The open-mindedness and emphasis on creating spaces to broach sensitive or multifaceted subjects pervade the campus culture. This prepared me well for working at the Salzburg Global Seminar.”

Fiona Davis graduated from Harvard with a Bachelor’s degree in government, a minor in history, and a language citation in French. She interned at Salzburg Global the quarter after Bunte-Mein. She worked primarily as a development intern but also assisted on programs. She said, “It is a testament to the perennial legacy of Harvard's history of service, the ingenuity of Salzburg Global's founders, and the stewardship of Salzburg Global's leaders over time that the organization has retained its character and staying power as a now globally focused organization for cross border cooperation.

“Moving Salzburg Global's archives to Harvard essentially brings this process full circle. What began at Harvard became a global service organization, and now Salzburg Global's legacy will be permanently remembered and made a part of Harvard's own physical records again. Salzburg Global can become a part of the fabric of Harvard's legacy of service that will influence the next generation's leaders and thinkers to embrace and practice the same values.”

Reflecting on this feat and fulfilling Gleason’s wish, Stephen Salyer, president, and chief executive officer of Salzburg Global said: “Our cooperation with the Harvard University Archives makes permanent a connection between Harvard students with a dream and leading scholars who helped make that dream reality.  The early years left an indelible mark on all we do, and the Seminar’s spirit of public service now extends to fellows, scholars and partner institutions in every corner of the world. We are deeply thankful for the University’s shared vision, and tangible support.”


Access to the collection will be limited in some cases until it is processed and there are restrictions in place, yet the Harvard University Archives and Salzburg Global are both eager to invite researchers into these records and anticipate that permission for research will be granted in many cases. During this initial phase, if you are interested in learning more about the collection or requesting permission to access, you can contact Virginia Hunt, Associate University Archivist for Collection Development and Records Management Services, at virginia_hunt@harvard.edu or 617-495-3240.