The Mary and David Harrison Institute is dedicated to enhancing knowledge and understanding of American history, literature, and culture from its earliest beginnings to the current day, especially through the use of original sources. By engaging faculty, students, and the public through library programming and outreach, the Institute fosters collaboration and promotes interdisciplinary discourse in its exhibit galleries, study spaces for visiting scholars, seminar rooms, and auditorium. Programming includes exhibit tours, gallery talks, lectures, and symposia, and a visiting scholars program supports primary research associated with the Library's extensive holdings, especially rare and unique materials held in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.
Themes of special interest to the Harrison Institute include:
- America’s Origins, how interactions between diverse peoples and cultures shaped the emergence of the country and the course of its history;
- America and the World, how American culture has influenced, and been transformed by, other cultures; and
- Collaborations, how creative partnerships – between writers and editors, writers and translators, writers and painters, scholars and librarians, etc. – have affected the development of American letters and art.