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COLLECTION Identifier: hfa00014

Harvard Science Center Film Collection


In addition to texts, motion picture films play an integral role in communicating information and explaining complex ideas. For this reason films were often used in classrooms to supplement traditional course material. This 16mm film collection from the Harvard Science Center features educational science films from 1933 to 1998 focusing on a variety of scientific subject matter including physics, chemistry, biology and astronomy. The intended audiences for most of these films were high school students, though some were produced for military training or general audiences.


  • Creation: 1933-1983

Language of Materials

Material is in English.

Access Restrictions

Access by appointment only. Applications to consult this material should be directed to the staff of the Harvard Film Archive.

Film prints are made accessible in close consultation with HFA staff. Although materials do not circulate for individual use, students, filmmakers, artists, and researchers are encouraged to use the collections on-site.

Use Restrictions

Reproduction and/or publication of materials subject to copyright requires written permission from a) the copyright owner, his/her heirs or assigns and from b) the Harvard Film Archive, owner of the original material.


1 collection (61 16mm film prints)

The Harvard Science Center Collection contains 16mm films used by the center for educational purposes.

The following categories describe the types of films found in the collection: (some films fall into more than one category)

  1. Physics: films which deal with the science of matter, energy, motion, and force. Some of these films were produced by Harvard's Project Physics (later renamed the Project Physics Course). Active from 1962 to 1972, the group, directed by Gerald Holton (Harvard University), Fletcher G. Watson (Harvard Graduate School of Education), and F. James Rutherford (New York University), created a physics curriculum for high school students. "The course was developed in response to a National Science Foundation call for improved physics curricula following the USSR's success in the Sputnik mission. In addition to a textbook, the Project Physics catalog offered films and laboratory and calculating equipment, including inexpensive plastic slide charts." (
  2. Astronomy: These films include instructional films on celestial navigation, documentary films concerning space programs such as the flight of Apollo 11, and educational films detailing the nature of elliptical orbits, and the composition of the universe.
  3. Chemistry: These films illustrate the composition and properties of substances and various elementary forms of matter.
  4. Biology: The miracle of life best represents this category with its focus on human conception, gestation and birth.
  5. Mathematics: These films relate to abstract relationships between figures and forms. Most notably, Flatlands is an animated experimental film which expresses geometric concepts and spatial relations.
  6. Instructional: These films describe and illustrate concepts, as well as provide explanations to put them into practice. Most notably the collection contains films on speed reading and how to use the stars to navigate.


Films are listed chronologically by year of release, reasoning that the collection would be searched according to the landmarks of scientific advancements, with the films giving evidence of the time in which they were created. Filmographic information, including year of release, director, and description, are included when available.

Acquisition Information

This collection was donated by the Harvard Science Center Media Services Department in 2010.

Processing Information

Arranged & encoded by: Desiree Alexander, August 2011

Harvard Science Center Film Collection, ca. 1933-1998 : Guide
Harvard Film Archive, Harvard University
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Film Archive, Harvard Library, Harvard University Repository

The Harvard Film Archive is one of the largest university-based motion picture collections in the United States, with a collection of 40,000 audio visual items, a growing number of manuscript collections, and nearly one million still photographs, posters, and other promotional materials from around the world and from almost every period in film history. The HFA's collection of paper materials, including the documentation of individual filmmakers as well as promotional materials such as posters, film stills, and ephemera are accessible to Harvard affiliates as well as to outside researchers.

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Harvard University
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