About the Harrison Institute

Outdoor plaque with name of building on brick wall, wooden bench underneath.
Harrison Institute, Photograph by Shane Lin

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.

The Harrison Institute is named for the late David and Mary Harrison, who were visionary benefactors of the University of Virginia. Mary Anderson Harrison was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up on Long Island. She attended the Brearley School and Finch College in New York. David A. Harrison III, a native of Hopewell, Virginia, graduated from the College in 1939, and from the Law School in 1941. Following distinguished service in World War II, Mr. Harrison practiced law at White & Case in New York until 1961, when he joined Reynolds & Co., later Dean Witter Reynolds. The Harrisons married in 1944. They raised three daughters and two sons in Old Brookville, New York and in 1987 moved permanently to the historic Flowerdew Hundred Plantation Farm in Hopewell. At Flowerdew, among other ventures, the Harrisons became major patrons of historical archaeology.