The grandfather of the camera phone, on display at the Business School.
What do Bill Gates and Edwin H. Land have in common? Both are innovators in their fields. And both are Harvard dropouts. The lesser known of the two, Edwin H. Land, who died in 1991, was the founder of the Polaroid Corporation. Though he left Harvard in 1926, he obtained 500 patents (then second only to Thomas Edison), revolutionized the field of polarized lenses, and invented the Polaroid camera, according to the Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society.
And now, he’s back. Or at least his stuff is.
Last spring, Polaroid donated decades of company archives to the Harvard Business School’s Baker Library. A special library-moving company hauled 4,000 linear feet (that’s about three-quarters of a mile) of documents, photos, cameras, and sunglasses from Waltham, Mass., to their new home in the newly renovated library, says Tim Mahoney, manuscripts librarian at the Baker Library.
“There were about 200 standing cabinets and 150 filing cabinets. As the company downsized, the materials had been moved, so the original order of the records had been disturbed,” Mahoney says. He spent a month and a half trying to put the puzzle pieces back together.
With the arrival of the Polaroid archives, Land is, in a way, making a return to Harvard. “Polaroid was based in Boston,” says Mahoney, “so Polaroid’s intention was to keep the collection here.”
Both M.I.T. and the Smithsonian expressed interest in the Polaroid collection, says Brad Kullberg, vice president of corporate development at Polaroid, but Harvard snagged the prize.
“Ultimately, Harvard was the most interested,” Kullberg says.
Some materials will be available for viewing in sections as materials, such as Laurence Olivier’s publicity footage and the 1948 Polaroid Land Camera Model 95, the first instant film camera, are prepared for research use.