From Analog to Bytes: The Transformation of the Murray Research Archive

The Henry A. Murray Research Archive (MRA) at Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS) is a permanent repository for qualitative and quantitative research data. Founded in 1976, tucked away in Radcliffe Yard, the MRA was fondly known as The Murray Center, emphasizing the study of lives over time, with a particular focus on the lives and concerns of women. Even from these early years, the MRA was defined by its commitment to a transparent scientific process and the promotion and sharing of research data.

This brings us to a marriage made in heaven between the Murray Research Archive and Harvard Dataverse, officiated in 2003 by the Library of Congress’ NDIIPP initiative to preserve digital content for current and future generations. Harvard Dataverse is Harvard’s data repository developed at IQSS and hosted by HUIT and Harvard Library, open to the worldwide community for the sharing and long-term preservation of research data. Harvard Dataverse has elegantly and powerfully supported the transformation of The Murray Center to a modern digital research archive. Since moving its data to Harvard Dataverse, the MRA has experienced a massive improvement in the usability and discoverability of its digitally archived datasets, with ever-increasing data requests and downloads: 84,510 downloads and counting!

The Murray Research Archive holds datasets from contemporary and classic research studies such as Mary Ainsworth’s (1963) Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Attachment, Lawrence Kohlberg’s (1955) Longitudinal Study of Moral Development, and Beverly Tatum’s (1987) Assimilation Blues: Black Families in a White Community. Let’s not forget the longitudinal datasets from the 75-year ongoing Grant Study of Adult Development, and the Gluecks’ seminal work on criminology: including the (1911-1922) Men’s Reformatory Study, the (1921-1925) Women’s Reformatory Study, and the (1940-1963) Crime Causation Study.

Students and researchers frequently download contemporary research data held by the MRA from studies like The Block and Block Longitudinal Study (1969-1999), and Jacquelynne Eccles’ (1991-2012) MADICS Study of Adult Development in Multiple Contexts. Indeed, the MADICS data enabled the recent publication of Critical Action as a Pathway to Social Mobility Among Marginalized Youth (Rapa, Diemer & Bañales, 2017); MADICS is the MRA’s most popular dataset, with over 13,000 downloads!

Professors are encouraged to bring their students to visit the Archive to view unrestricted data and to learn how to use samples of the data for analyzing and conducting research. Let’s hear from two such professors: Michelle Ryder from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and Marla Eby from Harvard University.

“I have a long and proud history with the Henry A. Murray Research Archive. I used to work at The Murray Center as a Graduate Research Assistant, before its digital transformation, when it was idyllically located in Radcliffe Yard, These days, between teaching statistics and research for the social sciences at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, I continue to support the MRA’s important work in research and data management at the Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS), now located at 1737 Cambridge Street.

All of my UMASS psychology majors must complete a three-course research sequence before graduating. I often encourage them to use the Murray Research Archive as a valuable learning tool in this rigorous research sequence. In the final class of this sequence, my students carry out their own research projects, and some of them choose to incorporate data from the Murray Research Archive into their work. The MRA’s modern digital archive makes it very convenient for students to access research data, even from a distance. My young researchers particularly like the MRA’s grant-funded data collections like the Diversity Collection, the Mental Health Collection, and the Youth and Adolescent Collection.”

~ Prof. Michelle Ryder
University of Massachusetts Lowell
Department of Psychology

“I am a clinical psychologist at a medical-school based teaching hospital five blocks from Harvard College, with a degree in museum studies. For the past twelve years, I have taught Harvard undergraduates about the use and misuse of psychological tests, which are, by history and design, the technical tools of clinical psychology. Because clinical psychology leaves little behind that is tangible, these tests are kind of like abandoned shells, that also can be considered the material culture of the science of clinical psychology itself, charged with meaning.

My seminars have included a collection of field trips to various collections of historical psychological tests housed here at Harvard. Of particular importance has been a trip to the archives of Henry Murray, the Harvard psychologist who (along with his colleague Christiana Morgan) developed the Thematic Apperception Test, a story-telling personality test still in widespread use. In this archival setting, students are able to examine not only variations of Murray’s own tests, but also a wide collection of tests by other psychologists involving the study of life history, and the writings of these psychologists outlining the process of their creations. This visit has been a terrific way to introduce students to the extensive archives and collections at Harvard in a way that would make them feel comfortable returning to these resources later. This engagement of undergraduates with the artifacts and documents of psychology serves as an introduction to the larger university community, in which archival and collection material is a rich, but often undiscovered, supplement to standard library resources. The direct use of collection materials deepens what is for many an initial encounter with academic psychology and its methodologies, and helps demystify and clarify a topic within psychology (psychological testing) that tends to be infused with issues of power and secrecy.

The Henry A. Murray Research Archive has been especially helpful in creating an atmosphere in which this teaching can take place. The staff are diligent in obtaining both materials about Murray and the TAT as well as a number of archival boxes from other researchers using similar instruments, and are knowledgeable and engaged with the students. Undergraduates from the twelve classes I have taught all mention the Murray visit as one of the highlights of our work together. The best part about it are the discoveries made by students in the course of their archival research there – we always learn something interesting, new and unexpected.”

~ Marla Eby, Director of Psychology Postdoctoral Training, Cambridge Health Alliance, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Harvard Medical School

Moving forward, The Murray Archive continues to receive follow-up data of its existing content, and processes hundreds of applications for data use every year. All of the video and audio components have been digitized for access, and the paper contents continue to be digitized on a yearly basis. The Murray Archive workroom enables on-site visitors to access data that have yet to be digitized, including microfiche content - yes, there is a microfiche reader available!

All datasets require the completion of an “application form” found under the “terms” page of each study listed on Harvard Dataverse. You can visit our website for further information about the Archive,