JHU is an historic institution in so many ways. In our founding, we defined the model of the American research university, now emulated around the globe. Yet, there is still more to uncover about how the elements of our one university coalesced and evolved, shaped by and influencing the events and discoveries of our past. What lessons can we draw from our experience as we look forward to our collective future? Hopkins Retrospective is an initiative designed to expand our understanding of the diverse history of Hopkins and weave that history into the university experience.
Ronald J. Daniels
President, Johns Hopkins University
Background and Purpose
Hopkins Retrospective is a universitywide public history initiative launched in 2013 and sponsored by the Office of the President.
We are charged with exploring the history of Johns Hopkins University and sharing it with our communities in meaningful ways. The program is coordinated by archivists and historians embedded in the university’s library. We strive to more deeply understand our past and weave our collective history into the university experience.
Since its creation, Hopkins Retrospective has developed a range of initiatives to achieve this work, including student research fellowships, oral history interviews, public programming, exhibitions, and social media. Hopkins Retrospective also supports archival research by scholars and community members who research and write about Hopkins history. Our approach has been to think creatively about how we teach and share history, while also helping others mine the archives for stories and experiences that are diverse and inclusive. We encourage our students to explore gaps in the records to develop a more complete understanding of our institutional history, and we are working to update harmful archival description in our collections.
The program has evolved and grown, playing a supporting role for other universitywide efforts like the Ten by Twenty strategic vision, the JHU Roadmap on Diversity and Inclusion, the Hard Histories at Hopkins project, and student and alumni events and programs. In 2020, Hopkins Retrospective launched the “Reexamining Hopkins History Initiative,” which seeks to delve into and publicly present archival material to create a more nuanced picture of our founder, Johns Hopkins and his family and their relationship with slavery and its legacies. That same year, we joined more than 80 peer institutions as part of the Universities Studying Slavery (USS) consortium.
Our commitments represent the university’s belief that the study of history can help shape a better future. We hope our site will be a place where you can learn more as you explore the history of the university and share your stories, pictures, and perspectives as you consider the role that you play as part of the history of Johns Hopkins University.
- To serve the university as a public history project that rigorously explores the history of the university.
- To collaborate with students, faculty, staff, and neighbors to ensure that their experiences and history are represented and accessible within the university archives.
- To thoughtfully engage a broad and inclusive audience in our historical investigations.
- To publicly present research findings with the community in meaningful ways both online and in person.