PIRC History

Blueprint of a gate at Dunster House, ca. 1930. PIRC# 920_0229

The Property Information Resource Center (PIRC) was established shortly after the founding of the Harvard University Planning Office in 1956 as a departmental library for the collection of surveys, planning studies, and office records. As the need for a central repository for architectural drawings and information regarding Harvard's built environment became more apparent, the library's role was expanded to include the collection of these materials. In the late 1960's, the library staff identified several existing collections of drawings throughout Harvard's campus, the major repositories being at Widener Library and the Department of Buildings and Grounds, and began to plan for their consolidation.

A major step in this effort was accomplished when the Planning Office was charged with programming a proposed building for the Harvard University archives, Pusey Library. Included in the program was a safe storage area for the Widener Library architectural drawings collection. When Pusey Library opened in 1973, these drawings, primarily original construction documents and as-builts for several of Harvard's buildings, as well as a small number of Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott campus master plans which the firm had given to Harvard, were transferred into the new archives building. Soon after, the Planning Office became responsible for the care and maintenance of these drawings.

In the 1980's the Planning Office library continued the process of consolidating the University's architectural plans and drawings. With capital funds provided by Harvard University, a team surveyed drawings on campus in several locations, including the Department of Buildings and Grounds, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Business School, and the Chilled Water Plant. Duplicates were discarded and the remaining drawings were integrated into the architectural drawings collection stored in Pusey Library. At this time the collection began to be cataloged.

Following the 1995 merger of the Harvard Planning Group and Harvard Real Estate into Harvard Planning and Real Estate, the library's name was changed to the Property Information Resource Center. In 1997, electronic cataloging of the collection began; this process is more than half-way complete. In January 2003, Harvard Planning and Real Estate was reorganized; the Physical Planning Unit and Public Approvals became Harvard Planning + Allston Initiative and the PIRC became part of Harvard Real Estate Services. Following another reorganization in 2006, the PIRC rejoined the new University Planning Office which was merged with the Project Management unit in 2010 to form Harvard Planning & Project Management (HPPM). In the fall of 2016 HPPM was dissolved and the PIRC again rejoined the new Harvard Planning Office.

The PIRC's collections have continued to grow over and now include more than 100,000 drawings. New drawings are acquired as the university's buildings are renovated and new ones constructed, via the Capital Appropriation Project System (CAPS). The PIRC also collects maps, surveys, books and visual materials related to Harvard's physical environment, campus planning, architectural history, real estate and other related topics.