Photo of Neil Harris
Neil Harris Prof. Harris has retired and no longer directs BA theses or accepts new graduate students. Office: Phone: Email
Preston & Sterling Morton Professor Emeritus of US History, Art History, and the College

Harvard University, PhD '65


A cultural historian, Neil Harris has written about American art, artists, and art collecting; the history of technology, architecture, and design; American entertainment; world's fairs; and the development of American museums, libraries, and learned societies. In addition to more than one hundred papers and reviews that have appeared in print since 1962, recent and forthcoming published essays treat American art collectors and patterns of British deaccessioning; period rooms and American art museums; American world’s fairs and the taste for Japonisme; and the growth of interest, in Chicago and elsewhere, in Art Deco.

Harris served as chair of the History Department from 1985–88 and 2000–01. He served as chairman of the American Council of Learned Societies and of the Smithsonian Council, as a senator for Phi Beta Kappa. Harris has sat on the editorial boards of the New England Quarterly, the Winterthur Portfolio, the American Quarterly, the Frederick Law Olmsted Papers, and several other periodicals and projects.



  • 1978–86 Pesidential Appointee, National Museum Services Board

  • 1985 Visiting Directeur d'Etudes, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales

  • 1986 Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Lecturer

  • 1990 Joseph Henry Medal, Smithsonian Institution

  • 1990–91 Getty Scholar

  • 1993 Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences

  • 1995–96 Distinguished Scholar, National Museum of American Art

  • 1999–2000 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship and a Getty Visiting Scholarship

  • 2008 Lawrence A. Fleischman Award, Archives of American Art

  • 2010 Iris Foundation Award and a Mellon Emeritus Fellowship

  • 2022 Harvard University Centennial Medal

Board Service


  • Art Institute of Chicago (Architecture and Design Committee)

  • J. Paul Getty Museum

  • National Museum of American History

  • Newberry Library

  • Terra Foundation for American Art

  • Henry du Pont Winterthur Museum

Recent Research / Recent Publications

Publications (Selected)
  • with Teri J. Edelstein. En Guerre: French Illustrators and World War I. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014, which accompanied an exhibition at the University of Chicago Library.

  • Cultural Capital: J. Carter Brown, the National Gallery of Art, and the Reinvention of the Museum Experience. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013.

  • The Chicagoan: A Lost Magazine of the Jazz Age. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

  • Chicago Apartments: A Century of Lakefront Luxury. New York: Acanthus Press, 2004.

  • Building Lives. Constructing Rites and Passages. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.

  • Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: The Transportation Revolution in Children's Picture Books. University of Chicago Library, 1995, which accompanied an exhibition at the library.

  • Cultural Excursions: Marketing Appetites and Cultural Tastes in Modern America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990.

  • Humbug: The Art of P. T. Barnum. University of Chicago Press, 1981.

  • The Artist in American Society: The Formative Years, 1790–1860. New York: George Braziller, 1966.