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Noam Chomsky personal archives

Identifier: MC-0600

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Scope and Contents

Noam Chomsky is a linguist and political activist. The Noam Chomsky personal archives consists of Chomsky's lecture, speaking, and travel notes, writings, correspondence, research materials, collected serial publications, and other materials documenting his life and work. The collection is divided into six series: Biographical Materials, Correspondence, Writings and Films, Background and Clippings, Speaking Engagements and Travel, and Periodicals and Pamphlets.

Series 1, Biographical Materials is located in boxes 39-48, 51, 192, 212, 315, 715, and 721-740. This series contains a variety of personal materials such as awards and gifts, as well as biographical articles and interviews. Spanning from 1945 to 2013, these materials focus on Chomsky's life and achievements and comprise a variety of formats including oversize materials, realia, honorary degrees, photographs, CDs, appointment books, posters, and published material.

Series 2, Correspondence is located in boxes 315, 363-714, and 747-748. This series contains the correspondence of Noam Chomsky and others starting at the beginning of Chomsky's academic career in the 1950s.

Series 3, Writings and Films is located in boxes 48-49, 52-143, 146, 158, 161, 284-285, 315, 356-361, and 740. This series includes Noam Chomsky’s published and unpublished writings in linguistics and politics. This series reflects the diverse range of Chomsky’s writings, containing actual examples (e.g., articles, essays, reviews, and letters to the editor) as well as much related material including correspondence, contracts, and interviews. Drafts of Chomsky’s writings, book proofs with editorial notes, and final versions make up a substantial amount of material in this series.

Series 4, Background and Clippings is located in boxes 48, 110, 145-189, 193-284, 478, 716-720, and 748. This series contains materials on a wide range of topics, representing either research for books, articles, classroom lectures, and talks or items clipped and saved based on Chomsky’s interests. There is a direct relationship between the materials in this series and the materials in Series 3: Writings. Many of the background materials here support the research and ideas presented in Series 3.

While the materials in Series 4 cover both the fields of linguistics and politics, a majority of this material is actually research on various political topics and human rights issues. Some of the largest subjects covered include the Vietnam War, Central America, Israel and Palestine, US foreign policy, human rights, East Timor, terrorism, the cold war, US media, academic freedom, political activism, and language.

Series 5, Speaking Engagements and Travel is located in boxes 1-38, 48-49, 212, 222, 315, 478, 715, and 740. This series contains materials from Chomsky's speaking engagements and include drafts, annotated transcripts, and/or notes on speeches or interviews Chomsky gave throughout the world on both political and linguistic topics.

Series 6, Periodicals and Pamphlets is located in boxes 285-314 and 316-356. This series contains Noam Chomsky's personal collection of periodicals and pamphlets dating from 1962 to 2011. The subjects of the materials mainly cover linguistic research and foreign politics featuring the Middle East, Vietnam, Timor, Central America, and Palestine. Also included are pamphlets and journals on anarchism, socialism, and labor unions.


  • Creation: 1725 - 2015
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960 - 2010


Conditions Governing Access

Series 2: Correspondence is restricted per donor agreement until five years after Noam Chomsky’s death. All other materials in the collection are open.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.

Biographical note

Bios -

MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, 2002 -

Noam Chomsky was born on December 7, 1928 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His undergraduate and graduate years were spent at the University of Pennsylvania where he received his PhD in linguistics in 1955. During the years 1951 to 1955, Chomsky was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard University Society of Fellows. While a Junior Fellow he completed his doctoral dissertation entitled, “Transformational Analysis.” The major theoretical viewpoints of the dissertation appeared in the monograph Syntactic Structure, which was published in 1957. This formed part of a more extensive work, The Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory, circulated in mimeograph in 1955 and published in 1975.

Chomsky joined the staff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1955 and in 1961 was appointed full professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics (now the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.) From 1966 to 1976 he held the Ferrari P. Ward Professorship of Modern Languages and Linguistics. In 1976 he was appointed Institute Professor.

During the years 1958 to 1959 Chomsky was in residence at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, NJ. In the spring of 1969 he delivered the John Locke Lectures at Oxford; in January 1970 he delivered the Bertrand Russell Memorial Lecture at Cambridge University; in 1972, the Nehru Memorial Lecture in New Delhi, and in 1977, the Huizinga Lecture in Leiden, among many others.

Professor Chomsky has received honorary degrees from University of London, University of Chicago, Loyola University of Chicago, Swarthmore College, Delhi University, Bard College, University of Massachusetts, University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Amherst College, Cambridge University, University of Buenos Aires, McGill University, Universitat Rovira I Virgili, Tarragona, Columbia University, University of Connecticut, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, University of Western Ontario, University of Toronto, Harvard University, University of Calcutta, and Universidad Nacional De Colombia. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Science. In addition, he is a member of other professional and learned societies in the United States and abroad, and is a recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association, the Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences, the Helmholtz Medal, the Dorothy Eldridge Peacemaker Award, the Ben Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science, and others.

Chomsky has written and lectured widely on linguistics, philosophy, intellectual history, contemporary issues, international affairs and U.S. foreign policy. His works include: Aspects of the Theory of Syntax; Cartesian Linguistics; Sound Pattern of English (with Morris Halle); Language and Mind; American Power and the New Mandarins; At War with Asia; For Reasons of State; Peace in the Middle East?; Reflections on Language; The Political Economy of Human Rights, Vol. I and II (with E.S. Herman); Rules and Representations; Lectures on Government and Binding; Towards a New Cold War; Radical Priorities; Fateful Triangle; Knowledge of Language; Turning the Tide; Pirates and Emperors; On Power and Ideology; Language and Problems of Knowledge; The Culture of Terrorism; Manufacturing Consent (with E.S. Herman); Necessary Illusions; Deterring Democracy; Year 501; Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War and US Political Culture; Letters from Lexington; World Orders, Old and New; The Minimalist Program; Powers and Prospects; The Common Good; Profit Over People; The New Military Humanism; New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind; Rogue States; A New Generation Draws the Line; 9-11; and Understanding Power.


332 Cubic Feet (639 legal manuscript boxes, 110 letter manuscript boxes, 3 record cartons, 4 flat boxes, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials


Multiple languages


Noam Chomsky is a linguist and political activist. The Noam Chomsky personal archives consists of Chomsky's lecture, speaking, and travel notes, writings, correspondence, research materials, collected serial publications, and other materials documenting his life and work.


The Noam Chomsky personal archives is divided into six series, many with subseries:

Series 1: Biographical Materials (1945-2013)

  • Subseries 1.1: Appointment Books and Schedules (1981-2003)
  • Subseries 1.2: Biographical Material (1945-2013)
  • Subseries 1.3: Life celebrations (1978-2013)
  • Subseries 1.4: Awards and Honors (1978-2012)
  • Subseries 1.5: Interviews (1968-2010)
Series 2: Correspondence (1775-2012)
  • Subseries 2.1: Correspondence 1 (1951-2012)
  • Subseries 2.2: Correspondence 2 (1926-2009)
  • Subseries 2.3: Correspondence 3 (1775 (photocopy)-2007)
  • Subseries 2.4: Publishers Correspondence (1959-2011)
  • Subseries 2.5: Recommendations (1968-2012)
  • Subseries 2.6: Miscellaneous Correspondence (1968-2009)
Series 3: Writings and Films (1954-2010)
  • Subseries 3.1: Books (1955-1993)
  • Subseries 3.2: Letters to the Editor and Reviews (1954-2010)
  • Subseries 3.3: Linguistics Articles (1958-2003)
  • Subseries 3.4: Political Articles (1966-2008)
  • Subseries 3.5: Geographic Articles (1969-2001)
  • Subseries 3.6: Class Notes (1963-2005)
  • Subseries 3.7: Films (1991-1997)
Series 4: Background and Clippings (1725-2014) Series 5: Speaking Engagements and Travel (1963-2013)
  • Subseries 5.1: Notes on Talks (1963-2013)
  • Subseries 5.2: Travel Records (1977-2013)
  • Subseries 5.3: Speaking Engagement Photographs, Recordings, and Posters (1986-2013)
Series 6: Periodicals and Pamphlets (1962-2011)

At the series and subseries levels there are further notes about arrangement. "Intellectual arrangment" refers to the ordering of the files in ArchivesSpace and may not match the "physical arrangment" which refers to the order of the files in the boxes. This may be is why box numbers are often out of numerical order in the container list. If material is intellectually or physically arranged is noted in the arrangment note.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated by Noam Chomsky in several increments from 2004-2015.

Processing Information

Between 2012-2017, materials transferred from Noam Chomsky’s home and office were rehoused and an initial inventory was created. All material was foldered and housed in record cartons. A detailed transfer list, surveys of the material, scope and content notes, and processing plans were created.

Select materials from Chomsky’s office were referred to by Chomsky and his staff as his "notes on talks" and "travel," and archivists maintained this grouping in the finding aid (these materials now compose Series 5: Speaking Engagements). This series was foldered, boxed, and the preliminary list was published to MIT ArchivesSpace in 2019.

The collection was further processed in the summer of 2019 as a special project to rebox, check and update previous description, and add description to a new resource record.

Material created by Carol Chomsky was separated during the summer 2019 project and will comprise it's own series.

Guide to the Noam Chomsky Personal Archives
Processed by Michelle Chiles, Camille Torres Hoven, Elizabeth Andrews, Dana Hamlin, Elise Riley, Greta Kuriger Suiter from 2012 to 2019.
2019 September
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2020 October 28: The series "Books by Noam Chomsky" added to the resource record by Greta Kuriger Suiter.
  • 2022 March 10: Edited by Thera Webb to include full names of women in collection.

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US