The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives

Image of Thoreau journals

How do we tell the stories of our lives? For centuries, people have turned to diaries to mark time, sort out creative problems, help them through crises, comfort them in solitude or pain, or capture memories for the future. Today, as we find new ways to document our unfolding lives—in blogs, online diaries, and social networks—this exhibition looks back over several centuries to explore the enduring drive to leave a trace of our passing days. The personal writings featured here—all from the Morgan's permanent collection—reveal spiritual journeys, artistic ambition, and everyday rhythms. Some were kept private, others shared with a lover or friend. Together they represent a chorus of voices—each unique, yet bridging time and experience in their expression of love, pain, loss, and joy.

In this online exhibition, we invite you to learn about a selection of featured diaries, subscribe to the podcast, and download the exhibition audio guide, and follow the curator's blog.

CastleRock logoThis exhibition is sponsored by CastleRock Management.

Generous support is provided by Liz and Rod Berens and by The William C. Bullitt Foundation.

Manuscript journals of Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), 1837–61. Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1909.