The Harvard Semitic Museum was founded in 1889, and moved into its present location at 6 Divinity Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1903.
From the beginning, it was the home of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, a departmental library, a repository for research collections, a public educational institute, and a center for archaeological exploration. Among the museum's early achievements were the first scientific excavations in the Holy Land and excavations at Nuzi and Tell el-Khaleifeh in the Sinai, where the earliest alphabet was found.
The museum's artifacts include pottery, cylinder seals, sculpture, coins, cuneiform tablets, and Egyptian mummy sarcophagi. Many are from museum-sponsored excavations in Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Cyprus, Israel, and Tunisia.