Houghton Library opened its doors in 1942. Throughout 2017, we are celebrating the library’s world-class collections, and support of research and teaching over the last 75 years. Join in the celebrations by participating in our year-long program of events that promises visitors a unique glimpse of some of Houghton’s most treasured holdings:

  • Three exhibitions showcasing highlights from Houghton's collection selected by Harvard faculty, and the library’s curators, archivists and librarians
  • Film series screening movies inspired by or connected to Houghton’s literary archives
  • Houghton Library at 75, a new guide to the collections
  • Houghton Library: Who Cares? A 75th Anniversary Symposium exploring why and how curators, conservators, artists and researchers care for special collections
  • Weekly tours, and special events

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Current Exhibition

Happening @ Houghton

Special Events


  • Mary Anne Duff (née Dyke) was a Dublin-born dancer and actress who played an important role in the early history of the American theater. She made her debut in 1811 at the Boston Theatre at the tender age of sixteen and went on to become one of the first stars of the American stage. While playing Hermione opposite Edmund Kean’s Orestes in 1821, she was famously asked to play with less intensity so as not to overshadow his performance! 
Duff is one of many immigrant performers featured in our new exhibition "Treading the Borders: Immigration and the American Stage," which is now open and runs through December 15.

#treadingtheborders #maryanneduff #edmundkean #harvardtheatrecollection #houghtonlibrary
  • Much of the richness and vitality of the performing arts in the United States derives from creative talent originating elsewhere. This exhibition explores how successive waves of immigration transformed the American stage, highlighting the virtuosity and resilience of a diverse group of actors, artists, and entertainers from the colonial era to the present day. 
Zhan Shichai aka 'Chang the Chinese Giant,' 1884.

#treadingtheborders #immigration #houghtonlibrary #harvardtheatrecollection
  • Slash & Burn: How Two Houghton Manuscripts Survived a Violent Past⠀
Sylvie Merian, Morgan Library & Museum⠀
Lamont Library, Forum Room followed by Exhibition Viewing and Reception at Houghton Library⠀
Tuesday, July 10, 5.30-7pm⠀
When Raphael Lemkin coined the term genocide he defined not only the intent to destroy a group of people but the deliberate aim of erasing their cultural legacy. Dr. Sylvie Merian will focus on two manuscripts now held at Houghton Library, which she discovered while a Houghton Library Visiting Fellow/Katharine F. Pantzer Jr. Fellowship in Descriptive Bibliography 2008-2009. Both manuscripts were violently attacked during the 1894-1896 Hamidian massacres in the Ottoman Empire. This brutal attempt to annihilate Armenian literary tradition will be contextualized through several examples of the deliberate destruction of significant cultural artifacts, not only for the Armenians but also in world history. Examining the history of cultural genocide highlights the importance of artifacts as key to the survival of the Armenian people.⠀
Speaker: Sylvie L. Merian received her PhD in Armenian Studies from Columbia University’s Department of Middle East Languages and Cultures. She has published and lectured internationally on Armenian codicology, bookbinding, silverwork, manuscript illumination, and the history of the book. She is currently Reader Services Librarian at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City.⠀
#events #houghtonlibrary #violenceagainstbooks #violence #armenian #manuscripts #destruction #genocide #books
  • Passports: Curatorial Talk⠀
Tuesday, June 19, 5.30-6.15pm⠀ ⠀
Join co-curators Rodrigo Del Rio and Lucas Mertehikian for a tour of the exhibition Passports: Lives in Transit.⠀
#passports #exhibition #curatortalk #travel #immigration #houghtonlibrary
  • Cambridge Open Archives - Closing Event at Houghton Library⠀
Thursday, June 21, 4-6pm⠀
Cambridge Open Archives is celebrating its 10th Anniversary with two weeks of behind-the-scenes tours at 15 archives, libraries, and special collections around Cambridge! The closing event will be held at Houghton Library on Thursday, June 21. Further details & RSVP: [image = George Train Passport, 1857, MS Am 2763 (12)] #openarchives2018 #houghtonlibrary #cambridgema #passports #exhibition #event #archives
  • Lines etched into a window pane by Sophia A. Hawthorne at The Old Manse in Concord. Endymion, the painting referred to, has unfortunately been lost, but Sophia and Nathaniel's daughter Una seems to have delighted in the icy trees. Happy Mother's Day!

Endymion painted in this 
room - finished January 20, 1844

Una Hawthorne 
stood on this window 
sill January 22, 1845
while trees were all 
glass chandeliers - a godly
show which she liked
much tho' only ten
months old.

@thetrustees #oldmanse #endymion #windowpane #mothersday
  • Houghton is home to the @harvardtheatre collection (HTC), one of the largest performing arts collections in the world. The collection contains many gems, from prompt books to set pieces and other props to playbills to musical scores and beyond.⠀
A recently unearthed box from HTC contains dozens of stereographic cards, mostly of 19th-century ballets. A stereograph is an early form of 3D photograph and a predecessor of the Polaroid. It consists of two nearly identical images placed side-by-side on a piece of cardboard, which are then viewed through an instrument called a stereoscope. The stereoscope depicts the left-eye and right-eye views of the scene as a single 3D image. This method of photo-viewing was popularly used for theatre, other forms of art, political events, and wars.⠀
These particular stereographs depict "La Biche au Bois," a ballet of the "féerie" style (a French theatrical genre known for fantasy plots and spectacular visuals). They're also painted such that when you hold a light to the images, they transform from black-and-white to vibrant color, with holes poked to mimic the "sparkling" nature of diamonds and eyes.⠀
Unfortunately, this box of stereographs is not cataloged in our system. This is truly a behind-the-scenes find!⠀
#theatre #theater #ballet #french #library #photography #photographie #harvard #19thcentury #1800s
  • Who's up for a game night!? Houghton's collection of English, French, German, and U.S. board and card games dating back to 1777-1905 (MS Eng 1749) is still in great condition. This "board" game -- which takes place on what's really more of a mat -- is titled "The Magic Ring" and described as "a new game, replete with humour and pleasant variety." The game was published in 1796 in London by Champante & Whitrow (who apparently also made candles).⠀
Judging from the written rules (not pictured), the play of the game seems to be a combination of Monopoly and Candyland. The player spins a tetotum (sort of a cross between a dice and a top), then must move the number of spaces corresponding to the spin. Each of the 50 illustrations on the mat gives the player a different direction (some of my favorites are listed below). When a player makes it to the 50th illustration in the middle of the mat -- "The Magic Ring" -- they must spin a 1-3 twice in order to gain possession of all the money in the collective pool and end the game.⠀
Two of my favorite game illustrations: #13 is titled "An Hostile Fairy," who "immediately takes the comer to No. 24, the Inn, leaving him [sic] there till another guest arrives, or he [sic] spins the same number at each go." #36 represents Cupid, who "wounds the comer with his arrow, and carries him [sic] to the fine Lady, No. 42, where he stays to tell his tale, till another sets him [and the Lady's likely bored ear] free; or he chuses [sic] to liberate himself [sic], by a fine of six counters to the bank." (Descriptions not pictured.) ⠀
#boardgames #18thcentury #19thcentury #20thcentury #gaming #england #london
  • Houghton is home to a large collection of @theartcraftcompany's early- to mid-20th-century 3-sheet posters advertising over 1,000 prominent theater productions, primarily in NYC and Boston (MS Thr 889). Fun fact: a 3-sheet is a poster 3 times the size of a typical 1-sheet poster. We need our "Cadillac" trucks to haul these posters out into the Reading Room!⠀
Back in 1956, the Broadway musical "Bells Are Ringing" premiered at the Shubert Theater. The production was the brainchild of musical-comedy duo Betty Comden and Adolph Green, who collaborated for 60 years on such acclaimed works as "Singin' in the Rain" and "On the Town."⠀
"Bells Are Ringing" -- which took home 2 Tony Awards in 1957 -- tells the story of eccentric telephone answering service employee Ella Peterson. Ella dreams up elaborate identities for her clients as she listens in on others' lives, including for a man named Jeff with whom she falls in love. ⠀
#modern #harvardlibrary #theater #theatre #NYC #newyork #broadway #librariesofinstagram #poster #houghtonlibrary #20thcentury #tonyawards

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    Not all the objects in Houghton Library’s collections have such illustrious, proud histories as a Shakespeare First Folio or Gutenberg Bible.  Objects of less reputable association can provide just as striking of an encounter as these treasured relics, however. During the behind-the-scenes tour of Houghton on my first day of work at the library, I […]
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    Houghton Library is pleased to announce the following collections are now described online and accessible in the reading room. Collection of Anderson Entertainment Bureau Printed Ephemera, circa 1900-1910 (MS Thr 1844) – processed by Melanie Wisner Boyle Family Papers, 1657-1903 (MS Eng 218) – processed by Michael Austin British Prompt Book Collection and Theatrical Manuscript […]
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    Houghton Library is pleased to announce the following collections are now described online and accessible in the reading room. Dyke Benjamin Collection of John Ruskin and His Circle, 1815-1916 (MS Eng 1812) – processed by Magee Lawhorn José María Castañé Collection of 20th Century War-related Manuscripts, Photographs, and Objects, circa 1898-1990 (MS Span 185) – […]
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