Collecting at Houghton Now

January 17 – May 18, 2017, Amy Lowell Gallery

Houghton Library opened its doors for research 75 years ago. Built to house 125,000 rare books accumulated over the centuries by Harvard, within its first year Houghton acquired more than 8,000 printed books in addition to manuscripts and autograph letters.

Since 1942, Houghton’s founding collections have been greatly augmented by a curatorial team whose responsibilities are now divided by period or theme. Today’s curators balance consolidating Houghton’s areas of traditional strength, and forging new directions to better serve the library’s mission to support teaching and research.

Multiple factors influence curatorial choices in building Houghton’s holdings, including changing curricular demands and an increasingly diverse student body; new and emerging trends in scholarship; once-in-a-lifetime acquisition opportunities and available funds; collaborations with faculty and other Harvard libraries, and the generosity of donors.

This exhibition introduces you to Houghton’s curators, showcases some of their recent acquisitions, and reveals their plans for the future of the collections.

HIST 75H: A Masterclass on Houghton Library

January 10 – April 22, 2017, Edison & Newman Room

Harvard faculty celebrate Houghton Library’s 75th anniversary with a masterclass on its outstanding collections.

Nearly 50 academics in fields ranging from astronomy to government reveal Houghton treasures of personal and professional significance. From a wanted poster for Lincoln’s assassins to Charlotte Brontë’s childhood handmade miniature books, the assembled objects represent formative encounters from their student days and careers at Harvard, and the inspiration behind countless publications, including a Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller.

Each year, Harvard faculty lead hundreds of class sessions at Houghton, introducing generations of students to the learning and research potential of the university’s rich and varied special collections. Their ever-evolving perspectives constantly invigorate collections in the library’s care.

Houghton Library invites you to take part in this masterclass with Harvard's world-renowned teachers and scholars by choosing your own track through this exhibition. We hope they inspire you to have your own encounters with the collections in the reading room, seminar rooms and online.


Fuel for the Fire of Learning: Houghton Library Opens its Doors

January 4 – April 22, 2017, Chaucer Case

On February 28, 1942 Arthur Amory Houghton, Jr., Harvard alumnus, vice-president of Corning Glass Works, and president of the Steuben Glass Co., offered a solemn challenge at the dedication of the library he founded to house Harvard’s special collections against the backdrop of World War II: “Upon us has fallen the responsibility of safeguarding education in its broadest and most liberal sense.”

This exhibition revisits the opening of Houghton Library, the first purpose-built special collections library at an American university, through six contemporary publications, art and photographs that document the momentous occasion. Seventy-five years on, Houghton Library remains steadfast in providing faculty, students, and researchers, as Mr. Houghton hoped it would, with “fuel for the fire of learning.”


© 2017 The President and Fellows of Harvard College