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

For updates, check back here, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Current Exhibition

Happening @ Houghton

Special Events


  • Tomorrow at 1230pm, @harvardtheatre curator Matthew Wittmann will be giving a tour (free and open to the public) of our current exhibition "Treading the Borders: Immigration and the American Stage." Among the many more recent materials on display is this flyer for an 1981 production @panasianrep! #yellowismyfavoritecolor #panasianrep #banana #popcorn #houghtonlibrary #treadingtheborders #harvardtheatrecollection
  • 'The Circus' is coming to PBS (October 8 & 9) in the form of a four-hour mini-series from @americanexperiencepbs that explores the colorful history of America’s grandest entertainment. Part I airs tonight so please check local listings for the time in your neck of the woods. The film features a host of images drawn from the excellent assortment of antiquarian circus material in the Harvard Theatre Collection. There’s also commentary from @harvardtheatre curator and erstwhile circus historian Matthew Wittmann.

Image: John Bill Ricketts (and an apprentice) doing a 'Flying Mercury' act, ca. 1796.

#circus #americanexperience #pbs #houghtonlibrary #harvardtheatrecollection to
  • Join us tomorrow--Wednesday, September 26--at 530pm for a special event to celebrate the launch of Professor Stephen Greenblatt's new HarvardX course "Othello's Story." The course looks at the ways in which Shakespeare’s characters tell stories within the play––about themselves, to themselves, and to each other–and considers, too, how actors, directors, composers, and other artists tell stories through Othello in performance. @harvard's own Hyperion Shakespeare Company will be on hand!

Paul Robeson fairly smoldering as Othello, 1944.

#othello #houghtonlibrary #harvardtheatrecollection #harvardx
  • 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

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RSS Houghton Library Blog

  • Looking Beyond the Text in Frances Wolfreston’s Books
    By Sarah Lindenbaum In the introduction of Marks in Books, Roger Stoddard’s catalogue of his 1984 exhibit on marginalia and other book traces, he writes, “As anthropologists have discovered, traces of wear can tell us how artifacts were used by human beings. Books no less than tools, apparel, and habits can show signs of wear, […]
  • Translated for Action: Gabriel Harvey’s Grammar-Drama
    This post was written by Andrew S. Keener, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Santa Clara University. A recipient of the Katharine F. Pantzer Jr. Fellowship in Descriptive Bibliography, Keener was a 2016–2017 Houghton Library Visiting Fellow. The sixteenth-century scholar Gabriel Harvey has fascinated researchers of early modern reading and handwriting for decades, but an investigation […]
  • Summer Spotlight: John Wilkes Booth and the Theatre of Our Discontent
    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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