Houghton Library: Who Cares? A 75th Anniversary Symposium

The symposium is limited to 200 participants to encourage productive and dynamic dialogue in a more intimate setting. We expect demand to exceed our supply of seats, so please register early to secure your spot.

This year Houghton Library, Harvard College’s primary rare books and manuscripts library, marks its 75th anniversary. We’ve acknowledged the occasion in many ways, but with this symposium we seek to resist the themes of comfortable reflection, appreciation, and celebration that attend anniversaries. Instead, we intend to examine the legacy, mission, and future of the library, and others like it, through the lens of the question: who cares?

More than a provocation, this question is an earnest interrogation of roles and responsibilities of special collections and archives in an ever-shifting social, cultural, intellectual, and technological landscape. Who cares for special collections? Why do we open our doors? How will we move forward? These questions have no fixed answers, consensus is unlikely; it’s this uncertainty we welcome as we engage in substantive, productive conversation. To that end, we’ve invited speakers and panelists who connect to our collections in a range of ways – as creators and collectors, readers and interpreters, colleagues in cultural heritage from around the world – and asked them to grapple with these questions.

The symposium will feature keynote lectures by Jamaica Kincaid and Johanna Drucker; remarks from Drew Gilpin Faust, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Sarah Thomas, and Thomas Hyry. We are also pleased to feature papers and presentations from Tez Clark, Jarrett Drake, Maria Estorino, Arthur Fournier, Michelle Habell-Pallan and Sonnet Retman, Angela Lorenz, Marcyliena Morgan, Trevor Muñoz, Jay Satterfield, Liz Ševčenko, Jordan Alexander Stein, and Chris Wilde.

Our hope is that you’ll join us as well. Learn more and register online: https://houghton75symposium.org.

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