Passports: Lives in Transit

April 30 – August 18, 2018, Edison and Newman Room

Passports: Lives in Transit

This exhibition conceives of passports as the ruins of a modern dream now in terminal crisis – the dream of a globalized world. Drawing on the collections of Harvard Library, Passports: Lives in Transit addresses this major contemporary issue through the lens of passports, visa applications, and other documents associated with noteworthy nineteenth- and twentieth-century travelers, émigrés and refugees. Also on view, items of personal significance to a Harvard student telling a story of Latino immigration to the U.S., as well as a site-specific multimedia art installation of used passports purchased on e-commerce sites, further underscore the exhibition’s engagement with current geopolitics and activism.

This exhibition was co-curated by Rodrigo del Rio and Lucas Mertehikian, both doctoral students in Harvard University’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. Co-sponsored by Houghton Library and Harvard University’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.

Landmarks: Maps as Literary Illustration

Jan 16 – April 14, 2018, Edison and Newman Room

Landmarks: Maps as Literary IllustrationsMaps enjoy a long tradition as a mode of literary illustration, orienting readers to worlds real and imagined. Presented in conjunction with the bicentenary of the Harvard Map Collection, this exhibition brings together over sixty landmark literary maps, from the 200-mile-wide island in Thomas More’s Utopia to the supercontinent called the Stillness in N. K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. Visitors will traverse literary geographies from William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County to Nuruddin Farah’s besieged Somalia; or perhaps escape the world’s bothers in Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood. At this intersection of literature and cartography, get your bearings and let these maps guide your way.

Rethinking Enlightenment: Forgotten Women Writers of Eighteenth Century France


January 5 – April 28, 2018, Amy Lowell Room

Rethinking EnlightenmentThe French Enlightenment is famous for its intellectual innovations, but it is remembered largely as a male endeavor. However, recent scholars have shown that French women were active in all genres, from novels to physics. Despite systemic sexism, these writers produced literary and academic works that were neglected in their own times as in ours. “Rethinking Enlightenment” showcases Houghton Library’s remarkable holdings of texts by eighteenth-century French women. Beyond describing how these writers critiqued their society, the exhibition demonstrates their active participation in the philosophical and artistic development of modern France. For scholars of the Enlightenment to anyone interested in women’s history, it is a timely reminder of the forgotten figures in intellectual history. Caleb Shelburne, Class of 2018, guest curated this exhibition while working as a research assistant for Christie McDonald, Smith Research Professor of French Language and Literature and Research Professor of Comparative Literature, whose 150-page essay on 18th century French women writers will be published in the forthcoming two-volume Femme, Littérature. Une histoire culturelle (Paris: Gallimard, 2019). This important new scholarly work will chart the contribution of women to French literature from the Middle Ages through the 21st century.

From the Fellows: Undergraduate Exploration at Houghton Library

January 23 – April 28, 2018, Chaucer Case

From the Fellows exhibitionThis exhibition features the work of Houghton Library’s 2017 cohort of undergraduate fellows. Currently entering its fourth year, the Houghton Undergraduate Fellowship Program offers Harvard College students ten weeks of funded research at the library between June and August. The fellowships are laboratories of academic and personal exploration and have opened up dynamic areas of research and creative work through the course of three years and fifteen fellows. Working equally with Houghton’s world famous collections and the almost entirely unknown, the ancient and the contemporary, the enduring and the ephemeral; as researchers, practitioners, and experimenters, the fellows are mentored by library staff as they discover new areas of interest or to delve into ongoing projects. As the program has grown, it has diversified to include a range of experiences. Houghton Library/SHARP fellows are part of the Harvard University Summer Humanities and Arts Research Program and pursue projects that have resulted in creative essays, exhibitions, plays, music and more; Book Arts fellows draw heavily on the Printing and Graphic Arts collection at Houghton—and work with pressmaster Ted Ollier at the Bow and Arrow Press in Adams House—to realize artistic print-based projects; and 75th Anniversary Fellows have developed meta-projects that relate specifically to Houghton’s collections. The six 2017 fellows: Devon Guinn ‘17, Leon Pan ‘18, Mario Menendez ‘18, Allison Law ‘20, Jensen Davis ‘20, and Tawanda Mulalu ‘20—span fields as wide apart as biology and literature and, further, bring together their divergent interests in physics and poetry, or open access and letterpress. As the most academically diverse cohort of Houghton undergraduate fellows yet, they are the proof that the library has something of interest for everyone. For more, on the Houghton Undergraduate Fellowship Program, go to:

Altered States: Sex, Drugs, and Transcendence in the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library

September 5 – December 16, Edison and Newman Room

Altered States exhibitionThe search for something beyond the limits of ordinary experience—for transcendence—has preoccupied humanity for millennia. Religion, the occult, music, drugs: various paths have been taken in the hope of achieving it. In Altered States: Sex, Drugs, and Transcendence in the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library, one collector’s quest to document the history of this search through rare books, manuscripts, photographs, posters, comics, and ephemera is celebrated. Investment advisor Julio Mario Santo Domingo, Jr. (1957-2009) assembled the world’s largest private collection documenting psychoactive drugs and their physical and social effects. He was a man of restless intelligence, with a pronounced and often off-beat sense of humor, engaged by both high and popular culture. His collection, the Ludlow-Santo Domingo (LSD) Library, documents in depth the interrelated themes of drugs and sex over the past 400 years. The exhibition, including some 120 objects drawn from the 50,000+ LSD Library items at Harvard, focuses on six of the many topics represented in the collection: opium, psychedelics, cocaine, marijuana, sex, and social protest. The items chosen represent different aspects of each topic: cultivation or synthesis, medical uses and legal constraints, and artistic and literary works, manifested in the rare and precious, the common and the ephemeral. Highlights include illustrations of poppies in a 16th-century doctor’s manual; an album of delicate 19th-century Chinese paintings showing stages of opium production; self-portraits drawn under the influence of LSD; and posters from the Black Panthers and the May 1968 student protests in Paris. A selection of classic literature, including work by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas De Quincy, Charles Baudelaire, William S. Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg; and association copies such as Adolf Hitler’s annotated Kokain by Pitigrilli and Timothy Leary’s notes on Aleister Crowley’s Diary of a Drug Fiend, rub shoulders with pulp fiction, and underground comics illustrated by R. Crumb and Trina Robbins. Medical works on therapeutic drug use, and true-life tales of crime and addiction, provide a sobering reminder of the danger of excess. Sex, another path towards transcendence, is explored through poet Pierre Louÿs’s sex diary; erotica by Guy de Maupassant, Pauline Réage and others; and the first X-rated comic, Barbarella.. Works on birth control, AIDS prevention, the Illustrated Presidential Report . . . on Obscenity and Pornography, and a female condom, show the individual and social consequences such exploration may provoke. Curated by Leslie A. Morris, Curator of Modern Books & Manuscripts, Houghton Library, with assistance from Harvard Library colleagues. Companion exhibition: Altered Gazes: Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll at Schlesinger Library (Oct. 2017-Jan. 2018), curated by Marylene Altieri, Curator of Printed Material

The Russian Revolution: Actors and Witnesses in Harvard Library Collections


September 6 – December 21, Amy Lowell Room

Russian RevolutionThe Russian Revolution has been called the most momentous event of the last century. To mark its centennial, Houghton Library presents an exhibit showcasing original documents from the period, assembled from its own holdings as well as those of other Harvard Library collections. Highlights include handwritten notes by Lenin, and photographs and manuscripts of journalist John Reed. Together, these striking artifacts tell the story of the Revolution's leaders, their opponents, the thousands of ordinary people they mobilized, and the American expatriates who witnessed these events first-hand. Centenary of the Russian Revolution at Harvard This exhibition is presented in collaboration with the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and the Slavic Division at Widener Library. It forms part of a number of commemorative events taking place across Harvard in the fall of 2017. For further details, visit the Davis Center’s website.

William Henry Fox Talbot and the Birth of Photography: Salted Paper Prints from the Harrison D. Horblit Collection

September 8 – October 14, Keats Room

Talbot photographThis exhibition presents a rare opportunity to see a dozen original photographs from the earliest days of photography on paper, as invented by William Henry Fox Talbot in late-1830s England and practiced by him and a circle of friends in the 1840s and 1850s. On display will be photographs by Talbot himself, including his landmark publication, The Pencil of Nature, and photographs by some of his earliest followers, Calvert R. Jones, John Dillwyn Llewelyn, and Nevil Story Maskelyne. Also included are early photographs of manuscripts and printed books in the collection of the famous British bibliophile Sir Thomas Phillipps. Prone to fading already in their day due to the experimental techniques used to create them, these light sensitive prints are on view for five weeks only. View the exhibition with Hope Mayo, Philip Hofer Curator of Printing and Graphic Arts, on Tuesday, September 26, 12:30-1:00 pm, and Wednesday, October 11, 5:30-6:00 pm, and by appointment. For further details, email Salted Paper Prints This exhibition is presented in conjunction with the two-day symposium Salted Paper Prints: Process and Purpose: A Collaborative Workshop in Photograph Conservation (September 14 – 15, 2017). For further details and registration see the symposium website.

Henry David Thoreau at 200

May 22 - September 2, Lowell Room

Henry David Thoreau

As scholars, teachers, politicians, and pundits debate what America is and means by reimagining or rewriting the America in which we live, it is worth recalling the America actually lived in and written about by the country’s first generation born after the American Revolution. The bicentenary of Henry David Thoreau, who was born in Concord, Massachusetts, on July 12, 1817 and died there on May 6, 1862, provides such an occasion.

A contemporary of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, Walt Whitman, and Frederick Douglass, Thoreau did not always share in the prominence they enjoyed. Although his story invariably opens with reference to Emerson, Emerson’s belief that American exceptionalism was synonymous with capitalism made for a stark distinction between the two, a distinction Thoreau underscored in 1853, writing, “I am a mystic—a transcendentalist—& a natural philosopher.” The dominant Thoreau who has emerged among recent generations of readers is an environmentalist who argued for the restoration of the landscape with which humankind was originally blessed, a humanitarian who read capitalism as the supreme threat to individualism and equal rights under the law, and a political thinker who critiqued the popular concept of exceptionalism as promoting destructive impulses such as the virtual eradication of Native American culture and the extension of slavery into the American West.

Henry David Thoreau at 200 invites you to examine the life and thought of the author of “Civil Disobedience” and Walden. Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • First editions of his major works
  • Drawings of Thoreau by his close friend, Daniel Ricketson
  • Thoreau’s own copy of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature
  • One of his Harvard College examination papers
  • Manuscripts of “Reform and the Reformers” and “Walking”
  • The recently discovered notes on his search for Margaret Fuller after her shipwreck.

The exhibition was curated by Ronald A. Bosco, Distinguished Research Professor of English and American Literature, University at Albany, SUNY, and contributes to the Thoreau Bicentennial, a year-long celebration of Thoreau’s 200th birthday taking place around the world.

John Lithgow: Actor as Artist

April 25 – September 7, 2017, Chaucer Case

John Lithgow, actor as artistJohn Lithgow enrolled at Harvard in 1963, intent on becoming a painter. Even as a professional actor, he has never lost interest in the visual arts. To honor Lithgow as this year’s recipient of the Harvard Arts Medal, Houghton Library presents an exhibition of the actor’s drawings, featuring designs for student productions at the Loeb Drama Center and caricatures depicting his career on Broadway and in television, including memorable performances in M. Butterfly, the hit sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun, and Netflix’s The Crown.

Open House 75: Houghton Library Staff Select

May 8 – August 19, 2017, Edison & Newman Room

Open House 75

Houghton Library staff celebrate the library’s 75th anniversary with an open house-inspired showcase of its outstanding collections.

Fifty archivists, conservators, curators, librarians, specialists, and student workers who make up “Team Houghton” share memorable items encountered during careers at the library that range from four months to over forty years. Gained through providing access to over 600,000 printed books and six miles of manuscript and archival materials that comprise the Houghton collection, the staff’s encyclopedic knowledge of the library comes to the fore in this exhibition.

A microcosm of Houghton in breadth and depth, highlights from Open House 75 range from a Renaissance letter written by Michelangelo and a missive stained by Hemingway’s sweat, to a moving instance of gay fandom and women writers on domesticity and revolution. Among the notable “firsts” represented are the diary of the first American meteorologist and an Edison lightbulb that illuminated America’s first electrified theater. Cultural treasures from Liberia and Japan are presented alongside everyday objects such as a Roman coin and a Panama hat; taken together, these and other objects in the exhibition suggest the rich variety of human experience housed within Houghton’s walls.

Visit Open House 75 at Houghton or online to discover the library through the eyes of the people who know it best.


Francis Barber: A Jamaican in Dr. Johnson’s Circle

April 20 – August 19, 2017, Hyde Oval Room

Francis BarberBorn enslaved in British Jamaica, Francis Barber (ca. 1742-1801) grew up, gained his freedom, an education, employment, and married while living in the London household of Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the celebrated lexicographer and man of letters. Johnson’s fervent opposition to slavery is recorded in his polemical writings, but found its most radical expression in his naming Barber as his principal heir.

The Donald & Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Johnson at Houghton Library is home to most of the surviving letters documenting Johnson and Barber’s long-lasting and close relationship, an unusual one for the period. Through a dozen objects, including Barber and Johnson’s letters, portraits, and early biographies of Johnson, this exhibition charts the remarkable trajectory of Barber’s life from slavery to autonomy in eighteenth-century Britain.

On view during weekly public tours of Houghton on Fridays at 2pm, and by appointment (email

Houghton and the Presidents

March 6 – July 3, 2017, Keats Room

Teddy Roosevelt cartoonOn January 20th, 2017, Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America. Presidential inaugurations are a time to ponder this country’s republican institutions, especially the presidency and its rich history. Houghton, with its large collections of presidential material, provides such an opportunity. The library holds items connected to the presidency that span the entire arc of American history, allowing patrons and visitors to explore the lives, times, and deeds of the men who have held the highest office in the land.

This exhibition presents a thematic approach to the presidency, covering large swathes of American history to explain that multifaceted office. Beginning with Washington’s 1789 proclamation of Thanksgiving, Houghton and the Presidents also celebrates items connected to Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They range from reproductions of official documents like Charles Sumner’s copy of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to more personal documents, such as a photograph of Theodore Roosevelt as a sophomore at Harvard.

Above all, the exhibition seeks to provide a holistic picture of the American presidency. It explores morality and pragmatism; domestic and foreign policy; the public and the private; life and death; praise and criticism. The items amassed here all stem from different moments of American history, but they still inform the current state of affairs of the country. No American president was perfect, but every man who held that office felt that he was doing his best to protect the welfare of the American people. That has been and must continue to be the guiding principle of the presidency.

Curated by Houghton 75th Anniversary Fellow Arthur Schott Lopes ’19. See here for information on Houghton Undergraduate Fellowships.

The exhibition is on view during weekly public tours of Houghton on Fridays at 2pm, and by appointment (email

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