This is the "Home" page of the "Houghton Library: A Student's Guide" guide.
Alternate Page for Screenreader Users
Skip to Page Navigation
Skip to Page Content

Houghton Library: A Student's Guide   Tags: how_to  

A guide for Harvard students using Houghton Library.
Last Updated: Dec 20, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Home Print Page
  Search Guides: 

About Houghton Library

Houghton Library is the primary repository for Harvard's rare books and manuscripts. Its collections trace the development of Western civilization. Materials relating to American, Continental, and English history and literature comprise the bulk of these collections and include special concentrations in printing and graphic arts, poetry, and theatre. The collections encompass wonderfully diverse holdings, including:

  • Rare books. Books are considered rare when they are scarce in supply or unique. The collection includes numerous examples from the age of Gutenberg through contemporary publications.      
  • Manuscripts. The word manuscript refers to items written by hand, but has expanded to include typed documents as well. Houghton's collection includes early examples written on papyrus and pottery shards through the working papers of living novelists and poets.
  • Photographs. Photographs in the collection include a wide range of formats, from daguerreotypes to digital media.
  • Ephemera. Ephemeral items were originally intended for short term use, such as posters, theater programs and postcards.
  • Audio-visual material. The collection includes oral histories, lectures, performances, and interviews in a variety of formats. 

Because items at Houghton are rare or unique, additional rules are in place to ensure the security and preservation of the collection. Most notably, the colleciton is non-circulating and the stacks are closed to users. Library staff retrieve material for use in the Reading Room.

Libraries like Houghton are often called special collections, because of the rarity and uniqueness of the included items. There are many other special collections at Harvard. Explore them to find additional material.

For more information about Houghton, visit the Houghton Library website. In addition to policies and information on the library's collections, the website contains more detailed research guides for pre-1600 material and post-1800 material. For news and highlighted collection items, see the Houghton Library Twitter account and Blog.


User Feedback

Was this information helpful?

How useful is this page?
(1 = Not Useful, 5 = Very Useful!)

Additional comments:

Your Email:



Contact Houghton reference staff.


Hours and Location

Houghton Reading Room hours and location.


Digital Image of The Day

Loading Loading...
blank padding
© 2010 President & Fellows Harvard University. All Rights Reserved.
Harvard Trademark Notice

Loading  Loading...