Prop handkerchief used in the 1942 Margaret Webster production of Othello starring Paul Robeson and Uta HagenHarvard's libraries contain a number of objects that you might expect to find in a museum instead. These objects are sometimes called "realia" and include a wide variety of formats. The libraries don't collect objects in bulk due to space limitations, but occasionally they are acquired as part of a larger archival collection, such as a theatrical practitioner's papers, or because they are deemed important enough to outweigh the difficulty in storing and caring for them.



Examples of realia related to the performing arts include:

  • Costumes
  • Props
  • Moving picture devices
  • Items owned by theatrical professionals
  • Toy theaters
  • Figurines and similar souvenirs
  • Tickets and coins used for entry to theaters or other performance venues
  • Signs and other functional items from performance venues

Searching for Objects

To search for material in HOLLIS, navigate to the Advanced Search page, select Library Catalog from the Search For: options, and  Objects from the Resource Type menu. Enter relevant search terms, such as production titles, actors' names, or the type of object.

Screenshot of a search for an object

Not all objects are cataloged with a resource type of Object. So, it may be useful to search in other ways, such as using one search box to search for the kind of object (e.g. prop) and the second search box to search for terms relevant to your project (e.g. production title).

The bulk of performing arts figurines at Harvard are in this collection at the Harvard Theatre Collection.

Many objects are not yet cataloged. Reach out to library staff if you're working on a project where realia might be of use but you aren't finding anything in the catalog.