This guide is selective and intended as a point of departure for research in the history of science.

Other general guides

Please feel free to email with questions. We can make an appointment for you to come in, and we can talk at length about your project.

  • Fred Burchsted, (burchst@fas.harvard.edu) Research Librarian and Liaison to the Department of History of Science, Widener Library
  • Emily Bell (emilybell@fas.harvard.edu), Research Librarian, Lamont Library

Getting What You Need

How can you get your hands/eyes on material?


HOLLIS is the center of the Library ecosystem. This is often the best first step to see if we have something. In HOLLIS, click on "Online Access" or open the record and scroll down to the "Access Options" section. Check the HOLLIS section of this guide for more guidance.

Browser Plugins for Library Access

Harvard Library Bookmark and Lean Library plugins can help you find out if we have access to books and articles online.

Off-Site Storage

Books and other materials stored in facilities not on Harvard's main campus. Request this material through HOLLIS:

  • Select "Request Pick Up" in the Access section of the HOLLIS Record, then enter your Harvard Key.
  • A drop down menu will allow you to choose delivery location. Sometimes there is a single delivery option. Submit your request.
  • You will receive an email usually next business day (not weekends or holidays) morning. Item is usually ready for pick-up in mid-afternoon. 

Sometimes Offsite storage material is in-library use only. For Widener, this is the Widener secure reading room on the 1st floor (formerly the Periodicals Room). Most Offsite storage material is available for scanning via Scan & Deliver (see below). 

Scan & Deliver/Interlibrary Loan

Use Scan & Deliver/Interlibrary Loan to request PDFs of articles and book chapters from HOLLIS when you cannot get online access. Limit: 2 chapters from a book or 2 articles from a journal.

Interlibrary Loan

Request materials from other libraries via InterLibrary Loan:

  • Some non-Harvard special collections may be willing and able to scan material (usually for a fee). Our Interlibrary Loan department will place the request and help with the cost (there is a cap).
  • Contact the other repository to see if they're able to scan what you need. Get a price estimate for the material and the exact details (such as: Box 77 folder 4. This information is often available in Finding Aids).
  • Log in to ILL.  On the left side it says "Make a Request."  Open that and choose "Request Article." 
    • Fill in what you can (put in N/A if the field is inapplicable) with the price and other information in the Comments box.
    • This will get the process going and ILL will get back to you if they need more information or to discuss the price.


Borrow Direct allows Harvard students, faculty, and staff to request items from other libraries for delivery to Harvard within 4 business days. If the item you need is not available, try searching our partner institutions' collections in BorrowDirect.

Purchase Request

If there are materials you'd like to see added to the library's collections, submit a purchase request and we will look into acquiring it. We can buy both physical and electronic copies of materials; specify if have a preference.

Special Collections

Special Collections are rare, unique, primary source materials in the library's collections. To access, look for "Request to Scan or Visit" in HOLLIS (to place a scanning request) or contact the repository directly. Most of our larger archival collections are able to provide scans.

Carrels at Widener Library

Graduate students and visiting scholars are eligible to have a carrel in the Widener Library stacks. Start the process with the carrel request form. (If you do this right at the start of the semester, it may take a few weeks before you receive confirmation.) Materials from the Widener stacks, including non-circulating materials like bound periodicals, can be checked out to your carrel.

Help with Digital Projects

The Digital Scholarship Support Group offers workshops and support to faculty, students, and staff interested in digital research methods.  See also  GIS Mapping Resources and Visualization Support.

Library News

New News

Borrow Direct is back! If a book is checked out or not owned by Harvard, you can probably get it within 1-4 days via Borrow Direct.  This is quicker than recalling it (hitting the Request link) from the person who has it.  Largely for books, but some DVDs, microfilm and other formats are available.  The Borrow Direct catalog can be tricky to search.  Omlt subtitles in searched, and use the main title and the author's last name. Try several searched to be sure.

Digitization of Special Collections materials
Several special collections, including Harvard Archives, Houghton and Schlesinger, are planning to digitize, where possible, material needed by students and researchers as well as for Fall courses.  If you have requests, please submit them as soon as possible.  Requests will be filled as far as available time and personnel allow.  Contact the repository directly with requests.

Our document delivery service can scan portions of materials in our physical collections- an article in a journal; a chapter in a book, up to about 30 pages. When you make a request, we will do our best to find a digital version for you. Please submit your request using the Scan & Deliver link in the HOLLIS entry, regardless of the library location, and we’ll let you know if it’s available.  Requests for scans of material in other institutions will be filled when possible.

Only books not available through HathiTrust Temporary Access can be requested for Lamont pick up.

Imaging Services
Imaging Services staff are now (6/29) working again in Widener. If a patron is seeking a reproduction s/he should submit a request, which will trigger a reply from the owning repository. https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/imagingcustomerservice/requesting-reproductions?admin_panel=1&login=1

Old News (6/29/20)

Library book pickup
The first phase of reopening the Library begins on June 30.  Books from the Harvard Depository, Lamont and Widener (only) can be requested via HOLLIS and picked up in the vestibule in Lamont between the two sets of doors at the main entrance.  When you get the hold pickup notice there will be a link to LibCal.  In LibCal you will choose a time slot to do the pickup.  No one can pick up a book without having scheduled a pickup time.

Books that were on hold the day we shut the doors are still on hold. If you want a held book, contact Access: hl_access_services@harvard.edu.

Digitization of Special Collections materials
Several special collections, including Harvard Archives, Houghton and Schlesinger, are planning to digitize, where possible, material needed for Fall courses.  If you have requests, please submit them as soon as possible.  Requests will be filled as far as available time and personnel allow.  Contact the repository directly with requests.

HathiTrust Emergency Access (explained here https://www.hathitrust.org/ETAS-Description) is expected to continue as long as library service is limited.  Note that:
--Double login in (both HOLLIS and HathiTrust) is no longer required.  Just log in to HOLLIS when you begin.
--The full runs of journals available in HathiTrust will be available even where Harvard only has a partial run
--When searching in HathiTrust, do not select View Online Only.  Selecting it will omit the Temporary Access material in your results.
--No downloading is available for the Temporary Access material

Data Visualization workshops
The schedule for summer workshops in data visualization is available https://library.harvard.edu/services-tools/visualization-support.

Online Primary Sources
We have created a new page on the History guide on Finding Primary Sources Online: https://guides.library.harvard.edu/history/digital  Any comments or suggestions welcome.

New library guides available
*FAS Course Support from the Library: A Guide for Faculty https://guides.library.harvard.edu/FAScoursesupport
*Copyright Considerations for the Harvard Community in Shifting Courses from In-Person to Online During the COVID-19 Crisis https://guides.library.harvard.edu/CopyrightCOVID
*Using Published Video in Online Courses https://guides.library.harvard.edu/UsingVideo