About The Harvard Theatre Collection

Patrons using material from the Harvard Theatre Collection.

The Harvard Theatre Collection at Houghton Library encompasses documentary material on the history of the performing arts, including theater, dance and ballet, and opera. The collection also covers many forms of popular entertainment, ranging from the circus to stage magic and minstrelsy.

Since the time of its formation a century ago, the collection has had a broad scope. Among the collection's areas of particular strength are:

  • Dramatic literature in the form of manuscripts, play texts, acting editions, and promptbooks
  • Playbills, programs, posters, tickets, souvenirs, clippings, and other printed material that results from performance
  • Historical theatrical literature, including biographies, histories, and other books and pamphlets about theater and the performing arts
  • Original manuscripts, letters, legal agreements, and other documents
  • Works of art related to performance, including portraits, stage scenes, and stage and costume designs
  • Visual material in the form of prints and photographs showing performers, scenes, theaters, etc.

Accessing the Collection

Because items in the Theatre Collection are rare or unique, the way you access the collection is a little different to ensure the security and preservation of the collection. Most notably, researchers cannot enter the stacks, and collection material can only be used in the Houghton Library Reading Room.

More information about accessing the collection can be found on the Houghton Library website.

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