Harvard’s collections of unique and distinctive material, material held only at Harvard or by few other repositories, are vast and scattered over many libraries, archives and museums.  One can usually find particular items by searching in HOLLIS or the museum databases, or by talking with appropriate staff, but it is difficult to get an overview of holdings on a broad topic.  Harvard librarians and curators have produced numerous guides and tools designed to elucidate our collections.  This guide offers a guide to these tools and guides.

This guide is preliminary and very much a work in progress.  It concentrates on the Harvard Library, with less coverage of the museums.

Digital Collections

Harvard Digital Collections offers item level access to digitized resources.

CURIOSity Digital Collections  offers collection level access to digitized resources.

Digital Collections at Schlesinger Library

Nuremberg Trials Collection at Harvard Law School: Guide to the Nuremberg Trials Digitization Project website

Digital Resources for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies describes online resources available via Harvard digital platforms or produced and freely accessible outside the Harvard system
--Note the Open Access link on the Archives page. At Please find our list of open access resources for research in Soviet History there is a large list of resources.

Judaica Digital Collection

Onview: Digital Collections & Exhibits (Center for the History of Medicine, Countway)

Archives and Manuscripts


HOLLIS searches catalog records and online finding aids.  Finding aids are searched full text and the associated catalog record is displayed with a link to the finding aid.  Many archival collections have catalog records only, with their finding aids existing only in paper in their repository.  Search in Library Catalog Advanced Search, adjusting Resource type to Archives/Manuscripts.

A limited number of finding aids which are very long are not fully indexed. Only the first ~80K words are indexed. (Affects ~ 115 finding aids, or 2%).

You can search for archives/manuscripts from particular country or in a particular language, without keywords, by using the Place of publication codes (listed alphabetically or by geographic region) and the Language (MARC language code list) codes. Examples:

Note that some HOLLIS records may not bear these codes, so these searches are not exhaustive.

Code: Local Call Number

If you have the call number for an archival collection or manuscript, you can search within or browse through other records bearing that root call number.  Does not work for Library of Congress numbers.

Enter 3 or more characters from the beginning of the call number, removing all spaces and punctuation, followed by an asterisk.


  • Enter the Houghton call number Ms Am as MsAm*

Note: to locate a specific item by call number or to browse a list of items in shelf order, use “Starts with/browse.”

HOLLIS for Archival Discovery

HOLLIS for Archival Discovery (the successor to OASIS) searches the full text of the online finding aids (only, not catalog records).  It retrieves whole collections (listed at the top of the results), then components of collections, usually series, file units, individual items (sometimes digital).  You can limit to digital material.

Guide to HOLLIS for Archival Discovery

Harvard Film Archive Archival Materials

The Harvard Film Archive holds collections of ephemera, posters, stills, personal papers, etc. Major collections are listed on their site. Limit to HFA with a HOLLIS Advanced Search Code: Library+Collection: HFA* with Resource Type: Archives/Manuscripts. You can exclude archival collectiuon consisting largely of images (stills) and films by excluding these Resource Type under Refine my results (Red check box after the resource name)

Research Guides

Visual Material

Find visual material in HOLLIS (limit to Resource Type Images or Resource Type Video/Film) or in HOLLIS ImagesHOLLIS Images offers a more convenient viewing mode.  Harvard owns many reproductions of images in other repositories. Original at Harvard at the bottom of the HOLLIS Images Refine my results column of the results page allows you to limit to originals held by Harvard.

Image Collections at the Berenson Library

Special Collections: Visual Collections at the Frances Loeb Library

Photographica: Collections at Harvard

A Web Guide to Photograph Collections (Baker Library Historical Collections)

Video appeals to the President of Russia

The Harvard Film Archive holds thousands of films plus ephemera, posters, stills, personal papers, etc. Major collections are listed on their site. Limit to HFA with a HOLLIS Advanced Search Code: Library+Collection: HFA*

Major collections (a small sampling)


Many objects in the Harvard Library collections are tagged as Form/genre Realia.  Some have more specific Form/genre terms.  You can do a Keyword search on, say, Hats and then Refine by Form/genre.  This may yield images of objects not in the Harvard Library.  Results can be limited to original material held by Harvard in HOLLIS Images, but not all images of Harvard objects are in HOLLIS Images (T. S. Eliot's Panama hat).

Realia in Houghton (HOLLIS search)

World War II Memorabilia & Realia (Schlesinger)

Searching the Warren Anatomical Museum collection

Special Collections: Materials Collection at the Frances Loeb Library

List of Harvard museums

List of Harvard museums with links to online collections searches and incomplete lists of print publications.


Do a search using the proper Subject terms.  Note form / genre in the right hand column in the Results page.  Note likely terms and add them to the initial search:

elections Israel
ephemera OR broadside* OR  poster*

Slavic Poster Collection

Russian ephemera collection (late 1980s-1990s)

The Harvard Film Archive holds thousands of films plus ephemera, posters, stills, personal papers, etc. Major collections are listed on their site. Limit to HFA with a HOLLIS Advanced Search Code: Library+Collection: HFA*

On finding pamphlets

Collection Guides and Lists

Explore Collections (Harvard Library) -- Can browse, or search by title word, individual collections within the Harvard Library. Example:

José María Castañé Collection: Documenting the pivotal political and military events of the 20th century.

Also, search by a library/archives name to see their collections, e.g., Houghton

The website of the Harvard Library Americas, Europe, and Oceania Division offers a list of special collections held largely in Widener.  Most of these collections contain political, activist and other posters and other ephemera.  Example:

The Charlie Archive: Charlie Hebdo is a weekly French satirical magazine that features cartoons, reports, debates, and jokes that are strongly non-conformist. (on Special Projects page)

Available collection guides include:

Middle Eastern Material