Harvard University

The Harvard Library—the largest academic library in the world—includes 20.4 million volumes, 180,000 serial titles, an estimated 400 million manuscript items, 10 million photographs, 124 million archived web pages, and 5.4 terabytes of born-digital archives and manuscripts. Access to this rich collection is provided by nearly 800 library staff members who operate more than 70 separate library units.


Research university; library system with holdings in many areas


Baker Library (Business) Special Collections
From its inception, Baker Library has collected rare and unique materials that focus on the evolution of business and industry. The collections, https://www.library.hbs.edu/Find/Collections-Archives/Special-Collections, span eight centuries beginning in the late 1300s to the present day and include corporate archives, manuscripts, account ledgers, rare books, broadsides, photographs, films, electronic records, and company annual reports. The HBS Archives are a vital resource as well. These rich and varied collections support research in a remarkably diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology. Baker Library is committed to strengthening our contemporary archives to better understand the important theories, organizations, and individuals that have shaped the global business world today.
Collections are available for use in the de Gaspé Beaubien Reading Room on the first floor of Baker Library | Bloomberg Center. Skilled business archivists are eager to assist researchers both on campus and virtually. 
The Center for the History of Medicine at the Countway Medical Library
The Center for the History of Medicine in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, https://www.countway.harvard.edu/center-history-medicine, is one of the world's leading resources for the study of the history of health and medicine. The collections of the Center for the History of Medicine enable researchers to contextualize, understand, and contribute to the history of human health care, scientific medical development, and public health. Collections are open to all and reflect nearly every medical and public health discipline, including anatomy, anesthesiology, cardiology, dentistry, internal medicine, medical jurisprudence, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, pharmacy and pharmacology, psychiatry and psychology, and surgery, as well as variety of popular medicine topics and public health subjects such as industrial hygiene, nutrition, and tropical medicine.
The Center is also home to the Warren Anatomical Museum. Founded in 1847, the Museum collection includes anatomical artifacts, pathological specimens, instruments, and other objects.
Our collections include:

  • Archives and manuscripts, including the personal and professional papers of prominent American physicians, Harvard faculty and biomedical researchers, the records of medical organizations and health care institutions, and the institutional records of Harvard Medical School (founded 1782), Harvard School of Dental Medicine(founded 1867), and Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health (founded 1922). 
  • Rare books and journals, with particular depth in medical incunabula (800+ volumes), mendicant literature, European books printed from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century; and American (particularly New England) medical imprints of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
  • Sound and moving image materials, including films, audio recordings, and oral histories.
  • Visual materials and artifacts, including prints, photographs, portraits, fine art, satires, instruments, machines, and medals.
  • Anatomical, osteological and fluid preparations.

Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments
Harvard University has been acquiring scientific instruments on a continuous basis for teaching and research since 1672. The Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments (CHSI), https://chsi.harvard.edu/, was established in 1948 to preserve, document, and care for this apparatus as a resource for research and teaching in the history of science and technology.  Since 1987, CHSI has been under the stewardship of the Department of History of Sciencehttp://histsci.fas.harvard.edu/.
CHSI is a living collection, still acquiring scientific instruments from various Harvard departments and private benefactors, making CHSI one of the three largest university collections of its kind in the world.  Today CHSI contains close to 25,000 objects dating from about 1400 to the present. A broad range of scientific disciplines are represented, including astronomy, navigation, horology, surveying, geology, mathematics, physics, biology, medicine, psychology, electricity, and communication.  Many of the documents detailing the purchase and use of the instruments have been preserved, and are available for research in the Collection's adjunct library.
In an effort to provide greater access to these important objects and records, the CHSI has instituted the use of a new, state-of-the-art data management system, including an online component called Waywiser, http://waywiser.rc.fas.harvard.edu/collections.  Using Waywiser, online visitors can simply browse and discover the Collection, quickly search for information about particular items, or enjoy groups of instruments pre-selected by Collection curators in conjunction with special themes or exhibitions.
Ernst Mayr Library (Biology)
The Ernst Mayr Library, https://library.mcz.harvard.edu/, primarily supports the research and teaching of the Museum of Comparative Zoology and the Departments of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Molecular and Cellular Biology.  The Library collection is comprised of materials of all types, including books, journals, maps, charts, microforms, and audio-visual resources, which total over 300,000 items. The primary subject focus is at the graduate research level in zoology (including comparative anatomy and physiology), taxonomy and systematics, animal behavior, marine biology, biological oceanography, cell biology, conservation biology, biodiversity, bioinformatics, developmental biology, ecology, evolution, genetics, molecular biology, natural history, neurobiology, and paleontology.

Special Collections, which includes the MCZ Archives, consists of more than 15,000 old (pre-1850) and rare printed volumes, the papers of Louis Agassiz and others associated with the MCZ, correspondence, objects, expedition materials, manuscripts, field and lab notes, photographs, photographic slides, glass negatives, and zoological art works.

Harvard University Archives
The Harvard University Archives, https://library.harvard.edu/libraries/harvard-university-archives, supports the University's mission of education and research by preserving and providing access to Harvard's historical records and publications, striving to gather an accurate, authentic, and complete record of the life of the University.
To complement University records, the University Archives also collects the personal and scholarly archives of faculty and senior administrators active in the Harvard community from the 17th century to the present. These collections provide rich sources for the study of the educational, political, scientific, cultural, and social landscape over the last four centuries within Harvard and across the world.
Collection topics encompass nearly every discipline taught and studied at Harvard, but also reflect a wide range of activities the faculty have engaged in over the course of their lives. This includes local, national, and international leadership roles; literary pursuits; artistic endeavors; and social justice and political activism. Faculty archives are especially rich in documenting the history of science and technnology at Harvard and beyond.
Notable collections include

  • Papers of 18th century scientists John Winthrop and Samuel Williams
  • Papers of astronomer Annie Jump Cannon
  • Papers of Harvey Brooks, Professor of Technology and Public Policy
  • Personal archives of several Nobel laureates, including Norman Ramsey (physics), George Wald (biology), and Robert Burns Woodward (chemistry)

Harvard University Herbaria & Libraries
The Harvard University Herbaria Botany Libraries are rich repositories of rare books, manuscripts, field notes, and historical correspondence that cover the history of plant sciences and the evolution of botany as a scientific discipline in the United States. The print collection dates from the 15th century focusing on early herbals, plant systematics, agriculture, horticulture, biogeography, medicinal and economic botany, and voyages and travels.
The Botany Libraries Archives is the Harvard University Herbaria's repository of historical papers, images, and institutional records. The collections include correspondence to Harvard scientists from peers throughout the world, documents that include research and field notes related the development of the specimen collections, and images of field work, plants, and localities.  Highlights include Charles Darwin’s letters to Asa Gray, field notes and manuscripts that document the United States Exploring Expedition, photographs of the American West by Carleton Watkins and William Henry Jackson, the mycological research of William Gilson Farlow and Roland Thaxter, illustrations of orchids by Oakes and Blanche Ames, the Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka Glass Flower Archives, and the Henry David Thoreau Herbarium.
Houghton Library
Houghton Library, https://library.harvard.edu/libraries/houghton, entails a vast collection devoted to the dissemination and preservation of knowledge by stewarding a world class collection of rare books, manuscripts, archives, photographs, ephemera and other rare and unique materials. 
Categories include:
Modern Books and Manuscripts: World Culture, 1800 to Today
Manuscripts, books, photographs, and popular culture material with a focus on literature and history of Europe and the Americas, and Arabic and Indic manuscripts. Additional subjects include the history of missions; the Russian Revolution; publishing history; music; philosophy and much more.
Early Modern Books and Manuscripts 
Books, manuscripts and prints from the period 1600-1800. The collection is very broad in scope but particular areas of focus include the history of the Atlantic world, European and American literature, mathematics and physical sciences, and the history of the book.
Early Books and Manuscripts 
Material dating from approximately 3000 BCE to 1600 CE and ranging from papyri to early and illuminated manuscripts to early printed books. While there is an emphasis on Western languages and cultures, the collection is also strong in Arabic, Indic, Persian, and Syriac manuscripts.
Printing and Graphic Arts
Original artifacts from all periods illustrating the book arts and the materiality and historical development of the book, whether manuscript or printed. Primary emphasis is on books in languages that use the roman alphabet, although the collection includes representative examples from other cultural traditions.
John G. Wohlbach Library (Astrophysics and Astronomy)
The Wolbach Library collection, https://library.cfa.harvard.edu/, is comprised of materials of all types including books, journals, maps, charts, microforms, and audio-visual resources, which total over one hundred thousand items in all. The principal subject areas contained within the Wolbach Library collection include astrophysics and related topics in physics, chemistry, applied mathematics, geophysics, and engineering. 
Special Collections:
·        The PHaEDRA Collection: This collection comprises the logbooks and notebooks of Harvard's earliest astronomers and pioneers in the field, including the work of Harvard's "Women Computers". This collection is the focus of a large effort to digitize these works and make them full-text searchable on the NASA Astrophysics Data System. PHaEDRA stands for Preserving Harvard's Early Data and Research in Astronomy
·        Astronomical Institutions (AI) Collection: contains historical publications issued by observatories worldwide. Along with the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, Wolbach holds the most complete collection in the U.S. Many of these publications are unique.
·        International Astronomy/Astrophysics Thesis Collection: a select and expanding worldwide collection from the 19th century on, cataloged individually and shelved together.
·        Harvard Astronomy Department Dissertations Collection: shelved alphabetically by author
·        Papers resulting from the Harvard Astronomy Department Research Tutorials
Physical Collections:
·        Books and materials in a broad range of subjects: astronomy, physics, chemistry, engineering, computer science, mathematics, etc.
·        Ephemerides
·        Charts & Atlases
·        Journals & Proceedings
·        Video Collection
·        Magazines/News Sources


Collections URL

Holding Highlights

Descriptions of Harvard's holding highlights for this website are currently under development. For further information, please visit Harvard University Library's website at the link below.

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