Apply for a 2020–2021 Houghton Library Visiting Fellowship

Readers study and look at materials in Houghton Library's reading room.

Readers use the Reading Room at Houghton Library, ca. 2017.

We are excited to announce that we are now accepting applications for the 2020–2021 Houghton Library Visiting Fellowship Program, which offers funding to scholars at all stages of their careers so they may pursue projects that require in-depth research on the library’s holdings, draw on staff expertise, and participate in intellectual life at Harvard. Visiting Fellows also have access to other Harvard libraries, as well as opportunities to promote their research through Houghton publications (such as this blog and Harvard Library Bulletin) and other scholarly and public programs. Fellows receive a $3,600 stipend and are expected to be in residence at Houghton for at least four weeks within their fellowship year (September 2020–June 2021), though these do not have to be consecutive weeks.


Planting Seeds at Houghton Library

By Vicki Denby, Manuscript End-Processor, Houghton Library

A student places acid-free interleaving between leaves in a portfolio of drawings of plant specimens.

Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School student, Sarah Ikram, adds acid-free interleaving to a portfolio of rendered plant specimens (John G. Hoare botanical drawings, circa 1796 [MS Typ 1277]).

For the seventh consecutive year, Houghton Library has had the opportunity to hire a paid intern from the Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School (CRLS) to learn about our work by helping end-process our collections. Through the School-to-Work program (STW), the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) coordinates with the Cambridge Office of Workforce Development, Harvard schools and departments, and Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School to provide job training and learning opportunities for high school students.


The Castañé Collection Series: “Three: Marshal Zhukov’s Pocket Knife”

By Michael Austin, Manuscript Cataloger, Houghton Library

Marshal Zhukov's pocket knife, with tools unfolded.

Pocket knife, circa 1940-1945. José María Castañé collection of 20th century war-related manuscripts, photographs, and objects, MS Span 185 [Box 39, Carton 4]. Houghton Library, Harvard University.

The José María Castañé collection of material relating to major conflicts of the 20th century, held by Houghton Library, contains an incredible variety of artifacts: chiefly papers, such as correspondence, military orders, work permits, and personal identification cards, but also a significant number of photographs and objects. In my previous two posts, I looked at items from the Second World War associated with obscure or unknown individuals, with an aim to illustrate the everyday tragedies and moral ambiguities that the war visited upon them. For this post, however, I’d like to take as my madeleine an item once owned by a major military figure: I feel that it symbolizes the vicissitudes of destiny that strike even those considered movers and shakers of history. The man in question is Marshal Georgii Zhukov, four times declared a “Hero of the Soviet Union”; the item is his pocket knife.


August 9, 2019

By Tom Hyry, Florence Fearrington Librarian of Houghton Library

At 4:00 this afternoon, August 9, 2019, Houghton Library closed its doors.

Over the next 13 months, we will embark on a renovation that will make our spaces more accessible, welcoming, and useful for modern research and teaching. The library will suspend services for two weeks as our reading room operation and many of our staff move to temporary quarters in Widener Library. Our interim reading room will open on August 26 in the space formerly occupied by the Current Periodicals Reading Room in Widener, which, rather poetically, was once the “Treasure Room” where Harvard College’s rare book and manuscript collections were housed before Houghton opened.

Houghton Library's lobby ca. 2018–2019, featuring six glass-panelled bookcases, a desk with chair and lamp, and a carpet runner that leads to a spiral staircase behind an arched doorway.

Image credit: Stu Rosner, Houghton Library Lobby, 2018–2019.

This is an historic day for Houghton Library, which has never been closed for more than a short period of time, and provides a moment to reflect upon our past, present and future.


New Pages to Turn: Recent Additions to Houghton’s Theodore Roosevelt Collection

By Gregory Wynn

In his recently published memoir, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Robert Caro recounts that an early career admonishment from an editor to “turn every page” while investigating a story was one of the best pieces of advice he had ever been given (Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing, 2019, p. 11). This call to thoroughness and detail served as a guidepost for him while conducting research for his epic biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson. The thrill of discovering an overlooked or misfiled source that allows a writer to connect the dots is one of the great personal and professional rewards of archival research. However, even sage advice as “turn every page” is only so sage if all the pages are there to turn.  We can’t know what isn’t there.

So, when an opportunity comes along to add more pages to a historical archive it is a terrific contribution to scholarship. Harvard has made just such a contribution with the addition of ten handwritten letters from Theodore Roosevelt to his sister Anna Roosevelt Cowles—nicknamed Bamie—to the Theodore Roosevelt Collection at Houghton Library. These letters have never been published, nor utilized by researchers and scholars. It’s worth noting that Theodore Roosevelt does not have a presidential library.  Outside of his papers at the Library of Congress, Harvard—Roosevelt’s alma mater—holds the most significant collection of Theodore Roosevelt material in the world. This includes the Anna Roosevelt Cowles papers (TRC b MS Am 1834.1), which this addition makes as complete as perhaps they may ever be.