April 5th, 2018

Collections Now Available for Research: April 2018

Houghton Library is pleased to announce that the following collections now have descriptive finding aids and are available for research in the library’s reading room.

Richard Baldridge Manuscripts and Letters, 1927-1964 (MS Thr 125) – processed by Irina Klyagin

Boris Bilinsky Costume Designs for Cinema, Theater and Ballet, 1924-1943 (MS Thr 317) – processed by Irina Klyagin

Martin Camacho Subject Files on Labor During the Allied Occupation of Japan, 1942-1953 (MS Am 3164) – processed by Ashley Nary

George Chaffee collection of dance prints and original drawings, circa 1613-1921, undated (MS Thr 861) – processed by Betts Coup

Doris Dickinson Dinsmore Papers Relating to Serge Soudeikine, circa 1940-1979 (MS Thr 640) – processed by Irina Klyagin

Monroe Engel Correspondence, circa 1947-1981 (MS Am 3163) – processed by Magdaline Lawhorn

Robert D. Graff Papers on the Production of Young Cassidy, 1960-1976 (MS Thr 318) – processed by Irina Klyagin

Lowell Family Papers, 1836-1928 (MS Am 3166) – processed by Elizabeth Amos and Adrien Hilton

Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library Pulp Fiction Collection, circa 1900-1970s (MS Am 3136) – processed by Adrien Hilton, Elise Ramsey, Ryan Wheeler, and a number of student assistants

Norman Mailer 1969 New York Mayoral Campaign Papers, circa 1968-1970 (MS Am 3168) – processed by Melanie Wisner

James Metcalf Collection of Correspondence and Photographs By and Related to Tennessee Williams (MS Thr 1774) – processed by Melanie Wisner

Costume Designs by William J. C. Pitcher for Ballet and Theater, 1889-1905 (MS Thr 1770) – processed by Melanie Wisner

Letters to Sarah and William Siddons, 1780-1795 (MS Thr 395) – processed by Irina Klyagin

Ernst Weil Catalog Cards, circa 1924-1965 (MS Eng 1822) – processed by Ashley Nary

March 22nd, 2018

Exhibition catalogs digitized

Picturing Prayer coverWe’re pleased to share the news that we’ve digitized a few of our favorite exhibition catalogs from the past, focused on our collection of Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. We hope those interested in the field will find them a valuable resource.

Late Medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts, 1350-1525, in the Houghton Library (1983)
The Bible in the Twelfth Century: An Exhibition of Manuscripts at the Houghton Library (1988)
The Marks in the Fields: Essays on the Uses of Manuscripts (1992)
Picturing Prayer: the Book of Hours in the Middle Ages (2006)
Of Current Interest: Recent Research on Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in Houghton Library (2006)

March 6th, 2018

Collections Now Available for Research: March 2018

Houghton Library is pleased to announce that the following collections now have descriptive finding aids and are available for research in the library’s reading room.

Anne Barry correspondence with Norman Mailer and related papers, circa 1961-2009 (MS Am 3159) – processed by Melanie Wisner

Artcraft Lithograph & Printing Co. Window Cards, 1941-1979 (MS Thr 1752) – processed by Melanie Wisner

William Ernest Hocking Papers, 1860-1979 (MS Am 2375) – additions added by Adrien Hilton

 Florence Milner Papers on Lewis Carroll, circa 1860s-1930s (MS Eng 1820) – processed by various staff as part of archival training

Alfonso de Orléans Papers, circa 1937-1975 (MS Span 1870) – processed by Ashley Nary

Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library Collection of Film Stills, circa 1894-2002 (MS Thr 1678) – processed by Elise Ramsey

Alfred K. Schroeder Photographs of the Boston Ballet, circa 1960-1970 (MS Thr 1731) – processed by Magee Lawhorn

Langdon Warner Papers, 1900-1959 (MS Am 3138) – processed by Fletcher Coleman

Charles H. Waterbury Correspondence and Scrapbooks on Chess Problems, 1858-1878 (MS Am 2483) – processed by various staff as part of archival training

Leo Van Witsen Designs and Photographs,1935-1973 (MS Thr 1740) – processed by Betts Coup

March 1st, 2018

Born-Digital Blog Post #2: Generating the Report

This post continues the series, “Behind the Scenes at Houghton”, giving a glimpse into the inner workings of the library’s mission to support teaching and research. Thanks to Magdaline Lawhorn Administrative Fellow & Project Archivist, for contributing this post.

 Houghton’s born-digital survey journey continues to the next stage, beginning with the procurement and analysis of reports illuminating the extent of our holdings. You might be thinking…..why are they bothering with generating reports from materials already at Houghton? Why not just create new workflows and policies that are mindful of born-digital handling for future ingest? In this case we are looking to the past to inform our present and future practices. But first, we must find and preserve the media hidden in our collections. It is estimated that this media won’t be readable by 2030.

We want to be as thorough as possible, in the hopes that we will eliminate the need for a future born-digital backlog survey. No longer will born-digital materials get cast aside, overlooked, and overshadowed by their analog counterparts. In conjunction with the backlog survey we are updating our accessioning procedures to incorporate born-digital material practices. With these new workflows we will log media at accessioning, by removing, photographing, and creating a unique identifier for each object. By employing these changes we remedy the problem that born-digital materials in our holdings are currently facing, allowing us to forge ahead without adding to the backlog.

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February 24th, 2018

The Origins of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra

Today, the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, America’s oldest symphony orchestra, will perform its annual Junior Family Weekend concert in the university’s Sanders Theatre. The HRO began life in 1808 as the quirkily named Pierian Sodality, founded by six Harvard students seeking to further their shared interest in serenading and socializing. The original Pierian Sodality  appears to have concentrated on the latter and members were frequently censured by the university, with four of its musicians actually expelled in 1834. At this particularly low point a single stalwart member remained in the Sodality: Henry Gassett 34, a flautist. Gassett insisted on holding rehearsals and performances of one, paying himself dues and convening solo meetings. Gradually rebuilt in the intervening years, the Sodality would in 1942 become the Harvard Radcliffe-Orchestra (although they retain the name “Pierian Sodality of 1808” for their alumni board).

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February 20th, 2018

Aspects of Edward Lear (Part III)

‘Verily, I am an odd bird’, Lear once confessed. He was also a superb illustrator of odd birds, as his Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots attests. Working from live models in the gardens of the newly established Zoological Society in London the 18-year-old Lear produced his book without any formal training, independent funding, or institutional support. The remarkable story of his work on this volume—alongside other commissions—has recently been told in Robert McCracken Peck’s The Natural History of Edward Lear. ‘Parrots are my favourites’, Lear noted, but there is also another bird that haunts his imagination, one that makes its presence felt across his oeuvre (from his ornithological draughtsmanship to his travel journals, from his landscape painting to his nonsense poetry, and beyond). Enter The Pelican.

He began drawing these birds early. Houghton Library holds a lovely preparatory sketch of a pelican that Lear would later work up for John Gould’s The Birds of Europe (1837):

The Pelican

“The Pelican”. Edward Lear drawings of animals and birds, ca. 1831-1836
Houghton Library, MS Typ 55.12, f. 2

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February 15th, 2018

Collections Now Available for Research: February 2018

Houghton Library is pleased to announce that the following collections now have descriptive finding aids and are available for research in the library’s reading room.

Francis C. Browne Journals and Ephemera, 1840-1895 (MS Am 3156) – processed by Magdaline Lawhorn

Filipino American Performing Arts Broadsides and Posters, 1979-2002 (MS Thr 1724) – processed by Magdaline Lawhorn

Paolo Gruppe Papers, circa 1909-1972 (MS Thr 1727) – processed by Melanie Wisner

Howard Guild Collection of Subscription Publishing Prospectuses, circa 1860-1912 (Typ 9000) – processed by Simmons intern, Alice Iu under the supervision of Susan Wyssen

William Morris Hunt Papers, 1960-1990 (MS Thr 408) – processed by Adrien Hilton

Vladimir Nabokov Family Papers circa 1920-2000 (MS Russ 140) – processed by Magdaline Lawhorn

The New York Hippodrome : Drawings, 1905-1908 (MS Thr 1716) – processed by Melanie Wisner

Christy Obrecht Family Papers, 1913-1975 (MS Thr 1711) – processed by Magdaline Lawhorn

Roberto Paoli Correspondence, 1905-1997 (MS Ital 206) – processed by Melanie Wisner

Patrick Putnam papers, circa 1920s-1950s (MS Am 3144) – processed by Simmons intern, Alice Iu under the supervision of Susan Wyssen

Arturo Ripstein Papers, circa 1935-2014 (MS Span 186) – processed by Melanie Wisner

Pauline Billings Taylor Collection of Theater Designs, 1892-1968 (MS Thr 1708) – processed by Irina Klyagin

George Doane Wells Family Papers, circa 1704-1934 (MS Am 3154) – processed by Ashley Nary

Kirk Alan Winslow Papers, 1955-2003 (MS Thr 1709) – processed by Adrien Hilton

February 2nd, 2018

Born-Digital Blog Post #1: The Beginning

This post continues the series, “Behind the Scenes at Houghton”, giving a glimpse into the inner workings of the library’s mission to support teaching and research. Thanks to Magdaline Lawhorn, Administrative Fellow & Project Archivist, for contributing this post.

Floppy disks from the Vladimir Nabokov Family Papers, circa 1920-2000. Houghton Library, MS Russ 140.

Vladimir Nabokov Family Papers, circa 1920-2000. The collection contains 107 floppy disks belonging to Vladimir Nabokov’s son, Dmitri Nabokov. Houghton Library, MS Russ 140.


Born-digital backlog! Everyone has one. When you think of Houghton Library and other special collections, I’m sure that the first thing that comes to mind are old tomes, handwritten letters and other historical documents. So you may be surprised to know that Houghton is home to born-digital material. Floppy disks, USBs, external hard drives, Jaz drives mixed within unassuming archival collections forgotten, just waiting to be re-discovered by researchers. The papers of John Updike, the Vladimir Nabokov family and Jamaica Kincaid as well as the multimedia poem Fragments of Light. 6, represent twentieth-century and near contemporary holdings we definitely know to have born-digital materials, but these represent just a small fraction of Houghton’s collections. So, where are all the other born-digital materials hiding? Here at Houghton Library we have begun to tackle our born-digital backlog, in search of our hidden gems. In November 2017 the library formed its first Born-Digital team comprised of staff members Susan Pyzynski, Associate Librarian for Technical Services; Adrien Hilton, Head of the Manuscript Section; Melanie Wisner, Accessioning Archivist; and myself, Magdaline Lawhorn, Administrative Fellow & Project Archivist.

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January 15th, 2018

Aspects of Edward Lear (Part II)

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word backstories enters the language in 1982. But it would seem that Edward Lear invented the word over a century earlier (it appeared in his diary entry for 19 March 1876). The diaries themselves—a mixture of confession, bewilderment, recollection, and fantasy—contain a range of backstories that take us beyond the received, public image of Mr Lear as gently quirky, or inoffensively nonsensical, or merely pleasant to know. Biographers and researchers have drawn on the diaries (30 volumes of which survive, all housed at Houghton), and Marco Graziosi has provided invaluable transcriptions of some of them. A microfilm of the whole collection is now available online, and it offers a fresh opportunity to listen in as Lear talks to himself day by day, night by night, over three decades. ‘How wonderfully strange are my feelings!’, he exclaims. The more of the diary you read, the stranger things get.

Sometimes the diaries simply allow Lear to be enjoyably rude about friends and acquaintances behind their backs. Having dined with John Gould, he admits that he found him ‘less disgusting than sometimes – but he is always a hog’, and having been treated to a tune from a lady, he observes: ‘Mrs Alderson sung – sung? – the last rose of summer – & I had rather have had a tooth taken out . . . Fir the laaaa Roo,ooo,ooo,ooo,o,ooza saa – r’. Elsewhere, though, he touches on more ambiguously painful feelings. Thinking of two women who bring out particularly strong emotions in him, he scribbles down: ‘Wrote to Gussie Bethell: a long letter — but beside the mark: also to Emily Tennyson – much more besiderer: — but it is not possible to write as one would’. For Lear, the diary becomes a space to gesture towards the unwritable—and the unspeakable.

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December 8th, 2017

Collections Now Available for Research: December 2017

Houghton Library is pleased to announce that the following collections now have descriptive finding aids and are available for research in the library’s reading room.

Claudia Goreva and Ivan Kireef Photographs and Other Papers, circa 1902-1993 (MS Thr 1693) – processed by Magdaline Lawhorn

Hubert François Gravelot Drawings, 1738-1764 (MS Typ 404-MS Typ 404.2) – processed by Susan Wyssen

Fragments of Latin manuscripts, circa 1100-1540 – processed by Susan Wyssen

Phoebe Andrews Luther Theater Scrapbooks, circa 1881-1907 (MS Thr 1700) – processed by Magdaline Lawhorn

Paul Kahn Collection of Bezoar Materials (MS Am 3152) – processed by Melanie Wisner

Benjamin Rand Papers, circa 1873-1934 (MS Am 1082) – processed by Ashley Nary

Warren Family Correspondence of Missionaries Serving With the ABCFM in Japan, 1848-1984 (MS Am 3153) – processed by Melanie Wisner

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