January 14th, 2019

Houghton Library Renovation

An artist's rendering of Houghton Library's renovated exterior, featuring a new staircase, fully accessible entry points, and fresh landscaping.

A message from Thomas Hyry, Florence Fearrington Librarian of Houghton Library.

I am pleased to announce that we will undertake a major renovation of Houghton Library with the goals of modernizing our research and teaching facilities, expanding our exhibition and display capabilities, and improving physical accessibility and visibility. Enhancements will include a new gallery space in Houghton’s lobby to showcase items from the collections; designated areas for quiet study and collaboration in our reading room; and the addition of a graceful new entryway, visitor elevator, expanded restrooms, and other measures that will promote accessibility. To learn more about the renovation, please read the detailed announcement in the Harvard Gazette.

The vision and plans for a more accessible and welcoming Houghton Library have developed over the past several years, in consultation with faculty, students, visiting researchers, architects, security experts, and many others. Over the next two years, Houghton staff will work together to bring to fruition an evolving concept of the library that will provide a more contemporary approach to the excellent research and teaching services on which the Harvard community and visiting scholars rely while maintaining many elements of our classic identity. We anticipate a one-year construction period, to begin in Fall 2019, during which we will continue to provide access to Houghton collections for research and teaching through temporary quarters in Widener Library. Extreme care will be taken to ensure the collections remain protected and secure over the course of the project.

The plans for Houghton align with the commitment by the university, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Harvard Library to provide more inclusive, welcoming spaces for students, faculty, researchers, staff, and visitors from across campus and around the world. This renovation is a key component of a larger group of initiatives that will ensure Houghton becomes an even more active and valuable resource for current and future generations.

January 9th, 2019

Surprises and Suddenness in Edward Lear

By Noreen Masud, 2018–2019 Houghton Library Visiting Fellow/Eleanor M. Garvey Fellow in Printing and Graphic Arts, and a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Durham University. She works on topics including aphorisms, culinary leftovers, flatness, and hymns in nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature.

Owls and Pussycats going to sea, Old Men with beards full of birds, Pobbles with no toes: Edward Lear’s landmark nonsense writing overflows with things surprising to his readers. But, for his characters, things are sudden more often than they are surprising.

At night if he suddenly screams and wakes,

Do they bring him only a few small cakes                 or a LOT,

For the Akond of Swat? (“The Akond of Swat,” 1873)

“Sudden” and “surprising” both describe events one didn’t expect. But “surprising” is preachy: it tells you how you should feel (astounded, startled, confused). Something “sudden,” meanwhile, omits emotional cues: it also happens quickly, but does not dictate how you should respond. Describing something as sudden only tells you that it happened faster or sooner than you might have expected. In a letter to Hubert Congreve, Lear uses the word idiosyncratically, to mean something like “immediately”: “If you want to buy the Corsican Series for £1100—let me know suddenly” (2 May 1883, [MS Eng 797]).

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December 12th, 2018

Beauty and Cliché in an Anonymous French Manuscript Score

By Joseph Gauvreau, Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature. Joseph was a summer 2018 Pforzheimer Fellow in Harvard Library. Working closely with Christina Linklater (a Houghton music cataloger and keeper of the Isham Memorial Library in the Loeb Music Library), he reported a number of Harvard’s music manuscript holdings to RISM. Joseph’s essay is published in memory of Harvard professor John Milton Ward, who passed on December 12, 2011. Along with his wife Ruth Neils Ward, Professor Ward gave many materials such as the Galathée manuscript to the Harvard Theatre Collection. Joseph’s research and cataloging resulted in a more detailed HOLLIS record for this item.

“We all know how the Académie’s musical contest works…”
—Hector Berlioz
“Institut: Concours de Musique et Voyage d’Italie du Lauréat,”
Gazette Musicale de Paris
v. 1, no. 5 (2 February, 1834), p. 35

As one of this summer’s Pforzheimer Fellows, I spent several weeks exploring the collections of Loeb Music and Houghton libraries, entering records of music manuscripts into the online RISM database. RISM—the Répertoire International des Sources Musicales—provides freely accessible documentation of musical sources contained in libraries around the world. Details about a work’s provenance, its condition, physical appearance, and even excerpts of the music itself are all included in a RISM catalog entry—in its own words, “what exists and where it is kept.”

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November 29th, 2018

Collections Now Available for Research: November

Houghton Library is pleased to announce the following collections are now described online and accessible in the reading room.

Moll Flanders Memorial Collection of Trade Cards of Enterprising London Businesswomen, circa 1980-2018 (MS Eng 1801) – processed by Melanie Wisner

Collection of Marbled Papers, circa 1945-2005 (52L-1152) – processed by Melanie Wisner

Hermann Hagedorn Papers, 1917-1960 (MS Am 2995) – processed by Adrien Hilton

George Hamlin and Joanne Capen Hamlin Papers, circa 1940-1986 (MS Thr 1866) – processed by Magee Lawhorn

Harvard Theatre Collection Playbills and Programs from Theaters in the United States (TCS 68) – processed by Betts Coup

Maria St. Just Collection of Tennessee Williams Papers, 1947-1984 (MS Thr 1856) – processed by Ashley Nary

Hugh L. Robinson and Olga Olsen Robinson Missionary Papers, 1925-1944 (MS Am 2754) – processed by Magee Lawhorn

Hannah Trowbridge Whitcomb Correspondence and Other Papers, 1841-1936 (ABC 76 Whitcomb) – processed by Adrien Hilton

November 19th, 2018

An Intimate and Symbolic Bond: Quentin Roosevelt, the Great War, and American-French Relations

By Vincent Harmsen, 2017–2018 Houghton Library Visiting Fellow and recipient of the William Dearborn Fellowship in American History. Mr. Harmsen holds a master’s degree in history from the Sorbonne University, Paris.

Quentin Roosevelt in France, 1918. Sagamore Hill National Historic Site.

November 19, 1918 would have been the twenty-first birthday of Quentin Roosevelt, son of Theodore Roosevelt. However, Quentin had died in France a few months before while serving as a fighter pilot against the Germans during World War One. His mother, Edith Roosevelt, remained silent in her private diary until October 31, stunned by the news of her son’s death. The birthday celebration his family had planned became a ceremony of remembrance and sorrow.

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November 15th, 2018

Born-Digital Blog Post #7: Accessioning Workflow part 2

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, Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Resident & Project Archivist, for contributing this post.

In Born-Digital Blog Post #6 we began to discuss the five basic elements we capture during our born-digital accessioning process: identification; media type; storage size; visual representation of the physical media; and removal/segregation of materials. This blog post will continue the discussion, focusing on the last two elements: visual representation and removal/segregation of materials.

To capture the visual representation of the materials we photograph the media. We mainly use the Solo8 HoverCam to take photographs from above. Within the born-digital community taking photographs is often debated; some consider it a useless step because the physical item is not as important as the content. Photographing is certainly an optional step, and its importance needs to be determined by the individual repository. For Houghton these images allow us to document any information written on the physical media (by the creator), adding another layer of authenticity. What appears on the media is informative and might prove useful when it comes to describing the materials in a future resource record such as a finding aid, the document that broadly describes what is in a collection. Keep reading →

November 6th, 2018

What’s in a Photograph? A Photograph by Any Other Name is Still a Photograph

By Lillianne Keaney, Horblit Project Cataloger, Houghton Library

The term “photograph” is actually quite broad. It encompasses black and white photographs (gelatin silver prints), chromogenic color prints, albumen prints, carbon prints, collodion prints, salted paper prints, digital photographs, palladium prints, daguerreotypes, and many others that are produced using different photographic processes (check out Graphics Atlas for more information on processes).

Just how important are the distinctions between the types of images? After all, a photograph is a photograph, right? While subjects can span the different processes, the proper identification of the type of photograph is important in the care and description of these images.

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October 31st, 2018

Collections Now Available for Research: September & October, 2018

Houghton Library is pleased to announce the following collections are now described online and accessible in the reading room.

Ruthanna Boris Papers, 1929-2003 (MS Thr 1850) – processed by Adrien Hilton

Collection of French Booksellers’ Catalogs and Prospectuses circa 1769-1799 (MS Fr 693) – processed by Magee Lawhorn

Harvard Theatre Collection Photographic Postcards of Groups and Scenes (TCS 15) – processed by Sarah Mirseyedi

Harvard Theatre Collection Photographic Postcards of Theaters in the United States (TCS 16) – processed by Sarah Mirseyedi

Harvard Theatre Collection Photographic Postcards of Foreign Theaters (TCS 17) – processed by Sarah Mirseyedi

Harvard Theatre Collection Cartes-de-visite Photographs of Men in Popular Entertainment (TCS 20) – processed by Sarah Mirseyedi

Harvard Theatre Collection Cartes-de-visite Photographs of Women in Popular Entertainment (TCS 21) – processed by Sarah Mirseyedi

Harvard Theatre Collection French and Italian Cartes-de-visite Theatrical Portrait Photographs (TCS 22) – processed by Sarah Mirseyedi

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October 27th, 2018

r.ed in residence

By Dale Stinchcomb, Assistant Curator of the Harvard Theatre Collection

Frankenweek is in full swing and Houghton is participating in a Harvard-wide celebration of all things Franken-Shelley. A film series, an exhibition, and a marathon reading are just a few of the activities planned to mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein.

Mary Shelley’s influence is felt in other corners of the library as well. A recently acquired graphic novel by visual artist Angela Lorenz, currently on exhibit in the Keats Room, follows r.ed monde, an amorphous humanoid with a pointy head, on a journey of self-discovery.

r.ed engender.ed: a conical chronicle by Angela Lorenz

r.ed engender.ed: a conical chronicle by Angela Lorenz, 2016. 2018H-64. Houghton Library, Harvard University.

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October 23rd, 2018

Opening the Drawers of the Harvard Theatre Collection

This post, by Project Archivist Betts Coup, 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.

When processing a collection, the ultimate goal is to make the materials discoverable by researchers and easily accessible by library staff. When I started working at Houghton Library in February, I began a project to improve accessibility to materials in the Harvard Theatre Collection’s flat file cabinets. While these materials are often oversized and unwieldy, they are also special. For example, a group of seventeenth-century works I processed called the Daniel Rabel ballet drawings (MS Thr 1775) are some of the oldest and most rare in the Collection.

To give readers a sense of the scope of the project: there are seven rows of large flat file cases—which we call case ranges—nearly full of oversized materials. This is 980 drawers! Some of the materials form parts of collections that have already been processed but which had not been included in the finding aids.

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