Tuesday, May 16th, 2017...2:00 pm

Open House 75: Houghton Library Staff Select

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The 75th anniversary of Houghton Library has provided an occasion to reflect on the library’s founding and history, to connect with friends and supporters old and new, and to consider the challenges and opportunities that will shape our future. Open House 75  Throughout our 75th year, we have carried out a series of events, publications, and other activities designed to promote the library and its collections, programs, and services.  The first of our series of 75th anniversary exhibitions HIST 75H: A Master Class on Houghton Library featured a partnership with Harvard faculty, nearly fifty of whom selected for display and narrated a collection item of personal or professional significance. Now it is Houghton staff’s turn to take the stage with Open House 75: Houghton Library Staff Select.

Open House 75 showcases memorable collection items encountered by staff during careers at the library that range from four months to over forty years. A microcosm of Houghton in breadth and depth, highlights from Open House 75 range from a Renaissance letter written by Michelangelo and a missive stained by Hemingway’s sweat, to a moving instance of gay fandom and women writers on domesticity and revolution. Among the notable “firsts” represented are the diary of the first American meteorologist and an Edison lightbulb that illuminated America’s first electrified theater. Cultural treasures from Liberia and Japan are presented alongside everyday objects such as a Roman coin and a Panama hat; taken together, these and other objects in the exhibition suggest the rich variety of human experience housed within Houghton’s walls.

Houghton Library would be of no use without its devoted staff.  My colleagues include curators dedicated to acquiring, interpreting, and facilitating use and understanding of rare books, manuscripts, archives, and other collection materials; librarians driven to connect our holdings with scholars, students, and other researchers in the reading room and classrooms; catalogers and archivists motivated to describe, organize, and preserve the collection in service of its use; and talented managers and administrative, security, and custodial staff who enable so much of what we do.  At Houghton, we talk of preserving cultural heritage, not as an end in itself, but as a way to promote discovery, provide inspiration, create new knowledge, and to teach and learn from new generations.  We engage in this work because we value what people can learn from the past, which helps us understand our present and navigate a better future.

In addition to presenting an astonishing selection of items from the collection to give visitors an entrée into the library’s collections, Open House 75 explicitly and implicitly highlights and champions the knowledge, talent, and perspective of the Houghton staff, as well as the contributions they make on a daily basis to the library, to the university, and to society and culture at large.  Please join us to discover Houghton Library through the eyes of the people who know it best!

Thomas Hyry, Florence Fearrington Librarian of Houghton Library

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