Answered By: Odile Harter
Last Updated: Feb 17, 2017     Views: 301

There are several ways to locate rare books, manuscripts, archives, and special collections at Harvard:


By repository: start on our "Find a Library" page, click on the "Archives and Special Collections" tab, and follow the links to explore each collection's website. Explore deeply: many collection websites feature extensive research guides and finding aids.


By individual catalog records: While no one source completely describes Harvard's holdings of manuscripts and archives, the HOLLIS catalog is the best place to start. You can narrow your search by selecting “Archives/Manuscripts” under “resource type.” HOLLIS+ searches brief descriptive records for entire collections as well as the text of more detailed finding aids (click on “View Finding Aid” to see the full finding aid, and keep an eye out for links to digitized portions of the collection). Note that some finding aids are not searchable; additional finding aids and catalogs are often available only on-site.


By curatorial expertise: once you've used one of the above two methods to identify a library or repository that seems to best match what you're looking for, get in touch with the curator or librarians there. They will be able to help you identify material and resources that may not be visible on the web or in the Hollis or Oasis catalogs.


You can also try Ask a Librarian for FAQ answers about specific collections, such as the Ordway Collection for science fiction and the Daniel B. Fearing Collection of works on fish and fishery. If we don't have an FAQ on the collection you're interested in, submit your question and we'll direct it to the appropriate library.


If you're doing a broad search for special collections, Fred Burchsted’s Guide for Finding Manuscripts and Archival Collections offers many helpful instructions. We also highly recommend Subject Collections, an excellent guidebook to special collections and libraries’ subject emphases in the U.S. and Canada.


See "I am coming from abroad and I need to access special collections in a number of different Harvard Libraries" for more information on how to prepare for a visit to Harvard's special collections.

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