How can I find out about manuscripts, rare books, archives, and other special collections at Harvard?

I'm also interested in letters, papers, ephemera.

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


By repository: start on our Locations & Hours page, choose Special Collections and Archives in the Features menu, and follow the links to explore each collection's website. Or click on the Contact a Repository link in the  HOLLIS for Archival Discovery system.


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.

NOTE: You can also search HOLLIS for Archival Discovery, but not all archival and special collections materials are available in this system.


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 HOLLIS for Archival Discovery catalogs.


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.

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