Harvard Libraries

With approximately 16 million titles and innumerable individual manuscripts and images in its collections, the Harvard Library is the largest academic library in the world. It comprises Widener Library in Harvard Yard, and 72 other collections in Cambridge, Boston, and beyond. View the publicly-accessible holdings here: http://hollis.harvard.edu/, and the following selected list.

Widener Library

Three minutes from American Studies’ home in the Barker Center, Widener houses not only 4,000,000 volumes (roughly), but also the services of librarians dedicated to researcher education and access.

Electronic resource collections

The Harvard Library has digital access contracts, for use by Harvard researchers, with almost all academic journals. View a list of e-resources by subject here http://eresearch.lib.harvard.edu/V/?func=find-db-1&mode=title.

Lamont Library

A study space and undergraduate library in immediate proximity to American Studies and the Barker Center. Lamont Library houses the main collection of US government documents, of microfilm, and of statistical sources and accompanying expertise. It offers a circulating collection of music and video.

Fine Arts Library

Collects extensively in American art. Special collections include the papers of Ben Shahn (1898-1969) and a large collection of auction sales catalogs.


The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library collects in all areas of American vernacular music, from shape note hymnody to jazz and hip hop. Primary source treasures include the Edison Collection of American Sheet Music and the African American Historic Sound Recordings Collection. Jazz holdings include autograph manuscripts of Duke Ellington and John Coltrane.

Law Library

Highlights for American Studies include Native American tribal constitutions, laws, and treaties; manuscript collections of key U.S. legal figures; records of seminal cases (e.g. Sacco-Vanzetti) and selected organizations (e.g. New England Watch and Ward Society). Other collections cover 19th-century New England private detection, 20th-century censorship societies/efforts, etc. The Library has one of the world’s largest collections of visual materials relating to the law.


Theological Library‘s collection is strong in all aspects of American religious life, especially with regard to issues of diversity in gender, race, ethnicity, religious tradition, and class. The library serves as the institutional archives for the Unitarian Universalist Association and its predecessor agencies and collects in depth the publications of the Congregationalists, Mennonites, Quakers, Anabaptists, and Moravians.

Gutman Education Library

Has a large collection of historical textbooks.
For a full list of the Harvard Library, see here: http://library.harvard.edu/find-library



Harvard’s archival collections are extensive; the following list is not inclusive.

Harvard Archives

The oldest (17th century) and largest academic archives in the U. S., holding University records, personal records of faculty, students, and alumni and other material providing sources for the study of the educational, political, scientific, and social landscape within and beyond Harvard.

Harvard Business School’s Baker Library Historical Collections

Holds vast collections of records of American companies, of corporate annual reports, and the records of Dun & Bradstreet and its predecessors, the first commercial credit reporting agency in America.

Houghton Library

Representative selections: Jared Sparks collection of Revolutionary War materials; abolition, reform, and Civil War collections (Charles Sumner, Dorothea Dix, Robert Gould Shaw, etc.); activist Transcendentalism (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, Margaret Fuller, etc.); papers of figures such as John Updike and Gore Vidal; business records (e.g. Houghton Mifflin, New Directions); Time Magazine dispatches from correspondents.

Theatre Collection

Housed at Houghton Library, this archive contains in depth American performance history resources as well as archives of such artists as choreographer George Balanchine.

Schlesinger Library

America’s largest collection for women’s studies. There are particularly rich resources for women’s suffrage, health, feminist history and women activists in general.


Harvard museums of relevance to American Studies include the following:

Art Museums

Comprising the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Sackler museums, the Harvard Art Museums hold a collection of c. 250,000 works, including American art from the 1600s to the present. Strengths include colonial silver, and works by Copley, Allston, Homer, Whistler, and Sargent. The Art Museums are currently closed for renovation, reopening in November 2014.
Collections online: http://www.harvardartmuseums.org/art.

Peabody Museum

One of the oldest and largest collections of cultural objects in the western hemisphere. North American resources span from Paelo-Indian to contemporary cultures. Includes archaeological, ethnographic, osteological, archival, and photographic material as well as paintings, drawings, and prints. Collections online: http://pmem.unix.fas.harvard.edu:8080/peabody/

Historical Scientific Instruments

A majority of the 20,000 scientific instruments held in the CHSI were used at Harvard itself, from the Colonial period to the present day. From Benjamin Franklin to Edwin Land (Polaroid), this is an important repository of objects chronicling the historical and socio-economic growth of American science (physics, engineering, meteorology, chemistry, astronomy, etc.) and industry through material culture.