“Books may be accumulated and guarded, and the result is sometimes called a library; but if the books are made to help and spur men and women on in their own daily work, the library becomes a vital influence, the prison is turned into a workshop,” said Justin Winsor, librarian of Harvard College from 1877 to 1897.
Houghton Library, filled with priceless rare books, manuscripts, and artwork, could have become a “prison,” placing users second to the tremendous responsibility of caring for the unique materials. Yet, the library’s mission “to support research and instruction by members of Harvard College, Harvard University, and the national and international community of scholars” has not faltered since the library’s doors opened on Feb. 28, 1942.
A new exhibition opening Feb. 11 at Houghton titled “A Vital Influence: Celebrating 60 Years of Scholarship and Publication at Houghton Library” showcases books and manuscripts by authors who have engaged in free interaction with Houghton’s collection to create their own enduring scholarly publications.
“Every day there are people in the Houghton Reading Room using our collection to research and write books and articles,” said Rachel Howarth, head of public services for Houghton. “For our 60th anniversary exhibition, we wanted to display the books and resources that have been generated by scholars using the materials held here.”
The exhibit features the “Bibliography of American Literature,” compiled by Jacob Blanck, who used many of Houghton’s original or early editions to detail and describe the work of 281 American authors.
“A Vital Influence: Celebrating 60 Years of Scholarship and Publication at Houghton Library” is on display through May 24 in the Edison and Newman Room, Houghton Library. For details, contact Rachel Howarth at (617) 495-2440.