Campus & Community

Houghton’s heroes

2 min read

Houghton Library, Harvard’s home to literary and historical treasures

Stepping inside Houghton Library on the south side of Harvard Yard feels far more like entering a museum than a typical library. Behind the mesh, glassed-in displays, and roped-off rooms, Houghton Library is the primary repository for rare books and manuscripts at Harvard. Exhibitions are common here and have included the personal effects, notes, books, and other objects of interest from authors such as Copernicus, Emily Dickinson, John Keats, Edward Lear, Dante Alighieri, Tennessee Williams, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Miguel de Cervantes, and Lewis Carroll. Although the items are protected from touch, a lovely intimacy with the books and artifacts can be achieved. Walking through Houghton’s rooms, each piece of history tells its tale as it is carefully and thoughtfully displayed for the viewer to experience. One could visit many times and find something new each time within the depth of Houghton’s materials.

Within the Hyde Room, an inset of Johnson House in London is pictured on the ceiling.
The main staircase spirals through the space.
Chandeliers reflect off the glass bookcases in the Edison and Newman Room.
A portrait of Samuel Johnson by John Opie hangs in the Hyde Room.
Items from the Emily Dickinson collection are included in the Keats Room cases.
Books from the Hyde collection.
Drawings by Benjamin Robert Haydon are on display in the Keats Room cases.
A portrait of Herman Melville by Joseph Oriel Eaton decorates the Edison and Newman Room.
In the Green Room, a portrait of Samuel Johnson by Sir Joshua Reynolds is illuminated by a chandelier.
Drawings by Benjamin Robert Haydon are on exhibit in the Keats Room cases.
Samuel Johnson’s chair can be found in the Hyde Room.
Lights reflect off the glass cases in the Keats Room.
Furniture from the Dickinson homestead and a portrait of the family’s children by Otis A. Bullard are on display in the Dickinson Room.
In the lobby, relief likenesses of Thomas Hollis and Thomas Brand Hollis are on display.
A doorknob in the Hyde Room glistens in the subdued light.
Ornately decorated books are shelved in the Richardson Room.
A life mask of John Keats resides in the Keats Room.
A portrait of William King Richardson is on display in the Richardson Room.