Collecting Connecting Conserving

The Harvard College Library is a vibrant part of the university, as relevant for today's students as for their predecessors. The library has grown from the 400 books given by John Harvard in 1638 to a world-renowned resource of over 11 million books and journals, millions of pages of manuscripts, maps, photographs, audio recordings and digital images within the HCL alone. Empowered by advanced technologies, the library has evolved into a vast information resource that draws on historic print collections and an expanding number of digital items. Just as technology has influenced pedagogy, so too has it impacted the use of the library. To support teaching and research for today's students and tomorrow's scholars, the Harvard College Library must collect and preserve all formats of information and make them accessible in environments that reflect today's best teaching and learning practices. Your gifts make this possible.

The College Library offers a unique opportunity for donors to strengthen, maintain and share one of Harvard's greatest assets through gifts tailored to personal interest and capacity. The depth and breadth of the collections make it possible to support academic disciplines, geographic areas, periods of history and languages in formats from ancient texts to interactive media. Gifts to the Harvard College Library receive full class credit through the Harvard College Fund.

Book Funds

Endowed book funds have been instrumental in building Harvard's library collections since 1774, when Englishman Thomas Hollis bequeathed the College 500 pounds for the purchase of books. As part of the university's endowment, the funds are invested to meet the needs of today's students and support tomorrow's scholarship.

For a gift of $250,000 or more you can endow a permanently named fund in a field of study, region of the world, or other area of interest. You will be recognized with a personalized, digital bookplate that will be displayed to users through the online catalog. An individual webpage for the fund will be created on the Harvard College Library website, and you will be invited to add content to the page.

Gifts At Work

With the help of our donors, the Library's collection has grown into a vast resource, encompassing not just printed books, but an array of materials ranging from photographs to audio recordings to born-digital journals. See Harvard College Library Funds.

Discrectionary Funds

Library funds are carefully budgeted to acquire quality research materials as broadly as possible to meet the needs of faculty and students. But no matter how careful the planning, sometimes valuable collections or individual items are made available unexpectedly through an auction or sale. By making a discretionary gift to the Librarian of Harvard College, you will make it possible to take advantage of one-time opportunities.

Gifts At Work

Discretionary funding, in combination with funding from several donors,
enabled Houghton Library to purchase the John Updike Archive,
a comprehensive collection of manuscript pages, typescripts
and notes that show the author's meticulous research as
he created Rabbit Angstrom and the details of his life.


Some of the most valuable library resources at Harvard have been given to the library by men and women who spent years building their collections one letter, photo or book at a time. Widely eclectic in subject matter, these collections provide opportunities to study everything from 18th century literary giants to pop culture. Please note, the Harvard College Library does not accept unsolicited donations of books or other materials.

Gifts At Work

Mary, Viscountess Eccles' (1912-2003) bequest of the Donald & Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson, considered one of the world's most important privately held collections of 18th-century English literature, is comprised of thousands of letters, manuscripts, first editions, portraits and even includes Johnson's silver teapot. Mary Eccles also made a substantial gift to endow the position of Curator of the Hyde Collection and to fund acquisitions to ensure the growth of the collection and support 18th century English literature.

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  • Images of Colonialism
  • Edwards Bangs Drew Collection
  • Artemas Ward House and Its Collections
  • Harvard Map Collection Digital Maps
  • Gardner Collection of Photographs
  • Medieval Manuscripts
  • Theodore Roosevelt Collection Photographs
  • Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System
  • Tehran Propaganda Murals
  • Etz-Trudell collection of hand-colored lantern slides of Japan
  • Chinese Rubbings Collection
  • Digital Scores and Libretti
  • Hedda Morrison Photographs of China
  • Judaica Division Image Collections
  • Mercator Globes at the Harvard Map Collection
  • The Poet's Voice - A Digital Poetry Collection
  • Russian Theatre Designs from the Harvard Theatre Collection
  • The Rev. Claude L. Pickens, Jr. Collection on Muslims in China
  • Iranian Oral History Project
  • Latin American Pamphlet Digital Collection
  • Naxi Manuscripts
  • Book of Hours
  • Digital Papyri at Houghton Library
  • The Singer Continues the Song: Text and Music from the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature
  • Ming-Qing Women´s Writings
  • Chilean Protest Murals
  • Pamphlets from the Harvard College Library

By digitizing resources, Harvard can effectively open the door of the library to scholars around the globe. Rare books and fragile manuscripts, formerly accessible only in the reading room, can be consulted online, anywhere, anytime. Images can be enlarged to reveal the most intricate details. Audio recordings can be replayed over and over without any loss of sound quality.

There is tremendous satisfaction when you fund a digitization project because the resources can be available promptly for classroom and research. Materials identified for digitization are as diverse as the collections themselves, so you can find resources in fields of interest. Digitization projects usually range from $50,000 to $500,000 depending on the size of the collection and condition of materials.

Gifts At Work

The historical pamphlet collections in Widener Library hold a wealth of information for researchers in a wide range of disciplines. Funded through the generosity of a Harvard alumnus, a digitization project is making these often unique and fragile materials accessible to students and scholars around the world.

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Conservation photograph

Harvard is fortunate to have the highly skilled professionals and technicians who care for traditional print, image and audio materials as well as resources created in digital formats. Working in the Weissman Preservation Center and the Widener Conservation lab, conservators perform treatments from mending simple tears to re-attaching pigments in 500 year old illuminated manuscripts. As the collections age, preservation becomes a larger and more critical part of Harvard College Library operations.

A gift to support preservation will give you the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping ensure that Harvard's library resources will be there for future generations of students. Gifts to support preservation may be current use gifts in any amount or endowments of $100,000 and up.

Gifts At Work

Conservators Debora Mayer and Brenda BernierGifts have played a major role in bringing highly qualified professional conservators and technicians to the Library preservation program. The Helen H. Glaser conservatorship, currently held by Debora Mayer, was made possible through the generosity of Dr. Robert Glaser, AB 40, MD 43 in memory of his wife Helen, who had a great appreciation for the importance of library collections. The Paul M. and Harriet L. Weissman Senior Photograph conservatorship, currently held by Brenda Bernier, was made possible by Paul Weissman, AB 1952 and his wife Harriet, who also named the Weissman Preservation Center, the state-of-the-art conservation lab where Debora and Brenda work.
(pictured: Debora Mayer and Brenda Bernier)

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How To Give

To learn more about giving to the Harvard College Library, please contact Harvard Alumni Affairs and Development via e-mail or phone at 617-495-5731.


To make your gift online, please go to the Harvard College Fund Online giving form. In the Gift Designation drop-down box, select "Harvard College Libraries." If you wish to further designate your gift, please write the name of the fund (the John Doe Book Fund) or purpose (for preservation, or for Houghton Library) in the Comments box. Complete the remainder of the page with your credit card information, and your gift is complete.

By Check

Please make your check payable to the Harvard College Library. If you wish to designate your gift to a particular fund or activity, include a note with the name of the fund or specifying the use. Mail your check to:

Office of the Recording Secretary
Harvard University
124 Mt. Auburn St., Suite 430N
Cambridge, MA 02138

Planned Giving

A planned gift can support Harvard's libraries and provide tax benefits to you. The Office of Gift Planning can help you plan a gift that yields maximum benefits to you and the College Library. Contact them for more information.

Office of Gift Planning
124 Mt. Auburn Street
Cambridge, MA 02138-5795
Phone: 617-496-3205

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