Harvard College Library

Harvard Libraries Collaborate to Create Treasure Filled Exhibit

Thomas Thacher (1620-1678), a minister at Boston’s Old South Church, wrote the first medical treatise published in the American colonies,
A Brief Rule to Guide the Common People of New-England How to Order Themselves & Theirs in the Small-pocks, or Measels (Boston : reprinted for Benjamin Eliot, 1702). The exhibit features the second edition.

November 7, 2002 -- It is commonly held that the rare collections of Harvard’s libraries are awe inspiring, albeit widely dispersed among various faculties. And they are; however, through November 27, bibliophiles have the unique opportunity to view rare and historical materials from the collections of six major libraries in one place -- Outside the Yard: Some Special Collections at Harvard University Libraries, an exhibition in the Edison and Newman Room of Houghton Library.

From the scalpel and probe used in the first public operation performed using ether as anesthesia at Massachusetts General Hospital, 1846, to a letter typed and signed by Amelia Earhart, to the first business training manual ca. 1640, the exhibition underscores the depth and breadth of the rare holdings at Harvard University. Items from Harvard Law School Library, Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America (Radcliffe Institute), Countway Library of Medicine, Gutman Library (Education), Baker Library (Business), and the Andover-Harvard Theological Library are included in this collaborative effort, the idea of William P. Stoneman, Florence Fearrington Librarian of Houghton Library. Houghton holds the rare collections of Harvard College Library.

The Andover-Harvard Theological Library’s extensive collection of Dutch materials is here represented by the Verclaringhe of the famous Dutch Reformed theologian, Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609). Arminius advocated a more liberal view of theology than the strict determinism of the followers of John Calvin. As such, he is often cited as an influence in the development of both Methodism and Unitarianism.

"This collaborative exhibit reminds us of the priceless resources all Harvard’s libraries have collected and preserved over the years," said Sidney Verba, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library. "President Summers has reminded us that cooperation across parts of the University is essential to our success in the next century. I am pleased that Harvard’s libraries are helping to show the way again."

The exhibition is organized by library and includes not only select materials but also information about each library’s history, mission, and holdings. While the Law School case features surveillance photographs taken by the first detective agency in New England, and Gutman, the Education library, holds a 19th century catalog featuring the latest styles of school house furniture, and Andover Theological Library manuscripts of famous sermons, not all holdings are so predictable. For example, Countway, the Medical School library, surprisingly holds a letter from Thomas Jefferson, which reports on early experimentation with vaccines.

According to Stoneman, "Historians or political scientists who disregard Countway Library of Medicine, for instance, as a possible source of information may overlook important material. Users in a specific field may not think of libraries outside of that field as a resource to be explored. We hope that this exhibition helps raise awareness, opens new research pathways, and encourages library users to look for rare holdings in other Harvard libraries as well as in Houghton."




This story appears courtesy of the Harvard College Library Communications Office
Copyright © 2004 President and Fellows of Harvard College