Harvard College Library News: News from around the libraries

Tumblr names Houghton Library blog to “New and Notable” list


Alexandre Benois’ costume designs for “Petrouchka”
are featured on the Houghton tumblr blog.


By Beth Giudicessi, HCL Communications

December 17, 2013 – Yahoo’s social networking website and micro-blogging platform Tumblr honored Houghton Library’s blog as one of its "New and Notable Blogs of 2013." Houghton Library is the primary repository for rare books and manuscripts at Harvard University and is part of the Harvard College Library within the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Its blog launched in June and displays digitized images from the library’s collection.

The recognition is part of Tumblr’s “Year in Review.” For the review, Tumblr analyzed more than 150 million sites and 70 billion posts to collect and showcase the best of the Internet from 2013. Houghton’s blog is joined by 19 other honorees that include the White House, National Geographic and Financial Times.

“I started the Tumblr because we digitize so much and I wanted to find a way to make it more discoverable,” said Curator John Overholt. “The Tumblr is a great way in to the use of special collections for somebody who has a general interest in our materials but doesn’t know where to start. It gives a great feeling for the diversity of our holdings.”

Among Houghton’s most popular posts is an animated GIF of a volvelle – an astronomical instrument made of printed paper discs that are stitched together. Other entries include early 20th-century costume designs from the Harvard Theatre Collection and the spine of a 1457 copy of Dante’s Inferno, as well as this find that Overholt uploaded as soon as he came across it in the stacks. The blog also features miniature illustrations showing the planning and harvesting cycle from the calendar section of the Catholic Church’s book of hours. The pictures appear on separate pages but Overholt thought it would make an impact to see them together.

Each image is linked to a description in HOLLIS, the main Harvard library catalog.

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Tumblr’s acknowledgement bookends a year in the spotlight for Houghton Library. In November, it displayed Harvard’s copy of the rare Bay Psalm Book when a similar copy sold at auction for $14.2 million, setting the record price for a printed book. In October, the library led a collaborative project to digitize and publish the Emily Dickinson Archive online and for free. Earlier in the year, it uncovered eight signed petitions from 1767 calling Colonial Americans to boycott British goods and it released a web page to guide users through Harvard’s recently acquired Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection.