Fine Arts Library Collection ios Relocated

The paintings of the Fogg and Busch-Reisinger collections have already moved out of 32 Quincy Street. Early this summer, the 434,000 books, periodicals, and auction catalogs and over 1 million photographs and prints of the Fine Arts Library collection will also leave. As renovations to the Harvard Art Museum building begin, the Fine Arts Library is gearing up to move to two temporary locations in the basements of the Sackler Museum and Littauer Center. Transporting this huge volume of materials, however, is no easy task. Preparations for the move have been underway for nearly two years.

The digital images and slides, including 95,000 glass lantern slides and 750,000 teaching images, will be moved to the lower level of the Sackler Museum in early June, and will reopen there on June 15. “This collection is heavily used by the faculty for teaching purposes, so this being in the Sackler is logistically great” says Beth S. Brainard, spokesperson for the Harvard College Libraries, who added that the design school will also benefit from proximity to these materials.

The books, photographs, and graphic images will go to the basement of the Littauer building in the North Yard, which formerly held the economics and government departmental library, now housed in Lamont. As a result, stacks were already in place at the Littauer facility. The move will take place in early July, and the new location will reopen July 7.

Any materials that cannot fit in the five miles of shelves at the Littauer facility, including photographs and prints, will be stored temporarily at the Harvard Depository until the new Fine Arts Library reopens in the Harvard Art Museum building.

Julia E. Schlozman ’09, an HAA concentrator, says she was sentimental about the separation between the museum collection and the library. “I used to love walking through the courtyard and having to pass a 12th century sculpture as I did so,” she says. “I haven’t been able to do that this year, and you certainly won’t be able to do that at Littauer.”

Still, finding a space this close to the History of Art and Architecture department offices was “remarkable,” according to department chair Thomas B.F. Cummins, who toured numerous facilities on campus before the selection of the Littauer Center. “It’s in spitting distance,” he says. “I walk to Widener, why can’t I walk there?”

So far, the project is on schedule, and librarians have begun to tour members of the History of Art and Architecture faculty as well as graduate students around the new Littauer facility. “It’s going beautifully. The space is almost complete,” Brainard says, noting that the only construction work left was finishing work in the stacks.

As librarians organize and inventory everything in the collections in preparation for the laborious move, they are inevitably stumbling across new finds. Several thousand posters, lithographs, and engravings, for example, were rediscovered in the photograph collection. Originally stored in Widener, these materials were moved to the Fine Arts Library not because they were necessarily artworks but simply because it was the only library that stored flat materials. Their subject matter ranges from politics to health and hygiene and are from a wide range of time periods.

Recent finds also include a copy of the architectural plans for Grand Central Station, a photograph of a scoreboard from a World Series game with Babe Ruth’s name on it, and autochromes (early color photographs on glass) by the Lumière brothers of filmmaking fame.

The Portrait Collection, the bulk of which was donated in the early 20th century by Evert J. Wendell 1882, spans the ages, from 16th century engravings to 1920s photographs. Objects in the collection range from engravings of French military uniforms to an entire set of cigarette boxing cards, equivalent to modern-day trading cards.

On top of leading to the discovery of new materials, the move has provided an opportunity for reorganization of the collection. Materials that have sat in files and drawers are now being catalogued in HOLLIS and VIA (Visual Information Access) for the first time. Japanese albums containing largely hand-colored albumen prints, photographs of Renaissance and Baroque architecture and sculpture, records of Nicaragua before and after the 1979 revolution, and photographs documenting a 1922 road trip from Pakistan to Afghanistan are among the objects that will now be made available on HOLLIS.

While the benefits of cataloguing will be enjoyed by generations of future Harvard students, the Littauer location is only temporary. Pending approval, the Fine Arts Library is likely to move into the Sackler building sometime around 2017. Gallery space in the Sackler will be converted into teaching space for use by the History of Art and Architecture Department, as well as the library, when the renovated Harvard Art Museum building reopens and can accommodate the Fogg, Sackler, and Busch-Reisinger collections.

—Staff writer Alexandra Perloff-Gilles can be reached at