Anthropology Library Reopens

After 18 months of construction originally projected to cost $12 million, the now-LEED gold-certified Tozzer Library, the country’s oldest anthropology collection, reopened in mid-June. The project renovated the nearly 40-year-old library and centralized the offices of the faculty of the anthropology department, who were previously spread across campus.

Renovation of Tozzer Library, which sits on Divinity Avenue adjoined to the Peabody Museum, began in January 2013 and came as part of a larger $20 million project to unite sub-disciplines within the Anthropology Department. During construction, the collection was moved to the first floor of nearby William James Hall.

Now, social anthropology faculty members—who previously had their offices in William James—have offices on the top two floors of Tozzer, just a short walk from the Peabody Museum offices of their counterparts in the archaeology division.

On the floors below these new offices, which surround a skylit atrium, sits the renovated library, which has more room for studying and less space for the collection than the old library. Tozzer now holds only 80,000 pieces of its 250,000-piece collection, said the library’s associate librarian for collections, Janet Steins. The rest has been moved off site to the Harvard Depository to make room for group study areas.


Tozzer Library
Temi I. Fagbenle '15 reads a book in the stacks of the newly reopened Tozzer Library. The space features automatically moving stacks to maximize shelving space.

“I think it’s a better allocation of space,” Steins said, who added that she has seen use of the library increase compared to before it closed in 2013.

Tozzer was stripped down to its structural steel and then rebuilt to meet the LEED gold standards for sustainable heating and cooling. The original 24,800 square foot space was expanded by 10,000 square feet and redesigned to match the brick and copper style of the neighboring Peabody Museum. An additional entrance was added to the rear courtyard.

Inside, the library features new furnitur, replacing the chairs and desks bought for the original Tozzer Library, built in 1974. The stacks and reading room are now more friendly to modern technologies, which the original structure predated.

Former dean of the social sciences Stephen M. Kosslyn and current dean Peter V. Marsden spearheaded the initiative to renovate Tozzer, one of the largest anthropology research libraries in the world, in an effort to consolidate the department’s archeology program with the social anthropology division. The move to bring together sub-disciplines came in 2009 after human evolutionary biology, formerly known as biological anthropology, became its own department.  

Tozzer was originally founded in 1866 as the Peabody Museum Library.

—Staff writer Dev A. Patel can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @dev_a_patel.

—Staff writer Steven R. Watros can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @SteveWatros.