- Can anyone access Historical & Special Collections?
Yes, materials in Historical & Special Collections are open to all researchers regardless of academic affiliation. For access to the Law School Library general collection, please consult the library’s Access Privileges Department.
- How do I set up a reading room appointment?
Please fill out our appointment request form. Once we have received your appointment request, someone will be back in touch with you to confirm both the scheduling and that your requested material is available.
- Do I need to request items in advance of my visit?
Yes, researchers must request material in advance of their visit as the reading room is open only by appointment. Appointments for modern manuscripts and visual materials require two business days advance notice; all other materials may be requested one business day in advance.
- Are laptops and scanners permitted in the Reading Room?
Laptops and tablets are permitted; flatbed scanners are not. For further information, please see our Reading Room Policies. Researchers may request to borrow a laptop while working in the Root Room. There are also two public desktop computers available for use, but researchers are not permitted to consult Historical & Special Collections material while seated at the desktop computers.
- Is there wireless access for my laptop?
The entire Law School campus is wireless accessible. Visitors to campus may access wireless Internet by using the “Harvard Guest” network. Please see Information Technology Service’s website for detailed information on guest wireless instructions.
- How much storage space is available to researchers?
Each researcher is provided with a small locker for the day. We suggest researchers make arrangements for storing larger items elsewhere, as we cannot be responsible for items that do not fit in the lockers. All bags and jackets must be placed in the locker. For preservation purposes, the Root Room is maintained at a set temperature that at times can feel cold. For your comfort, we recommend bringing a light sweater or sweatshirt.
- Are there specific rules for the handling of materials?
All materials consulted must be handled with great care. Researchers handling materials carelessly will be denied further access to the collections. You can learn more about careful handling of special collections material here.
- Whom should I contact about accessing manuscripts?
Please fill out our appointment request form to schedule a time to consult modern manuscripts in our reading room. We require two business days’ advance notice for all appointments in order to retrieve manuscript boxes from off-site storage.
Specific modern manuscript questions can be sent to:
- Do I need to contact Historical & Special Collections in advance if I would like to consult manuscript boxes?
Yes. We require at least two business days’ notice to recall boxes from off-site storage at the Harvard Depository. Please fill out our appointment request form to set up an appointment and request material.
- How much material can I request at any one time?
We can retrieve a maximum of 10 boxes per day per researcher from off-site storage. We typically request that researchers send boxes back before requesting additional boxes.
- Have any modern manuscript collections been digitized or microfilmed?
Yes, many manuscript collections, either in whole or in part, have been digitized and can be viewed online. Please refer to our digital collections page for a partial list of digitized material.
Additionally, you can look for links to digitized content in finding aids. You can search finding aids in both the library catalog, HOLLIS+, and in OASIS.
ProQuest History Vault has digitized the microfilm copies of eleven modern manuscript collections previously microfilmed by University Publications of America. The digitized microfilm is available as part of their American Politics and Society module, under the title: Law and Society since the Civil War: American Legal Manuscripts from the Harvard Law School Library. You must have a Harvard University ID and key (or other access to ProQuest) in order to use this resource remotely.
The manuscript collections available on microfilm at the Harvard Law School Library include:
- Louis D. Brandeis Papers, 1881-1966
- Zechariah Chafee Jr. Papers, 1898-1957
- Richard H. Field Papers, 1932, 1942-1978
- Felix Frankfurter Papers, 1900-1965
- Sheldon Glueck Papers, 1916-1972
- William Hastie Papers, 1916-1976
- Albert Lévitt Papers, 1817-1968
- Sir Frederick Pollock Correspondence, 1848-1937
- Roscoe Pound Papers, 1888-1964
- Sacco-Vanzetti Case Records, 1920-1928
The Harvard Law School Library’s microforms room is open during regular library hours. You do not need an appointment with Historical & Special Collections to view material on microfilm, but you will need to check in with access services staff at the circulation desk if you are not a Harvard affiliate.
- If a manuscript has been microfilmed or digitized can I still access the original?
No, if a manuscript has been microfilmed or digitized (or if any facsimile is available) researchers must use the facsimile.
- Is it possible to have photocopies made?
Requests for photocopies and digital images are considered on a case-by-case basis. Permission depends upon the physical condition of the material in question, and should not be assumed in advance. On-site researchers may take a limited number of digital photos to assist with note-taking.
Please refer to our reproduction policies for more details.
- What permissions are required to quote from or publish a manuscript from the Harvard Law Library’s collection?
Please see our Publishing Historical & Special Collections Material policies.
Permission to quote, publish, perform, reproduce, or otherwise make any use of manuscripts not in the public domain must be obtained from the Curator of Modern Manuscripts. Appropriate forms and advice about citation may be obtained from:
Edwin Moloy, Curator of Modern Manuscripts
Researchers are reminded that, except in the cases of the collections for which the Library holds copyright (formerly called literary property rights), permission must also be obtained from the holder(s) of this right.
- How should I cite manuscripts?
Publishers, professional journals, and graduate faculties may prescribe their own style. We ask at a minimum that identification consist of the date and title of the item, name of the collection, location in the collection (if applicable), and the name of the repository.
Citations from the Modern Manuscript Collection:
- Roscoe Pound to Louis Brandeis, December 28, 1936, The Papers of Louis Brandeis, Harvard Law School Library, Box 10, Folder 12.
- Report to the Law School Faculty, May 1954, The Papers of Erwin Griswold, Harvard Law School Library, Box 54, Folder 4.
Please consult our citation-credit information for additional examples of citations to Historical & Special Collections material.