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Side view of exhibit case, books flat on exhibit deck next to paper exhibit labels.
September 29, 2023. Banned Book Exhibit in the Caspersen Room in Langdell Hall. Credit: Tony Rinaldo 2023

Historical & Special Collections curates a major exhibit each year in the Law Library’s Caspersen Room on the fourth floor of Langdell Hall. Smaller exhibits also rotate in and out of the Caspersen Room bookcases and at the Areeda Hall entrance to the Library.

Current Exhibit

According to the American Library Association, 2,571 individual books were subject to a removal challenge in 2022, compared to 378 books in 2000. The rate of book banning in the United States as we close the first quarter of the 21st century is cause for alarm. However, censorship in the form of book bans has existed since words were put to paper. Societal norms – whether held by a majority or imposed by a minority – and government interests have always worked together to suppress “dangerous” ideas.

Drawing on material from Harvard’s Law School, Houghton, and Widener libraries, this exhibit tells stories of book suppression from the 17th century to the current moment. It explores the first concerted effort by the United States government to restrict access to information with the 1873 Comstock Act, the Act’s enforcement through the early twentieth century, and recent, intensified efforts to challenge books in schools and libraries. The exhibit also explores judicial efforts to define obscenity and examines the role of community standards in the suppression of books. We challenge visitors to consider the precarious nature of our right to read.

Challenging our Right to Read was curated by Lesliediana Jones and Jocelyn Kennedy of the Harvard Law School Library.

It is on view in the Caspersen Room, Harvard Law School Library, weekdays from 9am to 5pm from August 14, 2023, through June 2024.


Explore both new and migrated online exhibit content via Harvard Library’s CURIOSity platform.

Exhibit Addenda (2015-2024)

Exhibit Addenda was a website that featured companion content for Historical & Special Collections’ physical exhibits, as well as online exhibits. It debuted in January 2015 and was retired in April 2024.

Select content from the Exhibit Addenda site was migrated to CURIOSity.

Looking for Historical & Special Collections exhibit content not available on CURIOSity? You can view past versions of the Exhibit Addenda site via Archive-It (a web archiving service built at the Internet Archive). The archived Exhibit Addenda site was collected by the Harvard University Archives, as part of their collection of “A-Sites: Archived Harvard Websites.”

The Exhibit Addenda site is also searchable via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.


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