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HUV 49.3

Photographic views of Lamont Library, 1940s-1962: an inventory

Harvard University Archives

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Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: HUV 49.3
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Title: Photographic views of Lamont Library, 1940s-1962
Date(s): 1940s-1962
Quantity: 1 cubic feet (239 photographs)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: Lamont Library, built in 1949, is situated in the southeast corner of Harvard Yard and serves as Harvard University's undergraduate library. Funds to build the library were donated by Thomas W. Lamont, Harvard College Class of 1892, and it was designed by Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch and Abbott as a reading library, rather than a research library, with the goals of making the library accessible, convenient, and simple to use. The Photographic views of Lamont Library provide a visual record of one of Harvard University's libraries, as well as its grounds and the surrounding area from the 1940s to 1962.

Acquisition information:

These images were acquired by the Harvard University Archives from the late nineteenth century through the late twentieth century.

Processing Information:

This finding aid was created by Amanda Sherman in May 2016.
Description of the Photographic views of Lamont Library, 1940s-1962, was supported by the Harvard Library's Hidden Collection initiative.

Researcher Access:

Open for research.

Online access:

All of the images have been digitized and are available online. Links accompany detailed descriptions.

Preferred Citation:

Photographic views of Lamont Library, 1940s-1962. HUV 49.3, Harvard University Archives.

Related Materials

Collections in the Harvard University Archives

Historical Note

Lamont Library, built in 1949, is situated in the southeast corner of Harvard Yard and serves as Harvard University's undergraduate library. Funds to build the library were donated by Thomas W. Lamont, Harvard College Class of 1892. Constructed at a cost of $2,500,000, Lamont Library was designed by Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch and Abbott as a reading library, rather than a research library, with the goals of making the library accessible, convenient, and simple to use. It was planned to have three large reading rooms, forty reading alcoves, periodical and reference rooms, typewriting cubicles, and a capacity to hold 100,000 volumes. The library was built to house Harvard's growing book collection after Widener Library had been filled to capacity in the 1930s.
The first university library specifically designed for undergraduates, Lamont Library was the idea of Keyes D. Metcalf, who served as the Librarian of Harvard College and Director of the Harvard University Library from 1937 to 1955. Construction began in 1947 with moving the Dana Palmer House from its original location in the southeast corner of Harvard Yard to a site across Quincy Street. The Dana Palmer House was built in 1820 and has served as the home of Richard Henry Dana, Harvard College Class of 1808, and a succession of Harvard professors, as well as Harvard's first astronomical observatory. The library, designed in the International Style, opened in January 1949 and was the first major Harvard building to be constructed after World War II.
Once Lamont Library was completed, undergraduate reading was transferred from Widener Library, which became a research library. Approximately 80,000 volumes were relocated to Lamont from Widener Library, the book reserve collection in Boylston Hall, and the Harvard Union Reading Room. The Farnsworth Room and Woodberry Poetry Room were also moved from Widener Library to the third floor of Lamont Library. The Farnsworth Room was created as a memorial to Henry Weston Farnsworth, Harvard College Class of 1912, and it houses books intended for recreational and cultural reading. The Woodberry Poetry Room was endowed by Harry Harkness Flagler as a memorial to George Edward Woodberry, Harvard College Class of 1877, and it houses both print publications and audio recordings of poetry.
Lamont Library was designed with convenience in mind. There is a large reading room on each of the library's three main levels, and the stacks were designed in an open shelf arrangement, with rows shaped to create alcoves to promote browsing and studying. Comfortable armchairs were provided for longer reading sessions, and typewriter cubicles were provided for students to work on assignments while retaining close access to information resources. A Forum Room provides a large meeting space for both students and staff to use.
Lamont Library is also home to Morse Music and Media on level A, the Language Resource Center on the fourth floor, and the Harvard Review offices. The first floor contains the Lamont Library Café, opened in 2006, and the Larsen Room, which was created as an interactive electronic teaching and learning room. Research Services on level B combines the former Reference Services with four units of the Harvard College Library's former Social Science Program: Document Services, Microform Services, Numeric Data Services, and Environmental Information Services.

References

Arrangement

The photographic views of Lamont Library has a legacy arrangement reflecting over 100 years of interfiling individual photographs of the structure from many sources into one collection. The images are arranged into nineteen folders, with the photographs loosely arranged in chronological order. Folders 1 to 10 are in Box 1, and Folders 11 to 19 are in Box 2. Folders 1 through 9 and 14 chiefly contain photographs of the construction of Lamont Library, while the remaining folders contain a combination of exterior and interior photographs.This collection is part of the Harvard University Archives Photograph Collection: Views, in which Archives staff compiled images, whether acquired individually or removed from larger collections, and arranged them in categories based on locations, buildings, or landscape features for ease of reference.

Scope and Content

The Photographic views of Lamont Library provide a visual record of one of Harvard University's libraries, as well as its grounds and the surrounding area from the 1940s to 1962. The 239 photographs, all gelatin silver prints, have primarily been contributed by the Harvard University News Office and the Harvard Alumni Bulletin.
Exterior photographs show Lamont Library and its grounds from a variety of angles. The images show the stages of construction of the library's exterior, from moving the Dana Palmer House to a new location, to building the basement, steel support structure, walls, floors, and entrances, as well as the tunnel to Widener Library and the steam tunnel under Quincy Street. They also show the workers, equipment, machinery, and stacks of materials. Images also capture students standing and walking in front of the library and the neighboring buildings in Harvard Yard, especially Widener Library and Houghton Library.
Interior photographs show the areas and rooms within the library, as well as some images of the construction of the library's interior. These include the main entrance, west entrance, circulation desk, main reading room, other readings areas, stacks alcoves, Woodberry Poetry Room, Forum Room, and a typing cubicle. Many of these photographs show staff at work and students studying and reading at tables, carrels, and desks. Construction photographs show the construction of the stacks and installation of windows.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2016 June 27.

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