2014 Tours

Preconference Tours of Research Libraries

Boston and Cambridge,
Friday, May 16, 2014

Here’s a chance to become familiar with the riches of Boston area’s public and private libraries and research centers. Choose one morning and one afternoon venue. You can travel on the “T,” Boston’s subway system, from your hotel to the venue where a member of the Boston Biographers Group will meet you. Lunch is on your own; a list of nearby restaurants will be provided.

Morning 10:00–11:30

Choose One

Massachusetts Historical Society
1154 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215
The Massachusetts Historical Society has one of the nation’s most respected research libraries whose collections provide an unparalleled record of American history. The MHS possesses a remarkable assembly of personal papers of three presidents, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, as well as accounts of the lives of thousands of ordinary Americans.

Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center
Boston University
771 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA

This hidden research gem can be lost among the “big name” research centers in Boston and Cambridge. But the Gotlieb Center is a site you’ll want to become familiar with for 20th- and 21st-century research. How can a biographer ignore a place whose mission is “to capture history and preserve it,” or a place that bills itself as “a leading trove of contemporary culture”? This Boston University archive backs up its modest claims with the papers of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. (more than 80,000 documents) plus nearly 2,000 individual archives, and nine miles of shelves holding correspondence, photographs, manuscripts, and priceless ephemera of luminaries from Bette Davis to David Halberstam to Kate Smith.

Boston Public Library
700 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116

The Research Library is at the Copley Square entrance of the Boston Public Library. It is situated in the classical-style building designed by McKim, Mead & White and built during 1887-1895. Do not miss a few moments in the courtyard. The Research Library holdings are second among public libraries in the U. S. to those of the Library of Congress.  There are more than 1 million manuscripts, 7.5 million books, and 500,000 rare books. The BPL has designated 18 “Collections of Distinction”  with 8 more awaiting approval. Ultimately there will be 40 to 50 designated collections that involve special institutional support, including digitization. Susan Glover, Keeper of Special Collections, will discuss the holdings and access to them.

Schlesinger Library
Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
Cambridge, MA

The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America documents the lives of women of the past and present for the future and furthers the Radcliffe Institute’s commitment to women, gender, and society. The library holdings date from the founding of the United States to the present and include more than 3,200 manuscript collections, 100,000 volumes of books and periodicals, and films, photos, and audiovisual material.


Afternoon 1:30–3:00

Choose One

Houghton Library
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

The collection of the Houghton Library focuses on the study of Western civilization, and is a treasure chest for researching biographers. Materials relating to American, Continental, and English history and literature comprise the bulk of these collections and include special concentrations in printing, graphic arts, and the theatre. The collections encompass wonderfully diverse holdings such as ostraca, daguerreotypes, and the working papers of living novelists and poets.New England Historic Genealogical Society

99 Newbury Street, Boston, MA

The New England Historic Genealogical Society has been collecting information about families in America for over 165 years. It is one of the nation’s leading research centers for genealogists of every skill level. In it are housed millions of documents, manuscripts, records, books, microfilms, photographs, artifacts, electronic resources, and other items that preserve and reveal our history. Its collections also contain significant materials on Canada and Europe.

Boston Athenaeum
10½ Beacon Street, Boston, MA

The Boston Athenæum, a membership library, first opened its doors in 1807, and its rich history as a library and cultural institution has been well documented in the annals of Boston’s cultural life. Today, it remains a vibrant and active institution that serves a wide variety of members and scholars. With more than 600,000 titles in its book collection, the Boston Athenæum functions as a public library for many of its members. The Special Collections resources are world-renowned, and include maps, manuscripts, rare books, prints and photographs, paintings and sculpture, and archival materials.