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Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 5 months ago

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The Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library opened its doors in 1915. Built in Harvard Yard with a 3.5 million dollar donation from Eleanor Elkins Widener, Widener Library contained more than 50 miles of shelving and a total capacity of more than 3 million volumes. Eleanor Elkins Widener made the donation to memorialize her son, a young bibliophile from Philadelphia, who perished aboard the Titanic in 1912. According to David King, Reference Librarian at the Widener University School of Law in Delaware, “It is said that the young Widener, on the verge of stepping into a lifeboat, raced back to his cabin to retrieve a rare 1598 edition of Bacon’s Essays which he had purchased in London" (King).


Currently under the direction of the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Widener Library is the flagship library of the Harvard University Library system, the largest academic library in the world. The Widener Library collection includes more than 5.7 million volumes and pamphlets, 3 million of which constitute a research collection of social science and humanities texts that “emphasize literature and history and include significant holdings in linguistics, classical and modern languages, folklore, bibliography, economics, philosophy, psychology, the history of science and technology, and the history of social sciences" ("Widener Library"). Between 1999 and 2004, Widener Library underwent extensive renovations “to ensure the long-term preservation and security of collections and to increase user space” ("Widener Library History").


Widener library also houses the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Collection in its Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Room (6). This core of this collection is “the original library belonging to Harry Elkins Widener” ("Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Collection"). Its strengths include “19th century English literature, Shakespeare, and extra-illustrated books” ("Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Collection"). The collection also contains a few items added by the family including a copy of The Gutenberg Bible, which was added to the collection in 1944 by siblings, Mr. George D. Widener and Mrs. Widener Dixon ("Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Collection").





"About HUL." Harvard University Library. 26 July 2005. 28 April 2006. <http://hul.harvard.edu/about.html>.


"Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Collection." Harvard College Library. 7 September 2005. 28 April 2006. <http://hcl.harvard.edu/libraries/widener/collections/harryelkins.html>.


King, David. "The Titanic Disaster and the Widener Family." Widener University. 2006. 28 April 2006. <http://www.widener.edu/Tools_Resources/Libraries/Wolfgram_Memorial_Library/Archives/Collections/Widener_Family/3844/?vobld=26883>.


"Largest Academic Library in the World." The Harvard Guide. 2005. 28 April 2006. <http://www.news.harvard.edu/guide/to_do/to_do6.html>.


"Widener Library." Harvard College Library. 17 April 2006. 28 April 2006. <http://hcl.harvard.edu/libraries/#widener>.


"Widener Library History." Harvard College Library. 1 November 2005. 28 April 2006. <http://hcl.harvard.edu/libraries/widener/history.html>.


Compiled by: Kristin J.


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