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Research Revealed: Inside a Special Collections Reading Room

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­June 18, 2013—It is not unusual for a visitor to the Harvard Law School Library’s Historical & Special Collections (HSC) reading room to ask a librarian for a particular item and then stay and chat about his or her research for a long time, said Jane Kelly, HSC assistant for the Harvard Law School Library.

“Even though our researchers ask us many questions about our materials, I think we learn as much from them as they do from us,” said Karen Beck, manager of HSC for the Harvard Law School Library. This reciprocal relationship inspired the library’s latest exhibit, “Research Revealed: Six Scholars Explore Historical & Special Collections.” The two glass cases in the library’s Caspersen Room display items that furthered the research of six scholars or programs: Rowan Dorin, Moira Gillis, Andrew Porwancher, Geoff Shaw, Julia Stephens and the Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation.

Beck and Kelly, as well as colleagues Edwin Moloy, Margaret Peachy, Mary Person and Lesley Schoenfeld, each paired with a researcher to learn more about his or her project and select the research materials to showcase. “We wanted to display an array of materials that represent the many formats we have in our collections—rare books, early and modern manuscripts and visual materials,” Beck said.

One of the most interesting aspects of engaging with researchers can be “seeing them discover fun and unique items tangential to their work,” said Kelly. Displayed with Geoff Shaw’s research on the Lon Fuller Papers is a personal letter from Fuller to Rose Mary Woods, President Richard Nixon’s famous secretary.

Moira Gillis, whose research using the Charles River Bridge vs. Warren Bridge litigation records is highlighted in the exhibit, was the first to use those materials since the collection was processed in 2011. “It’s gratifying for us to see our recently processed collections used; it validates the behind-the-scenes work we do to bring previously hidden collections to light,” Beck said. 

“Research Revealed” will be on display through August 9, 2013. Located on Level 4 of Langdell Hall, the Caspersen Room is open Monday through Friday from 9 to 5.