Harvard Theatre Collection

Founded in 1901, the Harvard Theatre Collection stands as one of the oldest and largest performing arts collections in the world.
Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet, 1899. View details.
Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library

The Harvard Theatre Collection at Houghton Library encompasses documentary material on the history of the performing arts, including theater, dance and ballet, music and opera. The collection also covers many forms of popular entertainment, ranging from the circus to stage magic and minstrelsy.

Tamara Karsavina in Petrouchka, ca. 1911.
Tamara Karsavina in Petrouchka, circa 1911. View Details.
Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library

The Theatre Collection was founded in 1901 through the efforts of George Pierce Baker. It stands as one of the oldest and largest performing arts collections in the world.

Since the time of its formation a century ago, the collection has had a broad scope. Among the collection's areas of particular strength are:

  • Dramatic literature in the form of manuscripts, play texts, acting editions, and promptbooks
  • Playbills, programs, posters, tickets, souvenirs, clippings, and other printed material that results from performance
  • Historical theatrical literature, including biographies, histories, and other books and pamphlets about theater and the performing arts
  • Original manuscripts, letters, legal agreements, and other documents
  • Works of art related to performance, including portraits, stage scenes, and stage and costume designs
  • Visual material in the form of prints and photographs showing performers, scenes, theaters, etc.

Accessing These Materials

Information about items in the collection can be found via HOLLIS. All collection material is accessed through the Houghton Library reading room.

For helpful tips on using the collection, see our Guide for Researchers.