How to...

Access Materials at the Harvard University Archives

Learn how to access our collections that document the academic, social, cultural, and work life of the Harvard community.

Find and Request

Collections Availability

Many of the University Archives' collections are open and available for use. However, restrictions apply to certain categories of material.

  • University policy restricts access to University administrative records for a period of 50 years from the date of their creation.
  • University records pertaining to individuals, including student and employee records, are closed for a minimum of 80 years.
  • Archives of student, alumni, and other associated organizations are subject to the same 50- and 80-year restrictions on access.
  • Personal archives of faculty, administrators, students, and alumni/ae may be subject to restrictions established by the donor.
  • University records in personal archives are subject to the same 50- and 80-year restrictions on access required by University policy.
  • Records in general distribution at their time of creation are usually open without restriction. These include announcements, official University publications, calendars, brochures, and public reports.

For questions about access to specific collections, please contact the Archives reference staff at in advance of your visit before requesting any items.

Reading Room

We welcome researchers to visit our reading room to use our collections. Here are some things to keep in mind for your visit:

  • In order to preserve the collections for future use, please follow these 10 Tips for Reading Room Success. We're always available to help with oversize, heavy, or fragile items.
  • Book cradles, weights, and magnifying glasses are available for your use.
  • You are welcome to bring pencils, a laptop, tablet, phone (in silent mode), and a digital camera to assist in your research.
  • We provide lockers for personal property not essential for research.
  • Please keep all food and drink outside of the reading room.
  • You are welcome to photograph most material. However, some collections may be subject to restrictions that limit or prohibit photography. 
  • Please do not to take pictures of the Reading Room, other patrons, or library staff.


Publishing from Our Collections

The publication of direct quotations, excerpts, and images from Harvard University Archives' collections requires the permission of the University Archivist.

Please send permission requests to Be sure to submit permission requests well in advance of publication date, as it may take several weeks for a reply.

Requests must include the following information:

  • copies of relevant sections of the manuscript, with quotes or excerpts highlighted, and/or copies of images
  • complete citations for the original materials, including the name of the collection, title/description/date of the item, folder title, call number, and box number (if applicable)
  • title of the publication in which the material will appear
  • name of the publisher
  • anticipated date of publication