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The library's collections of books, scores, periodicals, and sound and video recordings support research in a wide variety of musical disciplines, including historical musicology, music theory, ethnomusicology, composition, historically informed performance practice.
Using the Library
Tree of Life: Cosmography and Environment in Yakutian Epic: October 22, 2019 - January 20, 2020
Toward the Source: Joyce Mekeel: March 8, 2019 - June 10, 2019
The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, named by benefactor Gerald Warburg in memory of his aunt, opened in 1956 as the library of the Harvard Music Department.
Three days of festivities marked its opening, including concerts with the Harvard Glee Club, Radcliffe Choral Society, the Bach Society Orchestra, the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra, and a performance of Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea by the American Opera Company.
Housed in the new Music Library wing of the Music Building, the library brought together:
- 27,725 books and scores from Widener Library, which had initiated its music collection in 1870;
- more than 8,000 scores and books from the Music Department collection, which began in 1898;
- and the books and scores from the estate of Richard C. Aldrich, Class of 1885.
Aldrich was a well-known music critic and music editor of the New York Times. An avid music collector, Aldrich amassed a significant library of music books and scores, as well as autograph manuscripts now in the Houghton Library.
The new library provided students and scholars with more study space. Its two reading rooms were named for Aldrich and Walter R. Spalding, the successor to John Knowles Paine as Chair of the Music Department.
Loeb Music Library’s early decades saw rapid growth. By 1968, the collection of books and scores had reached 65,000, and LP records surpassed 6,000. Earlier estimates that the library would be able to accommodate 40 years of collection growth proved to be optimistic. A second addition to the Music Building was necessary. In 1972, the library space was expanded with the construction of the adjacent Fanny Peabody Mason Music Building.
That same year, the Isham Memorial Library became part of the Loeb Music Library and took responsibility for rare book collections and research with primary source material. Established in 1939 as part of the Memorial Church, the Isham Memorial Library was named for Ralph Isham, Class of 1889. Isham donated an Aeolian Skinner organ to the church in 1932 and provided funds to buy organ music.
With the continuing growth and complexity of library collections and services, the Loeb Music Library became a unit of the Harvard College Library in 1978.
The Loeb Music Library added another special collection, the Archive of World Music, in 1992 -- the same year Harvard appointed Kay Kaufman Shelemay its first senior professor of ethnomusicology. The archive was established in 1976 as the private collection of Professor John Ward. It's devoted to the acquisition of archival field recordings of musics worldwide, as well as commercial sound recordings, videos, DVDs, and streaming resources of ethnomusicological interest.
A first for Harvard as well as the country occurred in 1989 when Richard French, Class of 1937, endowed a music library chair, the Richard F. French Librarianship in the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, most recently occupied by Dr. Sarah Adams.
1998 marked the opening of the library’s state-of-the-art Audio Preservation Studio, launched with generous gifts from John M. Ward and Altan Ender Güzey.
The studio's audio engineers, experienced with audio formats ranging from wax cylinder recordings to surround sound electronic compositions, preserve, reformat and reproduce audio materials from the collections. Now part of Harvard Library's Media Preservation Services, the studio accepts projects from Harvard as well as from outside the university.
The library celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2006 as one of the world’s preeminent libraries supporting music research. Its collections have broadened from Western music and historical musicology to reflect the expansion of the Music Department’s programs in music theory, popular music and jazz, and musics of the worlds’ cultures.
Amidst all the change, Loeb Music Library’s mission remains the same: to provide its users state-of-the-art resources along with fine historic holdings in a comfortable and inviting research environment.
Literature About the Library
- Adams, Sarah, Virginia Danielson, and Robert J. Dennis, eds. Golden Muse: The Loeb Music Library at 50. Harvard Library Bulletin 18 (2008).
- Howard, John B. "The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library." The Library Quarterly 64 (1994): 163-176.
- Forbes, Elliott. A Report of Music at Harvard from 1972 to 1990. Cambridge, Mass.: Department of Music, Harvard University , 1993.
- Wolff, Barbara Mahrenholz. Music Manuscripts at Harvard: A Catalogue of Music Manuscripts from the 14th to the 20th Centuries in the Houghton Library and the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library. Cambridge , Mass.: Harvard University Library, 1992.
- Forbes, Elliot. A History of Music at Harvard to 1972. Cambridge, Mass.: Department of Music, Harvard University, 1988.
- Ochs, Michael. "Musical Americana in Harvard Libraries: An Exhibition Honoring the Sonneck Society," Harvard Library Bulletin 31 (1984): 408-426.
- Wood, David A. A Catalogue of Early Printed Music and Books on Music in the Houghton Library and the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library. Music in Harvard Libraries. Cambridge, Mass.: Houghton Library of the Harvard College Library and Harvard University Department of Music, 1980.
- Mary Lou Little. "Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library," in Report to the Friends of Music. Elliot Forbes, editor. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Department of Music, 1974, p. 16-17.
- Pirotta, Nino. "The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library." Harvard Library Bulletin 12 (1958): 410-17.
- Davison, Archibald T. "The Isham Memorial Library." Harvard Library Bulletin 6 (1952): 376-80.
- Merritt, A. Tillman. Fourth Report to the Friends of Art and Music. Cambridge: Harvard University Department of Music, 1947.
- Apel, Willi. "The Collection of Photographic Reproductions at the Isham Memorial Library." Journal of Renaissance and Baroque Music 1 (1946): 68-73, 144-48, and 235-38.
- Aldrich, Richard. A Catalogue of Books Relating to Music in the Library of Richard Aldrich. New York: Plimton Press, 1931.
U.S. RISM Office
The Répertoire International des Sources Musicales, or RISM, is a worldwide effort to identify and describe sources of music and writings about music from the earliest times through approximately 1850.
The U.S. RISM office, currently led by Christina Linklater, came to the Loeb Music Library in 1985. The office collects information from U.S. libraries about music manuscripts, printed music, and libretti from approximately 1580 to 1825. It is the principal information center for queries about RISM data from the United States.
RISM's Central Editorial Office, in Frankfurt, Germany, coordinates contributions to RISM Series A/I and Series A/II projects. It also prepares information for both series for publication, and helps coordinate the publication of RISM Series B and C.
The Central Editorial Office can provide information on:
- manuscript sources in all countries participating in the RISM Series A/II music manuscript inventory,
- addenda to published RISM bibliographies,
- general questions about the RISM organization.
U.S. RISM Office Contact:
For further information, please e-mail Christina Linklater, Director, U.S. RISM Office.