Overview: Virtual Collections

What is the Virtual Collections Service?

Virtual Collections (VC) is a HUIT LTS service that can harvest descriptions and links from HL union catalogs (e.g., HOLLIS, VIA, HGL) and provide a web-based search and display interface of these materials for the user.

Using VC, a curator can create a web-based catalog that provides a unified, collection view of thematically related resources that exist in a number of systems or within a single system. A virtual collection catalog provides basic online catalog features (searching and browsing of the unified collection; short and full record displays; links to digital content; search history). To learn more, consult the List of Virtual Collections and explore one for yourself!

VC Subject Categories. The curator can also create a controlled list of VC “categories” and associate these with collection records. Categories are optional topical terms created within the VC environment that are distinct from any subjects contained in the harvested records.

Public Access to VC. Access to a virtual collection must be provided by a HOLLIS record and an entry in E-Research@Harvard. See Promoting Your Collection. The virtual collection and the descriptions it contains must be open to the public (VC does not perform any type of access control). The digital materials that a virtual collection links out to may be publicly accessible or restricted to all members of the Harvard community.

Maximum Size Limit. A single virtual collection can contain up to 25,000 records. Collections larger than this are possible, but may require additional maintenance fees.

Virtual Collections Data Harvesting. VC offers an OAI data provider that exposes our virtual collections for harvesting by other institutions. For more information see Virtual Collections Data Harvesting.

How do I maintain my collection?

Each virtual collection has a maintenance interface that allows the curator to maintain a collection in real time using a web browser. To access the VC maintenance interface for your collection, point a web browser at this URL:[collection_c...

where [collection_code] is the code for the collection.

If you are working in the test VC environment, the Maintenance interface to your collection will be at this URL:[col...

Access requires a Harvard ID and PIN and prior authorization to access the virtual collection.

When a VC collection is first established, the collection’s curator is automatically authorized to use the collection’s Maintenance interface. To authorize additional users, use the login request form

Using VC Maintenance, a curator can do the following:

  • Define a list of VC categories and assign one or more categories to individual records.
  • Delete records from the virtual collection.
  • Download the harvest file for the collection.

Note that records are added to a virtual collection by the harvest process (not via the maintenance interface). For more information about maintaining a virtual collection, including the VC Maintenance interface, consult the VC Curator’s Guide.

Who can use the Virtual Collections service?

Harvard libraries, museums and archives are eligible to use the Virtual Collections service. Other Harvard organizational units and individual members of the Harvard community are eligible, when sponsored by a Harvard library.

What materials are eligible?

Materials cataloged in a HUL union catalog (HOLLIS, VIA, Harvard Geospatial Library) are eligible to be included in a virtual collection. Collections described in a virtual collection can belong to any academic discipline, subject domain, etc. There are no limits on the vocabulary used.

A collection being considered for the Virtual Collections Service should consist of materials that have library-like qualities (materials with persistent value, intended to support research or teaching). The Virtual Collections Service is not designed for short term use. Virtual collections created using this service should have persistent value.


For current set-up and maintenance fees, see Library Systems Fees and Assessments.