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Teach with Houghton Library

Collaborate with us to design richer learning experiences for your students and incorporate primary source materials.


Not sure how to integrate special collections instruction into virtual teaching? We’re here to help! Houghton Library offers robust resources for teaching and learning with our collections remotely.

Our librarians, archivists, and curators are available to collaborate with you on creating a variety of different learning experiences — from assignment development to digital project planning, hands-on activities to classroom lectures supported by our primary source materials, and more. As you plan for your fall courses, we’re here to support you and your students.

Remote teaching with Houghton can help your students:


Discover relevant sources

  • Archivist- and librarian-led instruction on digital search and discovery available via video, guides, or in-class discussion
  • On-demand, no-cost digitization of available material for teaching and learning as our highest priority
  • Finding Your Way Through Finding Aids, an easy-to-use guide to navigating special collections research

Understand material culture

  • DIY instruction on making models to explore letterlocking and early printing formats
  • Live demonstrations to learn bibliographical vocabulary and methods of analysis 

Analyze primary sources

  • Discussion facilitation and assignment prompts to guide students through source interpretation in the context of your course
  • Support for collaborative digital annotation tools for students to add context, references, and questions

Create and curate 

  • Support and planning for student-led digital curation of exhibits and collections, similar to our Other[ed] Colonial Voices project
  • Assistance planning and providing digital material for creative reuse in projects ranging from collage to performance 

    These are only a few examples of topics and activities we can help you with, all of which can be offered synchronously or asynchronously to fit your class plan. Many can be accomplished in a single session, but we can also work with you on longer-term collaborations.

    Please request a class or get in touch with us with at least four weeks notice if you’re interested in any of the above, or if you’d like to work with us on other ways to bring Houghton collections into your classes.

    Request A Class

    Houghton Library has a variety of seminar rooms which may be used for classes working with our materials.

    We can accommodate up to 20 students per session between the hours of 9:30 am and 4:30 pm on weekdays throughout the year. Special arrangements may be made for classes with large enrollments or for meetings outside of these hours.

    Staff and space are in high demand throughout the semester, so please make your requests early to ensure availability, especially for multi-section classes.

    Request a Class

    You'll be asked for the following information when you submit a class request:

    • course title and number
    • instructor contact information
    • number of students in the class
    • possible dates and times for your class visit, in order of preference
    • the best times for you to meet with one of our librarians to plan for the class
    • your A/V requirements

    Things to Keep In Mind When Selecting Materials 

    We ask that requests for materials must be submitted no later than 10 days before the first class session. That gives us enough time to get curatorial approval and when necessary provide substitutes for material that is too fragile or otherwise unavailable.

    We recommend that you ask for no more than 12 items for each 60 to 90 minute session. Fewer items can allow students to engage more closely with the materials than an overwhelming display.

    If you need assistance finding material or wish to use more than 12 items, just talk with the librarian or archivist working with you on your class.

    Preparing Your Students

    • Make sure your students know where to meet for your class. Our librarians typically meet classes in the Houghton lobby before going to our classrooms.
    • Houghton Library’s entrance is up a short flight of steps. For questions about physical access to the library or other accessibility concerns or accommodations, please contact Houghton Library Public Services at 617-495-2440 or houghton_library@harvard.edu
    • Review our classroom policies with your students. We do not allow food or drink in our classrooms. Students will be asked to put their personal belongings (including all bags and jackets) in lockers. We provide pencils and paper for students to take notes.
    • If you anticipate students will need to bring outside class readings into the class session, please let your Houghton teacher know in advance. In general, we ask that students bring as little as possible into the classrooms.
    • Ask your students to watch this video about handling special collection materials, as it will help prepare them for the nature of the material they'll be seeing and working with in the classroom
    • Due to the nature of our materials, special collections libraries typically have different security measures than other libraries students may have worked in. Please let your students know that the lobby guards will ask to inspect all materials brought in and out of Houghton classrooms.

    HarvardX Classes with Houghton

    Houghton Library supports the HarvardX program by providing collection materials, expertise, reference, and other assistance.

    If you need to film Houghton Library materials to meet the goals of the class, or if a presentation by the curatorial staff will be part of the class, we are happy to work with you to make this happen.

    If Houghton materials are a minor part of the class or can be included briefly and then removed, filming should be scheduled in the Hauser Digital Teaching and Learning Studio in Widener Library. Arrangements can usually be made for a small number of Houghton materials to be brought over, attended by Houghton staff during the time they are needed, and then removed.

    If Houghton materials are not part of the class, we ask that you seek out a different filming location. Every filming event requires the presence of Houghton staff, and occupies space generally used for daily library activities. We try to be judicious about when and how often we disrupt these activities for the extended periods that filming requires.

    If you believe your needs meet the above guidelines please submit a request using our class request tool. From there, the planning begins. Meetings will be set to discuss goals, explore room and timing options, and set expectations.

    Request a Class