Requesting Services

Access | Reading Room Policies and Procedures | Reproduction Policies | Publication Policy and Citation Information


Special Collections is open from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday, by appointment only. (See the directions on this site for information on how to get to the library.)

The material in this department does not circulate, and most of it is stored off-site. Therefore, it is necessary to contact Special Collections (617.998.1424 ) at least two business days in advance in order to view a collection. Once you have identified a collection you are interested in seeing (see How to Use the Manuscripts and Archives Collections), you may request it via phone or email. If you have questions about a collection or if you want to inquire about obtaining reproductions of material or other services, please contact the archives.

Reading Room Policies and Procedures

Most of the material in this department is unique, and much of it is fragile. Therefore, we have certain procedures that we ask patrons to follow when working with the collections. You will be asked to sign a registration form (PDF), and we will also review a handling form (PDF) with you. You will be asked to put your belongings in a locker, and to take only what you will need to do research into the reading room. Pens are not permitted, and you will be provided with pencils in order to take notes. Laptop computers and cameras are allowed, but scanners are not permitted in the reading room. We try to maintain a quiet atmosphere for study and research, and we ask researchers to respect that, and to keep conversation to a minimum while working with the collections.

Reproduction Policies

Under current U.S. Copyright Law, it is permissible to reproduce material from manuscript and archival collections as long as the purpose of the reproduction meets certain criteria (see Section 108 of the current law).

Patrons of the Manuscripts and Archives Department who come in person to examine collections are allowed to scan documents using the library's public scanner. They are also required to sign a copyright form stating that the scans will be used for personal or research purposes only (see publication policy below).

Scanned documents can be handled in three ways. They can be copied to a USB flash drive, sent to an email address, or printed using the library's printer on the second floor (see charges for scanning manuscript material below). Cameras that do not employ the use of a flash may be used in the reading room. Please discuss the use of your camera with the curator before proceeding to photograph any documents. 

In order to protect the privacy of individuals or corporate bodies, this department reserves the right to restrict copying of sensitive materials. The collections in this department also contain many records that are fragile, and the department reserves the right to restrict the copying of these kinds of materials. It is also our policy not to allow any one collection to be copied in its entirety.

Images (photographs) must be scanned by a library staff member. They will be sent to the patron as an attachment to an email message or on a CD. The charge for one image sent in an email message is $10, and it is $5 for each additional photograph. If a patron prefers to have the images put on a CD and mailed to a destination within the continental United States, the handling charge will be $10. (The cost of CDs sent overseas will vary.) The scanned images will be accompanied with an invoice and a notice (PDF) that outlines private use of photographs and publication policy. This notice should be signed by the patron and returned with payment. It may also be possible to reproduce audiotapes, videotapes, and film. Please contact the archives for further information about scanning photographs or other media.

Charges for scanning manuscript material:

There is no charge for patrons who are doing their own scanning if the scans are copied to a USB flash drive or sent by email. If the scans are sent to the library's printer, the charge is 7 cents per copy for patrons who are doing their own copying. The printer accepts Crimson Cash only; the printer does not accept cash. Crimson Cash cards are available for purchase at the circulation desk. Value may be added to a Harvard ID card or a Crimson Cash card by credit card on the Crimson Cash website or at Crimson Cash VTS machines at other University locations.

If you are unable to come in and view a collection, you may contact this department to inquire about having material scanned for you. This office relies on student assistants to do scanning, so it is completed as time allows. For patrons who request scanning orders to be done for them, the charge is:

  • 15 cents a copy for the first 50 sheets
  • 20 cents a copy for 50 to 100 sheets
  • Orders above 100 sheets will usually be sent to Harvard Imaging Services 
  • There is also a handling charge of $10 for any order of 50 sheets or less going anywhere in the continental United States. The handling charge for larger orders will vary. The handling charge for orders going overseas will vary, depending on the weight of the package and its destination, but the minimum handling charge for an overseas order is $15.
  • An invoice and copyright statement is sent to the patron with the completed order, and the copyright form should be signed and mailed back with payment. Payment should be made by a personal check or postal money order. We do not accept credit cards.

Publication Policy and Citation Information

Publication is defined as any quotation or use of an image in a book, article, website, or doctoral dissertation. It is the responsibility of the patron using this material to verify that its publication is not an infringement of copyright. If a patron wishes to publish anything from this department, he or she must contact the curator and state what he or she wishes to use, and the name of the intended publication. If the curator decides to make the material available for publishing, the patron will receive a letter stating this, which will also clarify whether or not Harvard University owns the copyright to the material. If Harvard University does not own the copyright, the letter will state that it is the patron's responsibility to identify and satisfy any claimants of copyright for it. This letter will also clarify how the material should be credited in the publication. (See this template permission letter (PDF), which includes citation information.)