How to Use the Manuscripts and Archives Collections

  1. Search HOLLIS Classic, Harvard's Online Library Catalog

    In order to get a comprehensive listing of all the material in the library pertinent to your area of interest, it is best to start with a HOLLIS Classic search. The most effective way to search is usually by keyword. All the manuscript and archives collections begin with a "bMS" collection number (e.g., bMS 587), which the HOLLIS record will indicate. You can also limit your search on HOLLIS Classic: click on "Expanded Search," go to "Format," and select "Manuscripts." If you find a record that indicates the item you are interested in is in another location in the library (Special Collections, Rare Book Room, etc.), contact the circulation staff (617.495.5788) for access to it. If the item is located in another Harvard library, please contact that library directly.

  2. Search the Finding Aids

    Finding aids are inventories that provide detailed information about each collection. They do not include actual documents, just information about those documents. If you find a bMS collection in HOLLIS that describes material you want to know more about, you can look online at the finding aid for it, and then arrange to either come in to look at the material or, if that is not possible, to inquire about having photocopies of it made.

    Most of the finding aids in Andover-Harvard Theological Library have a bMS number which is followed by a slash and a box number. The next number (in parentheses) is the folder number. Therefore, Collection 300, box 3, folder 1 would be identified as bMS 300/3 (1). The collection number and the box number are the two pieces of information needed in order to request something from a collection.

    There are several ways to search the finding aids:

    • Browse the categories on the Manuscripts and Archives home page.

    • Use our Search tool to search the finding aid pages on this website.

    • Search OASIS, a catalog of finding aids from many of the archival repositories at Harvard, including about fifty finding aids from Andover-Harvard Theological Library.

  3. Arrange a Visit or Request Services

    An appointment is necessary to use any collection in the Manuscripts and Archives Department, and access to some collections may be restricted. For those who cannot visit, the library provides some photocopying and scanning services. See Requesting Services for additional information on both in-person use and other services.

    Note that the library has other sources of historical material. Contact the reference staff, 617.496.AHTL (2485), for general historical information. Borrowing books and requesting photocopies of articles in periodicals should be done through interlibrary loan from your home library.