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Widener Library (Harvard University)

The Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library, housing some 3.5 million books in its "vast and cavernous" stacks, is the center­piece of the Harvard College Libraries (the libraries of Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences) and, more broadly, of the entire Harvard Library system. It honors 1907 Harvard College graduate and book collector Harry Elkins Widener, and was constructed by his mother Eleanor Elkins Widener after his death in the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912.

The library's holdings, which include works in more than one hundred languages, comprise "one of the world's most comprehen­sive research collec­tions in the humanities and social sciences." Its 57 miles (92 km) of shelves, along five miles (8 km) of aisles on ten levels, comprise a "labyrinth" which one student "could not enter without feeling that she ought to carry a compass, a sandwich, and a whistle."

At the building's heart are the Widener Memorial Rooms, displaying papers and mementos recalling the life and death of Harry Widener, as well as the Harry Elkins Widener Collec­tion, "the precious group of rare and wonder­fully interesting books brought together by Mr. Widener", to which was later added one of the few perfect Gutenberg Bibles‍—‌the object of a 1969 burglary attempt conjectured by Harvard's police chief to have been inspired by the heist film Topkapi.

You could destroy all the other Harvard buildings and, with Widener left standing, still have a university.
            — G. L. Kittredge

Explore Widener in All Its Glory, From Your Desk or Phone

Gaze up at the skylights of the Loker Reading Room or give the marble rotunda a whirl in this new, 360-degree virtual tour of the Harvard library

Harvard Library has partnered with a digital production company to create a 360-degree virtual tour of Widener, using a model constructed from thousands of photographs taken inside the building. Viewers can gaze up at the skylights of the Loker Reading Room, wander through the lower-level stacks, and examine the bookshelves holding Harry Widener’s personal collection. Along the tour, markers indicate an option to read historical details.

View the full interactive tour of the Widener Library by clicking the Play button.

Widener Library (Harvard University) Videos and Images

Tour Widener Library through the videos given below:

Video 1, Title: Ode to the Library: Widener Turns 100

Video Summary: Narrated by John Lithgow ’67, "In the Library" by Charles Simic is a love letter to libraries that celebrates books and those who watch over them. We share this while marking the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library, Harvard’s flagship library. Built with a gift from Eleanor Elkins Widener, the library is a memorial to her son, Harry, Class of 1907, an enthusiastic young bibliophile who perished aboard the Titanic. Today, his legacy constitutes the heart of the vast Harvard system of more than 70 libraries that support research, teaching, learning, and innovation.

Creator: Harvard University

Original Published Date: May 21, 2015

Video 2, Title: 360vr The Harvard Library during the day, drive student shaking!

Original Published Date: May 12, 2017

Video 3, Title: Harvard Tour, Widener Library

Creator: CS50

Original Published Date: Jul 18, 2014

Image 1: Widener Library (Harvard University)

Widener Library (Harvard University)



1. Wikipedia, "Widener Library," (accessed April 17, 2020).

2. Harvard University, "Explore Widener in all its glory, from your desk or phone,"
  (accessed April 17, 2020).

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