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Boston Sights

Widener Library

  • Library/Archive

Updated 11/11/2013

Fodor's Review

The Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library is Harvard University's flagship library. It was named for a young book lover who went down with the Titanic. Holding more than 17 million volumes in more than 70 libraries around the world, the Harvard Library system is second in size in the United States only to the Library of Congress. Widener Library itself is one of the world's largest individual book repositories: Over 50 miles of bookshelves snake around six stories above and four stories below ground, holding over 3 million volumes. The imposing neoclassical structure was designed by one of the nation's first major African-American architects, Julian Abele. In the center of the building stands the private collection of Mr. Widener (including his Gutenberg Bible and Shakespeare First Folio) in a room featuring his original desk. It was his mother's express wish that fresh flowers be placed on the desk, a tradition that continues to this day. The library isn't open to the public; people with a "scholarly need" can apply for admission at the privileges office inside.

Sight Information


Harvard Yard, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02138, United States



Updated 11/11/2013


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