Houghton Library

Photography and Film Policies

Houghton Library limits photography and filming to preserve its collections and maintain an environment conducive to study and research. Please consult the guidelines for appropriate use, below.

For full information on photography and filming within the Harvard College Library system, please visit hcl.harvard.edu/info/policies/#photos.


Photographing Materials for Research

The following policy is designed to assist readers with note-taking by permitting limited use of digital cameras. Its continuance depends on readers abiding by the rules and not disrupting the quiet work of fellow readers.

Photographs are for study purposes only and cannot be reproduced, transferred, published, or posted on the internet. Images for publication or distribution must be ordered through the library.

Use of digital cameras is subject, but not limited to, the following conditions:

  • All candidates for photography must be flagged and examined by the desk attendant for physical condition, copyright issues, and donor restrictions before approval will be given.
  • No tripods, camera flashes, or special lighting. Audible features on the camera must be turned off.
  • No pictures may be taken of the room itself, other readers, or the staff.
  • Staff will designate the work location for patrons using cameras. Patrons may not stand on chairs nor rearrange furniture to get a better image.
  • Materials must be handled properly and with great care. Staff will assist with setting up materials properly:
    • Bound volumes must be supported in a book cradle; no pressure can be applied to the bindings.
    • Loose manuscript material must remain in its folder and kept in order at all times. Documents must be kept flat on the table. If leaves are fastened together, please see desk attendant before proceeding.
  • No more than 50 pages or 20 percent of any manuscript or book (whichever is smaller) can be photographed.
  • A Houghton Library or Harvard Theatre Collection flag must be photographed with each item.
  • It is the responsibility of each reader to keep complete and accurate citations (complete call number, including item numbers and/or page numbers) for all items photographed. Requests for permission to quote, or subsequent orders for high-resolution or photographic images, will not be processed without this information.
  • The library reserves the right to deny requests or revoke permission for any reason.

The Copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research." If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement. The user agrees to defend, indemnify, and hold harmless the Houghton Library, the Harvard College Library, and the President and Fellows of Harvard College against all claims, demands, costs and expenses incurred by copyright infringement or any other legal or regulatory cause of action arising from the use of the Library’s materials.

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Filming and Recording for Public Use

The Houghton Library’s mission is to support and promote research, teaching, and learning, while at the same time preserving our rare and unique collections. Filming and recording on site may be accommodated when:

  1. A Harvard faculty member requests filming as part of their teaching program;
  2. The University or Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Administration requests filming to promote education and/or teaching with the Harvard collections; or
  3. A request from outside Harvard is for an educational project in which Houghton collections are integral.

Houghton is not available as a background setting for non-educational, non-collection-related projects/promotions.

Space is limited, and the safety and security of Houghton collections are our primary consideration. If filming or audio is approved:

  • All collection material must be handled by Houghton staff, or their designee.
  • The maximum number of cameras is two. (one stationary, one mobile)
  • Additional lighting is not normally allowed on collection material. If additional lighting is approved, the number of people permitted in the room will be reduced.
  • The production team should be limited to four.
  • Classes being filmed can have no more than 10 students.
  • The total number in the group can be no larger than 16.

All requests for filming access should be made at least two weeks in advance. Requests should be directed to Colin Manning (colin_manning@harvard.edu), communications officer for Harvard College Library and FAS Libraries.

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