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What is Historical Collections?

In the lobby of Baker Library there is an unassuming door with a darkened transom. Visitors bold enough to open the door often peer timidly through for an instant, before quickly fleeing the scene.

Just what lurks behind this mysterious door? Some MBA students never find out. This is a pity, because behind it is one of the most remarkable resources available to the HBS community, Baker Library’s Historical Collections Department. This department provides access to an impressive array of materials spanning seven centuries of business history, including:

The HBS Archives, including faculty and administrative papers, HBS publications, all faculty publications including Working Papers, and student-centered publications like Prospectuses, yearbooks, theses-and the Harbus! Any MBA student who wants to look at a book or Working Paper that is unavailable in Baker’s stacks is welcome to visit the Historical Collections Reading Room and consult the archival copy.

The most extensive collection of paper annual reports and associated materials in existence, with holdings for over 20,000 companies. Baker’s Historic Corporate Report Collection dates from the early 19th century to today and compliments the electronic company data sources available to MBA students.

The largest collection of business manuscripts in the world. Over 1,400 individuals and companies are represented. Baker has particularly strong holdings in 19th-century New England industries such as textile production, railroads, and transatlantic commerce. The library also holds the papers of notable Bostonians like Governor John Hancock and Henry Lee Higginson (the philanthropist responsible for the creation of the Boston Symphony Orchestra).

An outstanding photographic collection of over 30,000 images. Photos depict individual businessmen and women, business landmarks, and numerous industrial processes-everything from crop harvesting to automobile assembly.

Unique business ephemera such as advertising posters, trade catalogs, and business cards dating back to the 18th century. Baker also holds over 7,000 trade cards and has recently digitized a thousand of the best examples and made them available to the public through VIA, Harvard’s online digital repository.

The R.G. Dun & Company Collection of over 2,500 ledger volumes, containing entries on individuals and companies across the U.S. and some foreign countries. Compiled in the 19th century by the predecessor company to Dun & Bradstreet, this collection is the only one of its kind and heavily used by visiting scholars.

The Kress Collection of Business and Economic Literature, a rare book and manuscript collection with imprints dating back to the late 1400s.

This group of materials is a tremendous resource for scholars interested in the development of economic philosophy. A first edition (1776) of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations in its original publisher’s binding is only one volume in the largest collection of “Smithiana” in existence.

All of these extraordinary materials have been gathered together over the past seventy-five years by library staff committed to providing the HBS community with the very best resources possible for historical research. So take a look behind the door and see what Historical Collections has to offer you!

For more information, contact the Historical Collections Reference Desk at 5-6411 or at histcollref@hbs.edu. Or take a look at the Baker Library website at www.library.hbs.edu/hc/.

Question: I am a new MBA student and I understand that copies of papers HBS professors have written are kept in Baker Library. How do I find them?

Answer: The documents that you are referring to are called Working Papers. A “working paper” summarizes original research in a field of study, and is intended for publication within one to three years. If the original assumptions are justified, the scope of the paper may be expanded to a published book or article. Harvard Business School Working Papers are popular among researchers for their strong focus on business and economic subjects, and because of HBS’ academic reputation.

Records for Working Papers held by Baker Library are available in the Baker Online Catalog. Working Papers from several academic (including HBS) and non-academic institutions are represented in the Working Papers Collection, housed in the Reading Room. Only Working Papers published within the past three years are retained in that collection.

The HBS Archives also receives a copy of all HBS Working Papers. The library permanently retains that copy, and records for all HBS Working Papers held in the Archives are in the Baker Online Catalog. Anyone interested in looking at an archival copy of a Working Paper should contact the Historical Collections Department.

For additional information on Working Papers, including links to many Working Paper web pages, visit the Baker Library website at //www.library.hbs.edu/workpaplink.htm.

September 30, 2002
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