Instituted in 1963 as Special Collections and renamed in 2003 to honor its founder, the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center is the repository for individuals in the fields of literature, criticism, journalism, drama, music, film, civil rights, diplomacy and national affairs. Although contemporary public figures is the specialty of the Center, there are substantial holdings of earlier historical documents and over 140,000 rare books.
Beginning with the sixteenth century, the historical collections include documents of United States presidents and the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Other historical holdings include papers relating to the areas of military history, Eighteenth Century Americana, nursing history, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Franz Liszt. There are also individual letters and documents from monarchs, writers and major historical figures.
The Center is a major resource for researchers, biographers, historians, producers and students. The collections vary in size and content and contain a variety of manuscripts, drafts, galleys, notes, notebooks, journals, diaries, scrapbooks, reviews, photographs, memorabilia, and personal and professional correspondence. Most collections have a finding aid and are available for research by appointment.
Rotating exhibitions throughout the building showcase the manuscript holdings and rare books from the Center's various collections.
The mission of the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center is to capture and document history by collecting the manuscripts from individuals who play a significant part in the fields of journalism, poetry, literature and criticism, dance, music, theater, film, television, and political and religious movements. We preserve the documents and make them readily available to researchers while administering all legal copyrights and restrictions.
We welcome researchers from all over the world and we present extensive exhibitions, seminars and tours for our students, parents and alumni as well as various visiting groups. We strive to be a source of education and enrichment for members of the University and local community as well as all our visitors.
My visit to the Mugar Memorial Library took place in the spring of 2002, when, with the blessing of the Estate of the late Sir Dirk Bogarde, I was researching his official biography. Bogarde's modest archive is held in what was then Special Collections.
I say modest, because Bogarde destroyed many of his personal papers before leaving France in 1987 and returning to his birthplace, London. In subsequent years he consigned to Boston the notes, drafts and typescripts for 14 books, plus correspondence from many distinguished figures in the Arts. Three years after his death, this was the material I needed to consult. I found it admirably catalogued and kept under ideal conditions both for conservation and for access.
Time, as always in manuscript archives, went too fast, and I had to prolong my planned week of study by two days, principally in order to look at papers in the collections of two luminaries whose professional paths had crossed with Bogarde's. This caused no hardship, as it was a pleasure to work in such an efficiently organised environment. The reading room, or 'white-glove zone', was initially daunting: I was unsure whether I should open a box or kneel in prayer. However, with familiarity it seemed to shrink. More important, the staff with whom I had the most contact were responsive and courteous; every search was carried out with good grace; and at the point when I found myself under greatest pressure, the Team was prepared to 'go the extra mile' to help.
As a bonus, I was fortunate enough on my final day to be introduced to Dr Gotlieb. Nothing could be more fair than that this treasure-house now bears his name.
John Coldstream, author of Dirk Bogarde: The Authorised Biography and editor of Ever, Dirk: The Bogarde Letters
"I spent some of my very best days of research in the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center: the holdings are wonderfully catalogued, the staff extremely helpful and friendly and the library is a model of calm and efficiency. I have found few other archives to be as welcoming or as beautifully organised."
Caroline Moorehead, noted biographer and author of Gellhorn: A Twentieth Century Life
I first became aware of the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center nearly twenty years ago. Immediately, I realized that this must be an exceptional place: there had to be a reason that so many cultural and political giants had chosen to have their papers preserved there. Over time, as I began work on my own books, I came to know the value of the Gotlieb Center on a more personal level. It's a daunting thing to take on the responsibility of setting someone's life down on paper. In the birthing process of any biography, the archivist is one of the most important midwives. The staff at the Gotlieb Center is always a pleasure to deal with; they are beautifully informed, dedicated, and supportive, and my life as a biographer has been enriched by my association with them. When Vita Paladino asked if I would consider placing my own papers with the Center, I answered yes almost before she got the question out. Knowing that my work is in their hands means more to me than I can say.
Brian Kellow, classical music journalist, author of several biographies including Ethel Merman: A Life
I first came to what is now the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center in the early 1980s, when I was working on a biography of Evelyn Waugh. Of course I had heard of the Center and of the legendary Dr Gotlieb, but nothing had quite prepared me for the marvels that awaited. Immediately I was made welcome, and on my very first morning I was thrilled to discover an archive of unparalleled diversity and richness. Part of Dr Gotlieb's genius was that he recognised the importance of acquiring not only the papers of major writers, but those of lesser-known figures crucially connected to them. Thus, for example, in studying Evelyn Waugh, I was also able to read the papers of his brother, Alec, ignored by most scholars at the time, but who turned out to be an invaluable witness.
Subsequently I have returned to Boston on a number of occasions - most recently to work on the magnificent Somerset Maugham collection - and I can say without hesitation that my visits to the HGARC have been among the great highlights of my working life. Nowhere have I come across greater kindness, scholarship, generosity and expertise.
Selina Hastings, writer, journalist and author of four literary biographies, including The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham
Entrance to The Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center's main offices.
following the University calendar.
following the University calendar.
Boston University Libraries
771 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02215
Entrance to the Richards-Roosevelt Room, featuring the desk of the first president of Boston University, William Fairfield Warren.