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Widener Library

Widener Library

Harvard Yard, Cambridge (MA), 02138, United States

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Description The Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library, housing some 3.5million 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 57mi of shelves, along five miles 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 Biblesthe object of a 1969 burglary attempt conjectured by Harvard's police chief to have been inspired by the heist filmTopkapi.

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