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1927 Map of the Arboretum

About our Collections

A view in the Archive Collection storage room with a magnolia in bloom outdoors. Lisa Pearson, 2010.
A view of shelves in the archival storage room.

The library began as the personal collection of the Arboretum’s founding director, Charles Sprague Sargent. When the Hunnewell Building was constructed in 1892, Sargent donated this library of over 6,000 volumes to the Arboretum.

Charles Sargent seated at a desk in the library.
Charles Sprague Sargent seated in his office in the library. Photograph by J. Horace McFarland, 1904.

Today, the library contains over 40,000 volumes, 65,000 images, 950 maps, and over 350 archival collections. We assist a wide variety of guests in their searches for information about the plant world, the Arboretum’s history of plant exploration, and related botanical and horticultural subjects.

A view of the northwest corner of the Reading Room, ca. 1920.
A view of the northwest corner of the Reading Room, ca. 1920. Photographer unknown, ca. 1920.

Books and Journals

The library collects printed material dedicated to the study of botany, horticulture, landscape architecture, cultural landscape history, temperate floras, and dendrology. We also collect works on botanical art, conservation, design, garden history, museum studies, and urban forestry. See the Guide to our Collection for a listing by subject. We encourage all researchers to email us at hortlib@arnarb.harvard.edu.

The titles held in the Horticultural Library in Jamaica Plain are indexed in HOLLIS, the Harvard Library Catalog. Selecting Advanced Search enables you to limit your search to our location: Botany Arboretum. HOLLIS is also a portal to many databases and electronic journals (a Harvard ID may be required for certain resources).

Tabletop inlaid with semi-precious stones.
A close up of the pietre dure table owned by James Arnold inlaid with semi-precious stone. It is a prized object in the archive collection. Photograph by Larissa Glasser, October 18, 2018. Photograph by Larissa Glasser, October 18, 2018.

The Arnold Arboretum Archive Collection details our history and its influences on the study of botany and horticulture.

A selection of our finding guides are available in HOLLIS for Archival Discovery as well as through our Archive Collection page. These resources offer variety of materials, including correspondence, diaries, photographs, drawings, field notes, and objects.

The Correspondence Database is an index to Arboretum correspondence from the 1870s to 1975. Correspondence includes letters on plant identification, accessions, and taxonomy. There is an extensive collection of letters to and from our plant collectors in the field. In addition, it contains letters from individuals at peer organizations.

Visual Archives

Our collection over 65,000 images documents our living collections, changing landscape, and our plant collecting expeditions. Our digitization projects have enabled us to expand what we offer online, and preserve our collections for future generations. These projects have fed into HOLLIS Images, the online catalog of Harvard’s visual resources.