History of the Library

 In 1859, Louis Agassiz, a Swiss-American naturalist, founded the Museum of Comparative Zoology. Two years later, In 1861 he established the Library, later to be named in honor of Ernst Mayr, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology, Emeritus, and Director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology from 1961 until 1970. In the past, the Library was supported by private subscriptions and the help of Agassiz’s friends. Now, the Library is an integral part of the Harvard University Library system and one of  the science libraries in the Science and Engineering Division.

timeline of library history from 1861 to 2011Agassiz’s personal library and the purchase of the books of Laurent Guillaume de Koninck, a noted Belgian paleontologist, formed the core of the early collection. By the end of 1861, the Library held 6,000 volumes. Currently, the Library collection holds more than 300,000 volumes of monographs and journals alongside a collection of natural history art and the Museum of Comparative Zoology archives. Serial and monograph publications are received from all over the world through exchanges.

The continuing interest of friends and scholars in the maintenance of a specialized and convenient museum library has made it a strong and unique resource for learning.