The Rosenbach Podcast: Episode 6

A Mother’s Grief, a University’s Library: How Eleanor Elkins Widener’s Loss on the Titanic Changed the Rare Book World. A Conversation with Leslie A. Morris, Susan D. Block, and Sue E. Morris of Harvard University

Leslie A. Morris, Gore Vidal Curator of Modern Books & Manuscripts, Houghton Library, Harvard University.

The loss of Harry Elkins Widener onboard the R.M.S. Titanic inspired his mother, Eleanor Elkins Widener, who survived the maritime disaster, to build a great library at Harvard University in her son’s honor.  She collaborated closely on the project with Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach—an endeavor that helped launch Dr. Rosenbach’s career.  In this episode of The Rosenbach Podcast, we will journey to Harvard University to learn more about the Widener Memorial Library, its collections, and the process by which it came to exist by speaking to a Harvard curator who works closely with books Harry Elkins Widener once owned.  We will also speak with Harvard University experts in grief to gain insights about what inspired Eleanor Elkins Widener to create a library in her son’s memory—and what her journey from anguish to triumph can teach us about healing from grief in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Learn more about Widener Library and Houghton Library (Harvard’s special collections library where Leslie Morris is curator) here and here.

Widener Room, Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library, William Mercer, photographer.


Widener Memorial Library. Kris Snibbe / Harvard Staff Photographer.