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A Quick Look at Harvard’s Houghton Library Board Games Collection Spanning Nearly 400 Years

Hardvard’s Houghton Library reportedly has a location identified as “Z closet” (or Z-closet) for items that spatially don’t fit in other locations or thematically are on their own. This happens to be where a number of the library’s board games – one dating back to 1678 – are stored, some shown in this post for the Harvard Gazette.

Technology has come a long way since the first gamers invented dice thousands of years ago. But for some, the convenience of cellphone apps and the immersive thrill of VR are still no substitute for a sociable competition around the table.

The enduring charm of tabletop games can be explored in a historical collection stored in a closet at Houghton Library. Most offer a window into cultural themes and attitudes peculiar to their era, but a few of the games are surprisingly timeless in tone and design. Take the sardonic humor of an 1863 role-playing card game called The Draft Enforced that parodies drill sergeants, or the minimalist design of a 19th-century paper chessboard sized for travel.

Librarian James Capobianco recently displayed highlights of the collection for the Gazette, and we’ve included call numbers for those who’d like to see the games for themselves. Houghton has even scanned a few of the boards so they can be used. Game night, anyone?

Read more.

See more games here.


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