Online Exhibitions

Exhibitions are listed in the order of the original launch date.

2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002| 2001 | 1995



Nathaniel Fish Moore Photographs
Nathaniel Fish Moore was a student at Columbia (AB 1802, MA 1805), a professor of Greek and Latin (1817-1835), an honorary degree recipient (LLD 1825), the first College Librarian (1837-1839) and the eighth Columbia President (1842-1849). In his retirement, Moore became an early amateur photographer. This exhibition focuses on his life outside of Columbia as he devoted his time to the nascent art of photography, in particular the salt print paper-based photographic process.  As an early amateur photographer, Moore prepared his own chemicals and papers. He captured views of New York City and the Highlands of the Hudson area, his family and even a few self-portraits. Because salt prints are fragile and unstable, they have been digitized for long-term preservation.Nathaniel Fish Moore was a student at Columbia (AB 1802, MA 1805), a professor of Greek and Latin (1817-1835), an honorary degree recipient (LLD 1825), the first College Librarian (1837-1839) and the eighth Columbia President (1842-1849). In his retirement, Moore became an early amateur photographer. This exhibition focuses on his life outside of Columbia as he devoted his time to the nascent art of photography, in particular the salt print paper-based photographic process.  As an early amateur photographer, Moore prepared his own chemicals and papers. He captured views of New York City and the Highlands of the Hudson area, his family and even a few self-portraits. Because salt prints are fragile and unstable, they have been digitized for long-term preservation.


Cottage residences, or, A series of designs for rural cottages and cottage-villas, and their gardens and grounds: adapted to North America. Design V. Figure 36. A cottage villa, in the bracketed mode. Figure 37. Principal floor.

A.J. Downing & His Legacy
Alexander Jackson Downing is known as the “father” of the American architectural pattern book. Through British publications, Downing saw both how books could transmit design ideas in words and pictures, and how modest houses with Romantic Revival design gestures could form the basis for an improved American housing for its middle classes, particularly in rural and small town settings. To further that end, he published three important works: A treatise on the theory and practice of landscape gardening (first issued in 1841); Cottage residences (first published 1842); and The architecture of country houses (first issued in 1852). This exhibition, originally mounted in Avery Library’s Classics Reading Room to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth, showcases several editions of Downing’s publications and those of his many successors. It offers a glimpse into the world of mid-19th century architectural publishing in the United States and reveals how Downing’s distillation of design ideas came to influence American housing for half a century.


Union Theological Seminary Library, 1909 (detail of photograph)

Construction and Evolution of Union Theological Seminary Campus
This exhibit features images from a small collection of photographs documenting the construction of Union Theological Seminary located in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of New York City. The third location for the Seminary, the buildings were constructed from 1908-1910. The collection is housed at the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

Seller, John. Mapp of Regions and Countreyes Under and About the North Pole (detail)

Early Modern Futures
This exhibition accompanies the Early Modern Futures conference held on April 24, 2015 as well as a physical exhibition in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Early Modern Futures seeks to spark a conversation about the many ways in which early modern literature practices prospective historical thinking. It asks how beliefs about future events (from the eschatological to the economic to the genealogical) shaped peoples actions in the present; how early modernity analogized historical and prospective thinking; and how various textual and literary forms--whether records, scripts, manuals, genres, or editions--sought to represent the future and even anticipate their own reception.

Church of South India is Born. Scene 40: shrine (detail)

A Church is Born: Church of South India Inauguration
The unification of the Church of South India in September 1947, depicted here through a filmstrip and commentary, is considered one of the most important in the Church Union movement. For the first time after centuries of division, churches with various ministries were brought together in a collective Episcopal Church. The reconciliation it reached between Anglicans and other denominations on the doctrine of apostolic succession is often cited as a landmark in the ecumenical movement. This exhibit depicts not only the road to unification in South India, but also the efforts that the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary took to trace the history and ownership of the collection, while preserving and making the film available to researchers.

An illustration, The Runaway, from the Anti-Slavery Record Vol. 3, July 1837

Sydney Howard Gay's "Record of Fugitives"
In 1855 and 1856, Sydney Howard Gay, a key operative in the underground railroad in New York City, decided for unknown reasons to meticulously record the arrival of fugitive slaves at his office.  The resulting two volumes are a treasure trove of information about how and why slaves escaped, who assisted them, and where they were sent from New York. This website explores this important artifact in detail, displaying the journals in their entirety, and offering additional annotations and analytical commentary by Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University.


Starr in Wuxi at Temple. Photograph, 1922

Cornelius Vander Starr, His Life and Work
The photographs in this exhibition are in the possession of The Starr Foundation, and show in a nutshell, the career of Cornelius Vander Starr (1892-1968) who was a prototype of the classic American success story.  Starting from humble beginnings he rose to the top in American business, founding what would become the AIG insurance conglomerate.  What made C.V. Starr stand out in his day was that, starting in Shanghai, China, and subsequently around the world, wherever he founded branches of his various companies, he used local talent to run those companies rather than relying on American managers.  Starr’s commitment to scholarship and a better understanding of Asia eventually led to the establishment of The Starr Foundation which, to this day is supporting those same interests.


Geo. F. Wiemann Co., envelope. 1913

John H. Yardley Collection of Architectural Letterheads
This collection provides a unique view of New York City's evolution during the 19th and 20th centuries. Selected for their illustrations of buildings in lower Manhattan, these pieces of stationery include rare images of the city's commercial architecture, much of which is no longer extant.

Isaac H. Blanchard Co. Glimpses of the New Coney Island. c. 1904

Avery’s Architectural Ephemera Collections
Avery Classics is home to one of the largest special collections of rare architectural materials in the world. In addition to books, manuscripts, and photographs, the department includes a significant collection of ephemera. This exhibit describes some of the brochures, pamphlets, advertising materials, postcards, and other forms of architectural ephemera within Avery Classics.

Barney Rosset (photographer). Smiling Woman

Barney Rosset and China
The photographs in this exhibit were taken during 1944 and 1945 by Grove Press founder, Barney Rosset, and other colleagues, when he was a photographer in the US Army Signal Corps stationed in China. The photos document U.S. cooperation with Chinese soldiers, the surrender, and Japanese retreat, as well as devastation caused by the fighting. The exhibition also demonstrates Rosset's interest in China preceding this post and afterward in his career as a publisher. The materials come from the Barney Rosset Papers held by the Rare Book and Manuscript Library.


Leon Bakst. Vaslav Nijinsky as Faun in L'Apres-Midi d'un Faune, 1916

Sergei Diaghilev and Beyond: Les Ballets Russes
The diversity and splendor of Sergei Diaghilev's world of Russian ballet and opera seasons in Paris was on display at the Chang Octagon Exhibition Room, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, March 16 through June 26, 2009. The exhibition features selections from the Bakhmeteff Archive and Rare Book and Manuscript Library collections.

Photograph of Ulysses Kay at Bellagio (detail)

Ulysses Kay: Twentieth Century Composer
Ulysses Kay (1917-1995) wrote more than one hundred forty compositions in a wide range of forms – five operas, over two dozen large orchestral works, more than fifty voice or choral compositions, over twenty chamber works, a ballet, and numerous other compositions for voice, solo instruments or dancer, film, and television.

Quran, Burke Library, detail of manuscript

Quran in East and West: Manuscripts and Printed Books
The online adaptation of a 2005 exhibition showcases a wide range of holdings concerning Islam in the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary. The exhibition highlights Burke's collection of Qurans, while exploring Christian perceptions of Islam and the Quran between 1500 and 1900.


Tefilot u-piyuṭim: le-ben Pesaḥ le-ʻAtseret aḥar ha-pereḳ. 5v (detail)

People in the Books: Hebraica and Judaica Manuscripts from Columbia University Libraries
Columbia's collection of Judaica and Hebraica is the third largest in the country, and the largest of any non-religious institution. This is an online version of an exhibition held at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library from Sept. 12, 2012 through Jan. 25, 2013. The exhibit features highlights from the collection, spanning the 10th to the 20th centuries, and crossing the globe from India to the Caribbean. The exhibit focuses on the many stories inherent in each of the manuscripts.

Second Suite for Orchestra, Op. 48, the Indian Suite by Edward MacDowell (detail)

Music at Columbia: the First 100 Years
The online version of the 1996 Centennial Exhibition of Columbia’s Department of Music, mounted in Low Library as part of the Department’s celebrations, with material drawn from the University Archives, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Music Library, and Office of Art Properties.

Saint Augustine, Florida. View of novelty from side

Avery's Architectural Novelties
This exhibition highlights a selection of architectural novelties from the Avery Classics collection, displaying items that are both comprehensive and eccentric in their treatment of architecture.

Original title page with a much later frontispiece, Workes of Geffray Chaucer newlye printed, 1542

Reading of Books and the Reading of Literature
This online exhibition is meant to accompany a day-long symposium at Columbia University on April 27, 2012. The exhibition, along with the conference, focuses on the relation between literature and the media in which it is conveyed.

"American Editors II - Joseph Pulitzer," Harper's Weekly, Dec. 28, 1901

Joseph Pulitzer and The World
An exhibition of the papers of Joseph Pulitzer and of his newspaper, The World, held by the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The exhibition contains a variety of materials that show the working life of this truly remarkable individual. Included are letters, documents, ledgers, newspapers, photographs, and realia concerning his life, as well as material documenting Pulitzer’s role in the founding of Columbia’s School of Journalism and the creation of the Pulitzer Prizes.


Platt, Charles A., photographer. Villa Lante, Fountain of the Moors and garden. Bagnaia, Italy

Charles A. Platt's Italian Garden Photographs
In 1892, Charles A. Platt traveled to Italy with his brother, William, to view Italian Renaissance villas and gardens. Many of the photographs he took were used to illustrate his Italian Gardens (Harper & Brothers, 1894).  The images in this exhibition are from the glass plate negatives held in the Charles A. Platt Collection, Drawings & Archives Collection, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library.

Churchill, A.E. (photographer). Detail of "Pushcart" 1905

Photographs from the Community Service Society Records, 1900-1920
An exhibit of photographs (by Jessie Tarbox Beals, Lewis Hine, and others) and publications used in the “scientific charity” movement by the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, founded in 1843, and the New York Charity Organization Society, founded in 1882, which are today merged and known as the Community Service Society (CSS). Their innovative methods were later incorporated into the practices of social work, government welfare programs, and philanthropic organizations.

Portrait of Aristotle

Core Curriculum: Contemporary Civilization
This online exhibition and its companion, “Literature Humanities,” celebrate the Core as the cornerstone of a Columbia education. Highlights include Galileo’s Starry Messenger (1610); John Jay’s manuscript of Number 5 of The Federalist Papers (1788); and Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792).

Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321. Lo inferno di Dante Alighieri Fiorentino. London : Nella stamperia di Ashendene, 1902, p. 234 (detail)

Core Curriculum: Literature Humanities
A companion to “Core Curriculum: Contemporary Civilization,” highlights of this exhibition include a papyrus fragment of Homer’s Iliad dating from the 1st century BCE; a copy of Homer’s Works (1517) owned by Martin Luther; Shakespeare’s first folio Works (1623); and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (1926).

Alexander Gumby in 1950, from Gumby's Autobiography in Scrapbooks, Number 5, p. [54]

Unwritten History: Alexander Gumby's African America
This exhibit explores the efforts of Alexander Gumby to create a documentary history of African-American achievement in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. An influential figure during the Harlem Renaissance, Gumby compiled a scrapbook collection of approximately 300 volumes in support of his project, filled with news clippings, photographs, pamphlets, handbills, original artwork, manuscripts, and ephemera, pages from which are on display here.

Students on Low Library ledge, April 1968 (detail)

1968: Columbia in Crisis
The occupation of five buildings in April 1968 marked a sea change in the relationships among Columbia University administration, its faculty, its student body, and its neighbors. Featuring original documents, photographs, and audio from the University Archives, this online exhibition examines the causes, actions, and aftermath of a protest that captivated the campus, the nation, and the world.


Program cover for Varsity Show, "Zuleika" (1928)

Varsity Show: A Columbia Tradition
Initially conceived as a fundraiser for the University's athletics teams, The Varsity Show has grown into Columbia University's oldest performing arts tradition. This online exhibition, highlighting the history and some of the more notable elements of this tradition, is an expansion of a physical exhibit created by the University Archives in 2004 to mark the 110th anniversary of The Varsity Show.

Cherubim, detail from Nova demonstratio immobilitatis terrae petita ex virtvte magnetica, 1645

Political Ecologies in the Renaissance
This exhibition brings together eleven scientific texts from Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library. It features canonical and non-canonical science books and covers seven topics: mining, magnetism, navigation, astronomy, the art of war, hydraulics and hydrostatics, and astrology.

City Hall Park from the N.W. Corner of Broadway and Chambers St. about 1825, drawn by A.J. Stansbury (detail)

Iconography of Manhattan Island: Illustrations from the Publication
Images from Columbia University Libraries 2008 electronic publication of:
Stokes, I. N. Phelps. The iconography of Manhattan Island, 1498-1909. Vols. 1-6. New York : Robert H. Dodd, 1915-1928

Burmese marionette of male with white face and red robe (detail)

Dramatic Museum Realia
A website with images and descriptions of over 500 puppets, masks, historical theater models and stage designs.  Gathered for documentary and pedagogical purposes, the objects range in date from the 18th well into the 20th centuries, and are from countries all around the globe.

Sophie Tucker, lithograph by Alfred Freuh (detail)

Melting Pot: Russian Jewish New York
An online exhibition of materials from the Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian and East European History and Culture exhibition held at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library from April 4, 2006 to July 30, 2006. It features photographs, personal documents, posters, original artworks, and books on the New York Russian Jewish immigrant community.

Eye bumper sticker

Choosing Sides: Right-Wing Icons in the Group Research Records
Group Research was an independent organization that documented and publicized the activities of "extremist" political groups in the United States from the early 1960s to the mid-1990s. This exhibit draws from Group Research's archive to showcase the role that visual media played in creating the modern American conservative movement during those years. Included are more than fifty images from items like newsletters, posters, record covers, and bumper stickers that represented such notable right-wing groups as the John Birch Society, the Christian Crusade, and the Citizens' Councils of America.

Modern Love (Dec. 1949-Jan.1950), Issue No. 4

Comics in the Curriculum
This exhibition highlights Butler Library's growing collection of comics and graphic novels. The medium of comics encompasses every genre and offers a wide variety of artistic and literary styles. Through seven different themes, the exhibition contrasts traditional art with comic art, and suggests possibilities for use in research and teaching.

Seal of the Chamber of Commerce of New York

Chamber of Commerce of New York
This exhibit provides a rich visual guide to the New York Chamber of Commerce and Industry Records collection in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Organized thematically, it showcases the varied business that occupied the New York Chamber of Commerce over its more than two hundred years of operation.

William S. Burroughs. Self portrait, 1959

Naked Lunch: The First Fifty Years
The exhibition celebrates the 50th anniversary of William S. Burroughs's novel Naked Lunch and provides an overview of Columbia University's extensive holdings of rare books and original manuscripts related to the novel's creation, composition, and editing, as well as other unique Burroughs material. The exhibition includes the original manuscripts of Burroughs's first two novels, Junkie (1953) and Naked Lunch (1959), and correspondence to and from Burroughs, and his close friends and collaborators Lucien Carr, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac, as well as photographs, and Burroughs's own Dream Machine.

The Korean Independence Movement, 1919. Page [4]: Thousands of enthusiastic Koreans

Korean Independence Outbreak Movement
Commonly referred to as the Samil Movement (literally "three one") for its historical date on March 1, 1919, the Korean Independence Movement was one of the earliest and most significant displays of nonviolent demonstration against Japanese rule in Korea.

Recommendations for Bible Study: Sample Bible Study (detail)

Wilbert Webster White Papers
Dr. Wilbert Webster White was the founder in 1900 and President, 1900-1939, of Bible Teachers’ College, now New York Theological Seminary. He was renowned for his development of an inductive system of Bible Study, emphasizing knowledge of the Bible rather than knowledge about the Bible. His Papers contain an Address by him on the Biblio-centric Curriculum. Dr. White's papers, along with the records of Biblical Seminary and New York Theological Seminary, now form part of The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) and present a remarkable resource for researchers.

Frances Perkins, detail of photograph with delegates to the International Labor Organization

Frances Perkins: The Woman Behind the New Deal
Frances Perkins (1880-1965) is no longer a household name, yet she was one of the most influential women of the twentieth century. Government official for New York State and the federal government, including Industrial Commissioner of the State of New York from 1929-1932, Perkins was named Secretary of Labor by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933. As FDR’s friend and ally, Perkins would help the president fight the economic ravages caused by the Great Depression and make great strides toward improving workplace conditions.


View of Butler Library as seen from Low Plaza (detail)

Butler 75: Butler Library's 75th Anniversary, 1934-2009
In celebration of Butler Library's 75th anniversary, we are pleased to present Butler 75, an online exhibition of Butler Library, 1934 – 2009. The exhibition highlights images from the University Archives highlighting the construction, art and architecture of Butler Library, and the people who've used and enjoyed the library over the years. Special features include a timeline of events and a "Tell Us Your Story" area of alumni memories.


Caste, Ambedkar, and Contemporary India
This exhibit complements the conference, "Caste and Contemporary India," that took place on October 16th and 17th, 2009, at Columbia University in honor of alumnus Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. The exhibit features a sampling of resources on issues of caste with reference to gender, politics, constitutional history, and religion in contemporary India.

Directions for Writing. Set Forth for the Benefit of Poore Schollers (detail)

Our Tools of Learning: George Arthur Plimpton's Gifts to Columbia University
Drawn exclusively from the Plimpton Collection, this exhibition includes manuscripts and books from medieval times through the early 20th century, including many of the manuscripts and books that were used to illustrate George Arthur Plimpton's The Education of Shakespeare and The Education of Chaucer, and David Eugene Smith's Rara Arithmetica. Additional sections of the exhibition deal with handwriting and education for women, two of Plimpton's particular interests.


Antiphonal. Manuscript on parchment. Perugia, Italy, 1473

Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures from the Special Collections of Columbia's Libraries
An online version of the exhibition held in Rare Book and Manuscript Galleries from October 8, 2004 - January 28, 2005, the site brings together for the first time objects selected from all eleven special collections within Columbia University Libraries and affiliates. Mounted in conjunction with the 250th anniversary of Columbia, this exhibition celebrates both the rich collections of books, drawings, manuscripts and other research materials gathered since King's College had its start near Trinity Church in lower Manhattan in 1754 and also the generosity of the donors whose gifts have made possible the work of students and scholars for many generations.


Ramon Hernandez Amigo. Evacuation drawing, ca. 1936-1939

Children's Drawings of the Spanish Civil War
A virtual exhibition of drawings done by children evacuated to 'colonies' (camps) in war-free areas of Spain and in the south of France from war zones during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).   In addition to providing a poignant testimony to how children see and understand war, this exhibition reaches out to those who may have been evacuees and provides a way to contact others with memories of that era. The originals of the images displayed here are housed in the Avery Fine Arts and Architectural Library.


Imperial Corps of Pages Building, St. Petersburg. Lithograph, ca. 1858

Russian Imperial Corps of Pages: an Online Exhibition Catalog
An online exhibition catalog containing selections from the Columbia University Libraries exhibition, "The Russian Imperial Corps of Pages," on view in Butler Library from December 1, 2002 to February 28, 2003, timed to coincide with celebrations of the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg.  Objects were drawn from the Imperial Corps of Pages collection held by Columbia's Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian and East European History and Culture, one of the world's most extensive repositories of Russian materials outside Russia.


Waterman, Catharine H. Flora's Lexicon. Boston: Phillips, Sampson & Company, 1856 (detail of front cover)

Judging a Book by its Cover: Gold Stamped Publishers' Bindings of the 19th Century
Since the invention of printing by movable type in the fifteenth century, books had been issued in folded-and-gathered printed sheets which the buyer then had bound to order. In the early nineteenth century, the development of case binding, a technique conducive to mass production, at last made possible the manufacture of books with uniform edition bindings. The advent of gold-stamped decoration, circa 1832, was the most important factor in the acceptance of publishers' bindings.


Shakespeare and the Book
An online version of the exhibition held in the Kempner Gallery of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library from December 6, 2001 through March 11, 2002, inspired by the publication of David Scott Kastan's Shakespeare & The Book (Cambridge University Press, September, 2001). It includes images of Columbia's copy of Shakespeare first folio (1623) as well as Columbia's copies of the other three 17th century Shakespeare folios.


Luca Pacioli. Divina Proportione. Venice: A. Paganius Paganinus, 1509 (detail)

Type to Print: the Book & the Type Specimen Book
An online companion to an exhibit celebrating the 60th anniversary of the American Type Founders collection at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University.



Stonewall and Beyond: Lesbian and Gay Culture
The online edition of a Columbia University Libraries general exhibition on gay and lesbian history and culture, held from May 25 to September 17, 1994 in conjunction with the international celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the "Stonewall Riots" in New York City.

For information about current exhibitions on display at Columbia Libraries, see Exhibitions & Events.