How to Use the Archives

How to Use the Archives

To locate interviews in the collections of the Columbia Center for Oral History (CCOH), please consult listings either through the CCOH Interviews Portal, our online collection search tool, or the manual card catalog at the Center. Interviews in the Collection are catalogued in two divisions: biographical (i.e., individual), and those which are part of a larger project. If you are coming from a great distance, please call or email CCOH in advance to confirm that the interview you wish to see is available.

Preparing to Visit

If you wish to view the collections in person, you are encouraged to register for a Special Collections Research Account before your visit. Through the account you will be able to research interviews and create requests. Upon arrival you will be asked to provide government issued photo identification, or Columbia ID, along with a current address, telephone number, and other contact information. 

If you do not have a Columbia identification card, for library access first visit the Library Information Office (LIO), located immediately to the left of the security desk inside the front door of Butler Library. Present a government issued photo ID, tell LIO staff that you are coming to use the Columbia Center for Oral History collections, and give them an estimate of the number of days you plan to use the library. LIO will then issue you a temporary pass that provides access to CCOH.

CCOH is located in Butler Library, Room 801. To reach the office turn left after passing the security desk in the library lobby and follow the hallway. After the hallway curves to the right you will find a set of elevators which will take you to the 6th Floor. Immediately after exiting the elevators, turn to your right and take the stairway up to the 8th Floor. Our office is located on the hallway to your right.

For those with mobility needs, please take the elevators to the 3rd Floor. Exit and approach the Circulation Desk. Take the stacks elevators located behind the Circulation Desk to Stack 14. Exit the elevators and follow the hallway out of the stacks. Our office will be in the main hallway to your left.

Determining Permission Status

Once you have located a desired interview, you must determine its permission status. As indicated in our search portal and CLIO, interviews marked "Permission Required to Cite or Quote" (PRCQ) or Open, are available for reading and citation/quotation. Interviews marked "Permission Required to See" (PRTS or PR) require written permission from the interviewee or other designated person. Interviews may also be Closed.

If an interview is marked anything but PRCQ or Open, ask Center staff to check the current status of the interview. Interviews marked "Micro" have been micropublished and may be ordered. Tell a staff member if you would like to place a microfiche order. When you have located interviews you wish to see, you will be asked to fill out a registration form and a call slip for each interview.


All interviews with copyright held by CCOH may be photocopied for you by CCOH staff at a cost of $.10 per page for double-sided copies and $.20 per page for single-sided copies. Orders may be picked up in person or mailed to you. There is an additional $1.50 postage and handling fee for every fifty pages mailed. Most interviews that are marked PRCQ or Open are copyrighted to this Office, and we hold copyrights to all the microfiched interviews. Interviews catalogued as PRTS, and some marked PRCQ, require explicit written permission to photocopy over and above permission to read. Staff will assist you in locating the proper person to write to for this permission.

If you are visiting the archive, please submit your photocopy request  and payment directly to CCOH. Photocopy orders may also be placed over the telephone or via e-mail. All orders must be prepaid by check or cash. Orders over $20 may also be paid for via Visa or Mastercard. 

Permission to Cite or Quote

If you plan to use an interview in a published work or commercial production, you must secure our permission to cite or quote. In most cases your publisher will ask you to secure such permissions. In order to do so, please submit to us the pages of the manuscript in which the interview is quoted as well as the three preceding and following pages. We will check the citation and issue a letter of permission. This procedure takes at least four weeks.

The suggested form of citation is: Reminiscences of _______________ (date of the interview), on pages ________ in the Columbia Center for Oral History Collection (hereafter CCOHC).

For commercial productions, please write us describing your project and the words you wish to use. Any use beyond standards of "fair use" may require a fee. For more information, please review our Instructions for Requesting Permissions

Access to Audio

In addition to transcripts, we have audio on file for roughly three-fourths of the Collection. If you are interested in listening to audio for a specific interview, please let us know in advance. Portions of audio from the Collection has been digitized and may be accessed. However if the audio for the interview is in an outmoded or fragile format (i.e. cassette, 7" reel), it will first have to be converted to a digital format by an audio specialist who will bill you directly.

In cases where the tape and the transcript differ, the tape is provided for background use only. All citations must come from the transcript. Commercial use of tapes is governed by additional restrictions. Please ask the advice of CCOH staff if you have questions concerning these procedures.

Media Use Policy

Media will be made available for listening/viewing subject to restrictions imposed by the interviewee or sponsoring institution. If an interview (the work) is closed or requires permission to consult, the complete work (transcripts and media) is subject to that restriction.

When an interview is open or opened (when a restriction lapses) and the interviewee or sponsoring institution has retained literary rights, including copyright, media will be made available for listening only with the permission of the copyright holder subject to any restrictions the copyright holder may impose.

When an interview is open and the literary rights, including copyright, held by Columbia University, media will be made available for listening with the following restrictions:

  • In cases where interviewee editing of the transcript has been minimal (style editing, for instance) media will be made available for listening in order to clear up any ambiguities of meaning in the written text or for background purposes. All citation and quotation must, however, be made from the transcript, the document of record.
  • In cases where interviewee editing has been substantial and substantive, media will be made available for listening only with permission of the interviewee.
  • Upon death of the interviewee, media will be made available for listening at the discretion of the Director of the Columbia Center for Oral History. All citation or quotation is limited to the transcript.
  • Upon the death of the interviewee, reproduction will be done only with the permission of the copyright holder (the sponsoring institution, the Columbia Center for Oral History, or in some cases heirs or assigns of the interviewee) subject to any restrictions imposed by the copyright holder.