Russell Sage Foundation and Dr. Harriet Zuckerman Support Processing of Robert K. Merton Archive


NEW YORK, November 8, 2007 Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library recently received two generous contributions to support the processing of the Robert K. Merton archive, a grant from the Russell Sage Foundation, and a gift from Dr. Harriet Zuckerman.

The papers of Robert K. Merton (1910–2003), one of the most distinguished sociologists of the 20th century and the founder of the sociology of science, span his intellectual development from his undergraduate days to his last writings on serendipity. The collection was donated to the Rare Book & Manuscript Library by Merton’s widow, the sociologist Harriet Zuckerman, who is currently Senior Vice President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Professor Emerita at Columbia. The papers represent a vast and well-organized body of resources for scholars in many fields, including sociology; social, intellectual and urban history; the histories of science, criminology, the professions, and medical education; communication and media studies; African-American studies and many other fields. The archive includes unpublished lecture notes, course syllabi, draft manuscripts, and extensive primary data and records from Merton’s long and varied career in the social sciences. The papers also feature Merton’s correspondence with other pivotal figures in twentieth-century sociology and public intellectual discourse, including Paul Lazarsfeld, C. Wright Mills, Daniel Bell, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Pitirim Sorokin, Pierre Bourdieu, Granville Hicks, Lionel and Diana Trilling, and Stephen Jay Gould, among others.

“Anyone interested in the growth of social science and scientific knowledge will find the archives of Robert K. Merton a unique, rich, gold mine,” said Jonathan R. Cole, John Mitchell Mason Professor and Provost Emeritus of the University. “Scholars for generations will be able to explore one of the richest collections of papers, manuscripts, correspondences, and materials related to Merton’s own work and his extraordinary influence on 20th century social thought – and social policy. I can't imagine finding a more important archival collection.”

The Merton archive contains empirical data from a number of significant but mostly unpublished research projects that Merton conducted in the 1940s and 50s as well as unpublished manuscripts on mass communications (Dwight Eisenhower’s presidential candidacy), the sociology of science, and on sociological semantics, his last area of research. The archive includes multi-year studies focused on two of the nation’s oldest public housing projects and on patterns of American social life in friendships, politics, labor relations, and among different races and ethnicities.

Merton’s papers include extensive correspondence with his Columbia colleague and collaborator of 35 years, Paul F. Lazarsfeld, with whom Merton worked at the Bureau of Applied Social Research on studies of mass communication. It was in this period that Merton developed the “focused interview” procedure—laying the groundwork for the “focus groups” now widely used in marketing research. The papers also include correspondence with Merton’s wife, Harriet Zuckerman, with whom he frequently collaborated. In coming to Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Merton’s papers join those of Lazarsfeld and the archive of the Bureau of Applied Social Research. Additional papers and correspondence will be added to the current collection.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other nonprint formats. The collections and services are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students, and researchers in their academic endeavors. The Libraries’ website at www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/ is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library owns over 500,000 rare books in some 20 book collections and almost 28 million manuscripts in nearly 3,000 separate manuscript collections. It is particularly strong in English and American literature and history, classical authors, children‘s literature, education, mathematics and astronomy, economics and banking, photography, the history of printing, New York City politics, librarianship, and the performing arts. Individual collections are as eclectic as they are extensive. For more information, please see: www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/indiv/rbml/index.html.

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11/08/07 LMK