Amnesty International USA Archive to be Housed at Columbia University’s Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research

NEW YORK, November 29, 2005 - Columbia University’s Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research (CHRDR) will soon become the depository institution for the Amnesty International USA Archive—a comprehensive collection of documents representing 40 years of the organization’s research, reporting, and activism in support of human rights around the world.

In selecting Columbia University and its Libraries to administer the AIUSA Archive, Amnesty International joins the largest U. S.–based rights monitor, Human Rights Watch, in recognizing the CHRDR as an international documentation center for the global human rights movement. The Center will feature the archives of these and other human rights organizations along with a professional archiving staff, a depositor advisory board, and a preliminary program of human rights lectures, exhibitions, conferences, and other activities. The CHRDR archives will complement Columbia’s existing human rights programs, many of which will draw on these new resources for teaching and research.

“Since its founding in England in 1961, Amnesty International has been at the forefront of international human rights advocacy,” said J. Paul Martin, Executive Director of Columbia’s Center for the Study of Human Rights. “The U. S. section (AIUSA) has played an important role in the overall evolution of the organization. Access to AIUSA’s archives will enable scholars to delve into many questions, most notably when and how international human rights advocacy works, and when and why it does not.”

The AIUSA Archive documents the founding of Amnesty International USA in New York in the early 1960s, and spans four decades of the organization’s human rights work through country and mission reports, case files, and oral histories, as well as photographs, videos, DVDs, posters, banners, T-shirts, and a vast collection of newspaper clippings. It includes administrative files, public relations documents, and organizing materials from AIUSA’s Washington D.C. lobby office, and from the organization’s regional offices. As an active archive, the AIUSA papers will continue to grow, reflecting the organization’s continued activity and expansion.

“AIUSA’s long search for a new home for our archives has been richly rewarded with enthusiasm and expertise at Columbia University,” said Ellen V. Moore, AIUSA’s staff liaison to the Archives Advisory Committee. “We welcome the University’s robust plans to support human rights research and scholarship, as well as growth and collaboration among human rights NGOs.”

The Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research archives will be administered by Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The AIUSA archives are currently being transferred from Norlin Library at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where they have been maintained since 1994, along with the papers of Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other NGOs as part of a comprehensive human rights collection known as the Human Rights Initiative. When the University of Colorado announced plans to discontinue the Initiative in 1999, Amnesty International, HRW, and other major affiliated groups began searching for a new institutional home for the collection, ultimately selecting Columbia for its academic focus on international human rights, as well as its Libraries’ strong programs in preservation, digital library development, and electronic publishing.

“The Columbia Libraries are excited to work with Amnesty International USA and to expand the array of resources made available to students and scholars,” said James Neal, Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian. “Columbia is one of the world’s leading centers for human rights research and educations, and it is appropriate to develop through its Libraries a strong human rights archive program.”

Amnesty International is an independent non-governmental organization that campaigns for internationally-recognized human rights. The organization undertakes research and political action on a worldwide basis directed against torture, political imprisonment, capital punishment, and discrimination, and in support of freedom of expression and conscience. AI was founded in London in 1961 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977. Its membership and support network includes over 1.8 million people in 150 countries.

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 is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.

The Rare Book and Manuscript Library owns over 600,000 rare books in some 20 book collections and almost 26 million manuscripts in nearly 2,600 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 additional information about the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, please call 212-854-5153.