Columbia University Libraries Receives CLIR Hidden Collections Grant for Human Rights Archives

As part of the “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives Program,” CLIR administers this national effort with the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  The $242,500 grant will fund the processing of three collections over a twenty-eight month period: the archives of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Southern Africa Project, the Physicians for Human Rights, and Human Rights First.

These archives are held in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library and were acquired through the human rights collecting initiative of the Libraries’ Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research (CHRDR).

“This funding will greatly enhance our capacity to make these important collections more visible to researchers and to promote the use of these archival sources for the study, research, and teaching of recent history and contemporary affairs,” said Pamela Graham, Director of the CHRDR.  “These archives each tell an important story in the overall narrative of human rights advocacy.”

The unprocessed human rights collections offer a rich and detailed record of the emergence, structure, functioning, and efficacy of U.S.-based human rights organizations.  Comprising almost 2,000 linear feet of material, the three archival collections cover the 1980s through the early 2000s and offer a window into the day-to-day operations, meetings, research, and networking carried out by human rights advocates working on a range of issues throughout the world. These collections are part of a broader set of holdings at the CHRDR of other major human rights organizational archives such as Amnesty International USA and Human Rights Watch. 

"The development and maturation of human rights activities over the past half-century or so now calls for careful historical documentation and discovery as scholars try to understand both the origins and history of this important advocacy movement and also the experiences, approaches, and techniques of advocacy groups,” said Anne Marie Clark, Associate Professor of Political Science at Purdue University and author of Diplomacy of Conscience: Amnesty International and Changing Human Rights Norms. “Now is a very ripe time both for collecting these materials and making them available to scholars.

The Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research supports the community of teachers, students, researchers, and law and social justice advocates working in the multidisciplinary sphere of human rights.  The Center, established in 2005, is part of Columbia University Libraries/Information Services.  The CHRDR pursues three programmatic directions:  building archival and general research collections, promoting their use in human rights education  and research, and developing events and collaborations related to human rights documentation and research.   The CHRDR website is the central access point for its activities, archives, and research resources:

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 11 million volumes, over 150,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers. The Libraries employs more than 500 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: