Columbia University History

The collection of Columbia University history has its roots in the Columbiana Collection, a vast store of Columbia memorabilia including documents, records, artifacts, photographs, and books that was created in the late 19th century and endowed as a department in 1930. The University Archives, established in 1991, continues the work of the Columbiana Library and its curators by collecting, preserving, and providing access to records of enduring historical, legal, fiscal, and/or administrative value to Columbia University from the 18th century to the present. Areas of documentation include contributions to teaching and research, the development of schools, academic departments, institutes, and administrative units, the development of the physical plant, campus and student life, public service, and the University’s role in the history of the metropolitan, national, and international communities. Prominent University Archives collections include the Office of the President Central Files, the Office of the Provost Records, the Historical Photograph Collection, and the University Protest and Activism Collection.

a. Undergraduate

Columbia College (CC), School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), and General Studies (GS).

b. Graduate and Professional Schools

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), Graduate School of Journalism, School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), Columbia Business School, School of Social Work, School of the Arts, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), School of Professional Studies (SPS).

c. Institutes, Interdisciplinary Programs, etc.

Institutes and interdisciplinary programs located on the Morningside campus, with the exception of Law School institutes and programs, are supported.

d. Course Reserves

Not applicable.

e. Other

Administrative offices, particularly those from Central Administration such as the Office of the Secretary, General Counsel, the Office of the President, and Endowments, are also actively supported.

a. Print 

Published works directly relating to the institution or about significant Columbia personalities will be considered for the collection.

b. Digital Collections

Born digital and electronic records are collected from administrative offices, student groups, alumni, and faculty. Since 2010, the Libraries have been systematically collecting and preserving websites and domains when deemed appropriate. These are accessible via a University Archives-specific Archive-It account.  With the exception of periodic website harvesting, the Archives will not collect digital records that are still in active use.  

c. Media

Video and audio content in all formats is collected as long as it directly relates to the institution.

d. Languages Collected

All languages are collected, with an emphasis on English.

e. Chronological Focus

Mid-18th century to the present.

f. Geographical Focus

Primarily New York City, but any geographic location associated with Columbia University will be considered, especially materials generated in locations of global centers and other Columbia-related projects based around the United States.

g. Imprint Dates Collected

The main focus of University publication collecting is current and recent (+/-three years) imprints. When antiquarian acquisitions are offered via gift or purchase, no specific chronological ranges are established in advance; rare or unique materials from any period may be considered.  

University history is found in all of the distinctive and special collections which are part of Columbia University Libraries:

Rare Book & Manuscript Library

University Archives

Oral History Archives

Health Sciences Archives & Special Collections

Law School Archives & Special Collections

Barnard College Archives

Avery Drawings & Archives

C.V. Starr East Asian Library

Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary

Teachers College Libraries

a. Consortia and Collaborative Collecting with Other Institutions

Not applicable.

b. Location Decisions and Selection for ReCAP

Due to space limitations, many Columbia University manuscript collections are stored at the Libraries’ off-site storage facility (ReCAP) unless they are considered a "high-use" collection,  in which case they are kept on site, if possible. In general, all University-related photograph collections are kept on site, as are most artifacts. Duplicate University publications are often sent to ReCAP due to space constraints in our stacks.

c. Deaccessioning

As historical manuscripts are unhidden and assessed for processing, some collections of records may be considered for deaccessioning if it is determined by the University Archivist that these do not actually relate directly to Columbia University history and would be better served by another repository. Multiple copies of Columbia publications are kept, though excessive duplicates (more than three copies) may be considered for deaccessioning and disposal at the discretion of the University Archivist. 

d. Digitization and Preservation

In an effort to expand online access to University publications and documents, the University Archives undertakes selective digitization of unique materials and public domain publications from its extensive collections. Digitized materials include the Columbia Spectator, Columbia University Record, Columbia College Today, the King's College Matriculation Book, and the Book of Misdemeanors. The University Archives also uses its website as a clearinghouse for Columbia University publications and historical materials that have been digitized by other entities. 

Jocelyn K. Wilk

Jocelyn K. Wilk

University Archivist

  • Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Rare Book & Manuscript Library - 6th Floor East Butler Library


Acting Special Collections & Public Services Librarian

Arthur W. Diamond Law Library



Associate Director and American Studies Librarian

Barnard College Archives



Head, Archives & Special Collections

Health Sciences Library



Senior Librarian

Gottesman Libraries, Teachers College