Film and Media Studies


1. History and Overview of the Collection

The Columbia University Libraries supports research in the theoretical, historical, critical and  interpretative aspects of film and media from pre-cinema through the present. The libraries also support research in the methods and application of filmmaking including aspects of producing, directing, acting, and, screenwriting. Collections are supported in a variety of formats: print, digital, and non-print media. 

The libraries have been collecting materials in support of film and media research since the early to mid-20th century. Collection responsibility initially resided with the bibliographer for literature. In 1999, this responsibility transferred with the newly created position of Librarian for Film Studies and Performing Arts. Interest in film and media studies has grown significantly in the undergraduate and graduate level programs with a strong concentration in the Film and Media Studies program supported by the School of the Arts as well as a wide interdisciplinary application in the humanities, language instruction, social sciences, and geographically based studies.  The collections have grown dynamically in response to the expanded interest. Digital collections range from commercial databases for indexing, primary source works, and streaming video. Several projects created at Columbia University have received widespread recognition including the Columbia Film Language Glossary and the Women Film Pioneers Project. 

Selected materials in all of these categories can be found in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. 

Relevant materials in scenic and costume design, theatre architecture, photography, cinematography may be found in the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library; materials related to the film industry may be found in the Business Library; materials related to film soundtrack may be found in the Gabe M. Wiener Music and Arts Library. 

This document outlines the Libraries’ general policy on collections for Film and Television Studies but it is not intended to serve as inflexible guidance; collection suggestions from students, faculty, and researchers are welcome. 

2. Academic Departments and Programs Supported

a. Undergraduate 

Columbia College and School of General Studies offer an undergraduate major in Film and Media Studies. The program is focused on film as an art form, is international in scope, and scholarly in its approach to the study of film and media. The degree is administered through the Film and Media Studies Division in the School of the Arts. Barnard College offers an undergraduate major in Film Studies. 

b. Graduate 

In 1915, Columbia University was the first university in the country to offer a course in film through the adult education extension program. In 1965, the Trustees of Columbia University established the School of the Arts which early on in its development offered programs in Film, Radio, and Television as well as undergraduate courses in film. The MFA in Film was introduced in 1966. The degree treats filmmaking not only as a creative process but as a technology and business offering several areas of concentration: Screenwriting/Directing and Creative Producing. The MA in Film and Media Studies was established in 2010. This program considers the evolution of cinema as an art form. The degree concentrates on theoretical and historiographic approaches to the study of film and media. Study at the PhD level is supported through interdisciplinary research within other graduate programs. 

c. Interdisciplinary Programs 

Film studies and related courses are offered through the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures (EALAC), Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS), Department of French, Department of Italian, Department of German, Department of English and Comparative Literature, History, and Department of Anthropology. 

d. Course Reserves 

Selection for course reserves is up to individual faculty members. The Librarian will do whatever is possible to secure specific materials absent from the collection. 

3. Selection Guidelines

a. Print

Print materials are collected by the Librarian for Butler Media, Film Studies, and Performing Arts in English, German, Italian, and French languages. The East Asian Library collects in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.  Other languages include those works collected by librarians in Global Studies. 

b. Digital Collections 

The Columbia University Libraries offers an extensive variety of electronic resources. In the subject areas of Film and Media, holdings primarily include commercially available databases. Two major indexing databases include Film and Television Literature Index (EBSCO) and Screen Studies (ProQuest). The library offers extensive holdings of streaming film titles through a variety of databases including Silent Film Online, Independent World Cinema, World Cinema Collection, Docuseek2, and others.  The library supports the open access resource Media History Digital Library.  The Columbia Film Language Glossary was first developed in 2005 by the Center for Teaching and Learning in coordination with Columbia University Libraries and faculty in the Film Division. The resource is designed to provide illustrative definitions of film terms used in basic and advanced film courses. The resource is used for consultation and instruction both at Columbia and globally and was updated in 2015. 

The Women Film Pioneers Project was developed by the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship in 2013 as an open access resource that provides biographical and bibliographic information on hundreds of women who worked behind the scenes in the silent film industry. 

Columbia University Libraries has committed to an extensive project to digitize time-based media elements held in the distinctive collections including a wide range of audio and visual formats. 

c. Media

See separate Collection Development Policy for Butler Media Research Collection.

d. Languages Collected 

Print materials are collected by the Librarian for Butler Media, Film Studies, and Performing Arts in English, German, Italian, and French languages. The East Asian Library collects in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.  Other languages include those works collected by librarians in Global Studies. 

e. Chronological Focus 

The chronological focus for film and media collecting includes pre-cinema to contemporary cinema. 

f. Geographical Focus

The geographical focus is American and international. 

g. Imprint Dates Collected 

The main focus of collecting is current and recent (+/-3 years) imprints. Rare or unique materials from any period may be considered. 

4. Distinctive and Special Collections

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library holds several relevant collections for Film and Media Studies.  The collections that focus on documentary filmmaking include Robert Flaherty, David Flaherty, Albert and David Maysles, Pare Lorentz; early film design, Joseph Urban; on screenwriting, William Goldman and Tennessee Williams; on film exhibition, Amos Vogel and Dan Talbot; on production and promotion, Richard Brick; film criticism and review, Judith Crist, and Andrew Sarris. The Oral History Collection includes the Popular Arts Project and the Hollywood Film Industry Project. Oral history interviews include a wide variety of individuals such as Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, Fritz Lang, Jack Lemmon, Jean Renoir, King Vidor and John Wayne. 

The  East Asian Library holds the Mamoru Makino Collection. 

Distinctive and Special Collections at Columbia University have long collected non-print formats. More frequently, manuscript collections received with non-print formats. 

A significant collection of film prints reside at ReCAP’s film vault. 

See also the Rare Book & Manuscript Library Collection Development Policies

5. Collection Strategies

a. Consortia and Collaborative Collecting with Other Institutions

The range of print materials in Film and Media Studies is greatly enhanced by Columbia’s participation in the Borrow Direct consortium, OCLC’s Shares network of international academic libraries, the Manhattan Research Library Initiative (MaRLI), and the shared collection at ReCAP with New York Public Library and Princeton University. 

b. Location Decisions & Selection for ReCAP

Selection for ReCAP is limited to works with low circulation or selected works to reduce congestion in the Butler stacks. 

c. Deaccessioning

Titles are generally deaccessioned only in cases where the physical copy is disintegrating and no longer serviceable in print/physical format. In these instances, the librarian will evaluate whether to make a preservation photocopy, to create or acquire a digital surrogate, and/or whether to replace the physical copy with another. Resources on obsolete formats are reviewed by librarians on a case-by-case basis; in instances where the original format has artifactual value, it will be retained even after it has been digitized or otherwise reformatted.

d. Digitization and Preservation

Columbia University Libraries has committed to an extensive project to digitize time-based media elements held in the distinctive collections including a wide range of audio and visual formats. 

contact information


NANCY FRIEDLAND

Librarian for Butler Media, Film Studies, & Performing Arts
  • Humanities & History
(212) 854-7402
Butler Library - 309 Butler Library

JENNY LEE

Curator for Performing Arts
  • Rare Book & Manuscript Library
(212) 854-4048
Butler Library - 6th Floor East Butler Library

Related subject policies and references:

Gifts-In-Kind Policy

Columbia University Libraries Preservation Policy

Last updated: January 2019