Special Collections

The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary provides access to rare books, manuscripts, and archives. Follow the instructions below to request in-person viewing of material. For general questions about Special Collections held at the Burke Library, email burkespecial@library.columbia.edu. More information and lists of our Special Collections are found at these links:  


Special collections material do not circulate and can only be accessed by appointment in our reading room. Please do not travel to Burke Special Collections until you have an appointment confirmed by Burke staff. Please check Library Status Updates and email burkespecial@library.columbia.edu for current visitor policies.  

Appointment and materials requests must be submitted with at least 5 business days' notice (e.g. items requested at 2 p.m. on Monday can be available by 2 p.m. the following Monday). Appointments can be accommodated during the following hours (except holidays on the library calendar):

Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm


To make an appointment and request special collections material, researchers are required to register their own Special Collections Research Account. You will need to provide a current address, email, telephone number, and other contact information. Upon your first visit, you will need to validate your account in-person with government issued photo identification or Columbia ID, and we will take your photo for security purposes.


Once you have created your Special Collections Research Account, you will be able to request appointments and materials from the same online portal. Up to 6 items or archives boxes may be requested per appointment. Burke staff will reply to requests via email. Reminder: Please do not travel to the Burke Library until you have an appointment confirmed by Burke staff.

To request rare books and manuscripts, or archival collections with PDF finding aids, find the specific catalog record on CLIO, the online catalog for Columbia University Libraries. From the CLIO record page, look to the right side of the page for the location and holdings information, and click on “Request: Special Collections.” That link will take you to a pre-filled form in your Special Collections Research Account. On that form, select your appointment (tip: click on the “New Appointment” button at the bottom to select a new date & time), add any other notes, and submit your request.  

To request archival collections with finding aids on the Archival Collections Portal, find the collection description page, and scroll to or click on the “Container List” heading linked on the left side. Look for the check boxes on the right side of the page, click on the check boxes for the specific archives boxes that you need, scroll back to the top of the Container List, and click on the “Submit Request” button in the red-rimmed box.


The Burke Library is located at 3041 Broadway, inside the Union Theological Seminary building. The Special Collections Reading Room is on the 3rd floor of the library. You may also wish to consult a map of Columbia University's main campus, where the Library Information Office (LIO) is located.  

To cancel or reschedule, or if you are late and need to delay your appointment, contact the Burke staff ASAP at burkespecial@library.columbia.edu. We reserve the right to cancel the remainder of your appointment if you are over 1 hour late.

Before arriving, please complete the Columbia Symptom Self-Check. You will need to show a Green Pass to enter the building and library. If you receive a “red” pass, please stay home; contact us to reschedule your appointment for a later time.

Library services are subject to the Columbia University COVID-19 health policies. Our specific procedures at the Burke Library may change on short notice. Please follow all instructions from Burke staff members on the day of your visit.


Policies and procedures for using Special Collections at the Burke Library:


  • Theft, destruction or mutilation of the special collections materials is a crime.

  • Follow staff instructions on the handling of material.

  • Keep all special collections material flat and completely on the table, or on provided book cradles, and clear of personal belongings (e.g. do not place your notebook on top of an archives folder).

  • Maintain the original order of any unbound material.

  • Pencils, laptops, and tablets may be used for note taking. Not allowed are: pens, highlighters, markers, or post-it notes.

  • The use of a digital camera without flash is permitted for private research purposes. Please do not take photos of other researchers.

  • Silence cell phones and similar electronic devices. Please be quiet and considerate of other researchers.

  • All coats, hats, briefcases, bags, backpacks, and purses are required to be stored in a designated secure private area outside the Reading Room.

  • No food, drink, or gum is allowed in the Reading Room.


Researchers can further prepare by viewing these videos on the care and handling of special collections materials.

Please be advised that some of the materials found in our collections are protected by copyright laws. For more information to assist you in understanding more about copyright, your obligations in using copyright protected materials and fair use, see Copyright Advisory Services.


Digitization and copying services can be found through the Preservation & Digital Conversion Division.