RBML's Digital Collections

Columbia University Libraries digitizes its rare and unique collections for the purposes of preservation, access, and online exhibition. Most unbound materials, including photographs, posters, drawings, objects, ephemera, and manuscripts, as well as archival “born” digital files can be found via the Digital Library Collections (DLC) website. Bound and printed materials, notably rare books, may be accessed via CLIO, the Columbia Libraries online catalog, and the Internet Archive. Online Exhibitions provide a highly curated means of accessing selected digitized objects.

Digital Collections

Carnegie Corporation of New York Digital Archive

Carnegie Corporation of New York Digital Archive
This website provides a portal into the Corporation’s philanthropy from the 1870s to the 21st century. The reach is increasingly global, from early twentieth century gifts in support of library construction to more recent interviews relating to the Corporation's Russia Initiative. Scholars studying the history of philanthropy, capital, education, race, foreign relations, and a range of other topics will find that the website contains valuable primary resource material.

Bathing Beauties with modesty guards, circa 1940.

Frederick Fried Coney Island collection
The Columbia University Libraries have digitized a collection of around 500 photographs capturing Coney Island’s golden age as America’s preeminent working-class leisure destination. The photographs in this digital collection come from the Frederick Fried Coney Island collection, 1847-2001. The images depict bathing beauties, sideshow performers, exotic animals, thrilling amusement rides, and opulent pleasure palaces, while also containing rich details about transit networks, social and cultural life, and  New York City history.

Hubert Harrison papers

Hubert H. Harrison papers
Harlem's first great soapbox orator, Hubert H. Harrison was a brilliant and influential writer, educator, and movement builder during the early decades of the 20th century. The collection is composed of the personal papers--correspondence, manuscripts, documents, newspaper clippings, diaries, scrapbooks, memorabilia, photographs and books--of Hubert H. Harrison. The papers range from his early years in the United States to his death in 1927.

Albert Field Collection of Playing Cards

Albert Field Collection of Playing Cards
The Albert Field Collection of Playing Cards contains more than 6300 individual decks of playing cards as well as extensive ephemera and a library of reference books. The decks, ranging from the 16th through the 20th centuries, and across the world, are a rich vein of primary source material in popular imagery, costume, advertising, propaganda, as well as elite culture.

Ford IFP Logo

Ford IFP Archive
The archives cover the issues of social justice, community development, and access to higher education, and include paper and digital documentation and audiovisual materials on the more than 4,300 IFP Fellows as well as comprehensive planning and administrative files of the program.

John Jay

John Jay Papers
The Papers of John Jay is an image database and indexing tool comprising some 13,000 documents (more than 30,000 page images) scanned chiefly from photocopies of original documents. Most of the source material was assembled by Columbia University's John Jay publication project staff during the 1960s and 1970s under the direction of the late Professor Richard B. Morris.

Lehman correspondence

Lehman Special Correspondence Files
A searchable database of selected correspondence to and from New York Governor and U.S. Senator Herbert H. Lehman (1878-1963).

Columbia University Publications

CCT cover Winter 2013-2014

Columbia College Today
Thanks to a gift from the board of the Columbia University Club Foundation, CCT and the Columbia University Libraries have recently digitized the back issues of this Columbia College alumni magazine from 1954 to 2016. These are now available on the Internet Archive. The issues have been indexed so you can easily search for articles, features and alumni news or just browse through the individual issues.

Columbia Spectator

Columbia Spectator Digital Archive
This online resource is the result of a partnership between the Spectator and Columbia University Libraries, and funded jointly by the Libraries and through generous gifts from Spectator alumni and friends, especially members of the class of 1958. You can now search issues published from 1877 to 2012. Whenever possible pages were scanned from original paper copies and digitized using state of the art technology that provides full-page, searchable reproductions of articles, photographs, and advertisements. For articles published more recently, please search the main Spectator website.

Columbia Library Columns

Columbia Library Columns, 1951-1997
Columbia Library Columns was published from 1951 to 1997. Over the years contributors included faculty, University administrators, writers, historians and collectors, as well as Columbia librarians. Articles focused on individual collections, special acquisitions, literary topics and issues relating to the growth of Columbia's libraries and special collections generally.

Featured Online Exhibitions

The Plot Genie

The Literary History of Artificial Intelligence

This exhibition explores the long, shared history of literature and computation through the Columbia Library’s holdings. We present texts that participate in early debates about whether writing was a skill to be honed or a gift to be appreciated and whether the skills of writing could be learned and even made into repeatable algorithms. Is writing like any other craft that can be learned and taught? Following a timeline from circa 1890–1970, this exhibition explores professional manuals, devices, and techniques that promised to make writing easier—and even to automate it. The Literary History of AI showcases examples of algorithmic composition, such as prose and poetry written by machines, alongside literature written with the aid of algorithmic and combinatorial devices. This exhibition broadly tracks two broad stories related to the literary history of AI: production and analysis.

In Service poster

In Service to the New Nation: The Life & Legacy of John Jay

As part of the broader events celebrating the near completion of the seven volumes of The Selected Papers of John Jay publication project based at Columbia University, this exhibit aims to shed light on the different aspects of Jay's personal, familial, and public life and discuss his many civic accomplishments in shaping America's governance, diplomacy, and judiciary. In Service to the New Nation: The Life & Legacy of John Jay draws on the correspondence, public papers, printed items, portraits, and drawings located in the various collections and libraries at Columbia University. The items presented include such varied materials as the transcribed Laws of King’s College, Jay's draft of The Federalist 5, period sheet music of Governor Jay's March, and a chart of New York City's harbor defences. Unless otherwise noted, the materials presented herein are taken from the John Jay Papers, 1668-1862 Collection and Columbia's Rare Book & Manuscript Library. 

Insistent Change poster

Insistent Change: Columbia's Core Curriculum at 100

In 1919 Columbia instituted a course of study known as Contemporary Civilization. It grew out of a War Issues course offered during World War I and was required of every student in order to provide all with a forum to analyze and discuss primary texts relevant to contemporary problems. Proceeding roughly by decade, this exhibition shows how the course transformed and developed over the years. By also focusing on the development of the Core Curriculum as a whole, the exhibition explains how CC's faculty, administrators and students have worked together to keep the course relevant through a succession of crises and changes in the broader political, economic and social realms in the country and the world.

This online exhibition is based on a physical exhibition of the same name which was on display in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library in February and March 2020.

Complete list of RBML Online Exhibitions.

Web Archiving


The Columbia University Libraries (CUL) have been capturing websites via the Archive-It service since June 2010. The CUL's commitment to integrating web archiving into ongoing collection development and preservation best practice is informed by collaboration with other research libraries and the broader web archiving community.

The RBML has selected to capture the websites from organizations or individuals whose papers or records are held in our physical archives. For example, the RBML preserve the sites related to the Ford Foundation International Fellowship Program (IFP), those related to the Carnegie Collections, as well as authors such as Erica Jong and Amiri Baraka. Visit the RBML Archive-It collection for the roster of websites.

Search Tools

Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative

The Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI) is an international digital library project aimed at putting text and images of cuneiform tablets online. The RBML's collection, searchable here, is made up of more than 500 cuneiform texts, diverse in contents, mostly from the Ur III period.

Digital Scriptorium

Digital Scriptorium is a consortium of libraries and museums, including the RBML and other Columbia University libraries, committed to free online access to their collections of pre-modern manuscripts. All the medieval and Renaissance manuscript holdings of the RBML have short descriptions and images on Digital Scriptorium.

Homer Papyrus Fragment

In 1995 the Advanced Papyrological Information System was started to create a collections-based repository of information about and images of papyrological materials (e.g., papyri, ostraca, wooden tablets, etc.). Now with Papyri.info, it is possible to view descriptions and images of items in the RBML collection.