Research & Access
How to Search the University Archives
The University Archives collections can be found by searching the Archival Collections Portal. This portal provides access to records of archival collections at Columbia University Libraries, including finding aids, collection descriptions and some of the available digital content. The Columbia History Resources section of this site includes selected University-related digitized materials.
The Collection Overview section of this site also provides description of the most highly accessed University Archives manuscript collections, how they are organized and for what topics you may find them useful. This is not a comprehensive listing of all of our collections. In the Archival Collections Portal, please click on “Columbia University Archives” in the list under “Search Repositories” and then click on “go” with nothing typed in the search box to pull up a list of all of University Archives cataloged collections.
The Columbiana Library is a large book collection consisting of university-related publications. Many of these titles can be found in CLIO, the Columbia Libraries online catalog. In addition to CLIO, there is a paper card catalog in the University Archives reading room that can be used to find these publications. The card catalog is also useful for finding specific articles from two major university publications: Columbia Alumni News and Columbia University Quarterly.
The Columbia University Archives staff has put together some Research Guides to help you take advantage of our holdings. For each type of search, you will find the most popular resources available and how to access them: some online and some in person. The lists are not exhaustive; these are only the "top" or "most frequently consulted" resources. The guides focus on alumni, faculty, course descriptions, Master's essays and dissertations, and buildings and grounds information.
If you need help in identifying what materials you need to learn more about the history of Columbia or to find information on a former Columbia student, faculty or staff member, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to Access Offsite Collections
Materials stored onsite can be made available on the same day and will be paged when you sign into the Reading Room. However, due to space constraints, many collections and all archival Master's essays and doctoral dissertations are housed offsite and require advance notice for retrieval. We prefer 5 business days advanced notice to retrieve materials from offsite storage, but require at least 48 business hours to process such requests. If you are not sure if the collection you are interested in viewing is stored offsite or if you need materials sooner, please email email@example.com to see what can be arranged.
How to Register
The University Archives collections are open for research and reference use by all members of the University community and the public. All materials are non-circulating. While no appointments are necessary, we strongly recommend that you contact University Archives staff before visiting. Many collections are stored offsite and others may have access restrictions which require advance planning.
In order to use the collections at the University Archives and Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML), visitors are required to register their own Special Collections Research Account before their visit and to validate the account in person with government-issued photo identification or Columbia ID card. You will be asked for a current address, telephone number, and other contact information.
How to Request Materials
Please use your Special Collections Research Account to request material prior to your research visit. To do so for collections with web-based finding aids, click on “New Request”, search for the collection via the Archival Collections Portal, open the container list portion of the online finding aid, click the check box for the box(es) you need, and then scroll back to the top of the container list document and click “Submit Request” button in the red-rimmed box at top. You will then have the opportunity to schedule a date for your request(s) and after clicking another “Submit Request” button you will be prompted to log into your account. Once you do that you should see the requests listed.
For collections with legacy PDF finding aids you will need to identify boxes via the PDF finding aid document and then go back to the bibliographic record and click on the link that says "View CLIO Record and Request from Special Collections". Once you are on the CLIO page, look for the "Request from Special Collections" link at the bottom of the shaded box all the way to the right side of the page. You will be brought to a page showing box numbers with little radio buttons to click. Click on the box you need and then click on the "submit" button at the bottom of the page. At that point you will be prompted to log into your account to schedule the retrieval date and once you do that you should see the requests listed in your account. You will have to go through this process for each box you wish to use.
For catalogued books or publications, click on “New Request”, search for the title via CLIO and then click on the link that says “Request from Special Collections”. At this point you may be prompted to log back into your account to schedule the retrieval date and once you do that you should see the request listed in your account.
If the item you wish to see does not have an online finding aid or catalog record please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
The University Archives is part of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) on the 6th floor of Butler Library. Butler Library is located on the south end of Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus. The back of the library faces 114th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. There is only one public entrance to Butler, from the campus side; there is no street entrance.
If you do not have a Columbia ID card, please proceed to the Library Information Office (LIO) immediately to the left of the security desk inside the front door of Butler Library. Here you will tell LIO staff that you are conducting research in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RMBL) and will have to present a government-issued photo ID in order to obtain entrance to the library. LIO will issue you a temporary access pass that provides access to RBML.
When you have passed the security desk, follow the hallway left and take the East elevator to the 6th floor. The entrance to RBML is through the glass doors at the end of the hallway, to your right. Lockers for coats, jackets, bags, and other personal items are located just outside the entrance; keys are available at the RBML reference desk.