Columbia University to House Extensive Human Rights Watch Archive

NEW YORK, February 27, 2004 Columbia University Libraries has been designated the depository institution for the Human Rights Watch (HRW) Archive—a vast collection of documents spanning 25 years of the organization’s groundbreaking investigations into human rights abuses around the world.

In selecting Columbia University Libraries to administer the Archive, Human Rights Watch, the largest U.S.-based human rights organization, acknowledged the scope and strength of Columbia’s existing human rights programs, many of which will draw on these new resources for teaching and research.

“Columbia has a long-standing, expansive, and diverse commitment to human rights, through the School of International and Public Affairs, the Law School, the Center for International Conflict Resolution, and the Center for the Study of Human Rights,” said James Neal, Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian. “The HRW Archive will be used extensively in expanding our research and teaching mission in these and other areas of the university where human rights issues are a significant focus.”

The Archive offers a unique, comprehensive view of human rights conditions in more than 70 nations around the world during the last two-and-a-half decades, and provides a complete picture of the investigative, public education, and lobbying activities of this world-renowned organization. It includes administrative files, public relations documents, as well as case and country files. With some exceptions for security considerations, Columbia’s community and the public will have access to field notes, taped and transcribed interviews with alleged victims of human rights violations, video and audio tapes, and other materials documenting the organization’s activities since its founding in 1978 as Helsinki Watch.

“We believe Columbia University has a profound commitment to teaching human rights, and a track record of devoting serious resources to the issue,” said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. “Columbia is going to be an outstanding home for the Human Rights Watch Archive.”

Jean Ashton, Director of Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library, with the assistance of curatorial staff, will administer the Archive. The Library is uniquely qualified to serve a growing community of researchers, in New York City, across the country, and beyond. The existence of strong programs in preservation, digital library development, and electronic publishing guarantee that the Archive will be broadly accessible to users around the world.

“SIPA’s human rights concentration is one of the oldest and most highly regarded training programs in the world,” said Lisa Anderson, Dean of the School of International and Public Affairs and a member of the board of directors of Human Rights Watch. “Recognizing the importance of human rights as central to framing the international policy debate today, we are committed to increasing our strengths in this area. Among other things, the HRW papers will enable us to develop a series of case studies to use in preparing the next generation of human rights advocates, NGO managers, and world leaders.”

Current plans for the Archive include the physical transfer of the Archive from its present location at the Norlin Library at the University of Colorado, Boulder, to the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia in the summer of 2004. The papers will be available for public use after cataloging and processing is completed by a specially appointed curatorial staff and after review by a joint committee of Columbia University Library staff and Human Rights Watch personnel. As an active archive, the Human Rights Watch papers will continue to grow, reflecting the organization’s continued activity and expansion.

Human Rights Watch is an international monitoring organization based in New York, with offices in Washington, London, Brussels, Moscow, Geneva, and several other cities around the world. It conducts research into human rights conditions in more than 70 countries around the world, and publishes its findings in dozens of reports every year. Human Rights Watch has an annual budget of $22 million and a staff of nearly 200 people.

The Rare Book and Manuscript Library owns over 600,000 rare books in some 20 book collections and almost 26 million manuscripts in nearly 2,600 separate manuscript collections. It is particularly strong in English and American literature and history, classical authors, children's literature, education, mathematics and astronomy, economics and banking, photography, the history of printing, New York City politics, librarianship, and the performing arts. Individual collections are as eclectic as they are extensive. For additional information about the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, please call 212-854-5153.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other nonprint formats. The collections and services are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students, and researchers in their academic endeavors. The Libraries’ website at is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.

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