Methods in the Study of Religion: How to Locate Archives

This guide is designed to assist students in Methods in the Study of Religion (REL W4905) course, taught at Barnard College by Najam Haider

Locating Columbia's Sources

Generally at Columbia, the finding aids and guides to collections can be found by searching CLIO. When putting in a search term, you can hone the results by clicking the word "archives" along the left-hand side. The results will include manuscripts, books, archives, and other.

Another way to find collections is by searching Columbia's archives portal. The portal provides access to records of archival collections at Columbia University Libraries, including:

  • finding aids
  • collection descriptions
  • available digital content, such as online exhibits and images

A third option would be to go directly to the library's website that you are interested in: Avery, Burke, Starr or RBML.

So you've found the archival sources and finding aids that you want; what is the next step? Requesting the items! Many locations with Special Collections do not have open office hours; Columbia is the same way.

On the Burke Library website, there is a link on the homepage for Special Collections Access.

To access materials from the special collections please fill out our Special Collections Request Form.  Please note that at least 1 business day's notice is required for processing requests.  If you are planning on traveling to conduct research here, please fill out and submit the request form as far in advance as possible to ensure our ability to accommodate your visit.

Research Visits can only be accommodated during the Special Collections Reading Room open hours:
Monday-Friday: 10am-1pm and 2pm-4:30pm

Sources Outside CUL

Although Columbia does have twenty-one libraries in its system, and we are located in New York City with many other archives and special collections, not everything is going to be so easily located. In that case you have a few options to find collections, including:

WorldCat lets you search the collections of libraries in your community and thousands more around the world. WorldCat grows every day thanks to the efforts of librarians and other information professionals. Columbia's resources are in WorldCat, but it will open you up to materials across the globe.


ArchiveGrid includes over four million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more. With over 1,000 different archival institutions represented, ArchiveGrid helps researchers looking for primary source materials held in archives, libraries, museums and historical societies.


Remember: Archives are not just paper - they can be viewable and accessible online.