Columbia University Archives: Core Curriculum

University Archives

Butler Library postcardColumbia University Archives
Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Butler Library, 6th Floor
535 West 114th Street
New York, NY 10027

Phone: (212) 854-3786
Fax: (212) 854-1365
E-mail: uarchives@columbia.edu

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Related Collections

Barnard College
The Barnard Archives and Special Collections serves as the final repository for the historical records of Barnard College, from its founding in 1889 to the present day. For more information, please contact archives@barnard.edu.

Health Sciences Library
The Archives and Special Collections at the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library of Columbia University can help you find information about the schools of the Medical Center: College of Physicians & Surgeons, School of Nursing, College of Dental Medicine (formerly the School of Dental & Oral Surgery), Mailman School of Public Health, and the College of Pharmaceutical Sciences. For more information, please contact hslarchives@columbia.edu.

Core Curriculum

How to find information about the Core Curriculum

The Core Curriculum is the set of courses required of all undergraduates at Columbia as a general education regardless of their choice in major.  Started in 1919, the goal of the Core is to provide all Columbia students with wide-ranging perspectives on significant ideas and achievements in literature, philosophy, history, music, art and science. To get started on your research about Columbia's Core Curriculum:

This site offers general information about the Core for current students (classes, requirements, policies and prizes) but also offers information about the history of the Core.

Published in 1995 by the Office of the Dean, Columbia College to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Contemporary Civilization course, this book aims to serve as a "permanent record of the core curriculum."

Archival collections are non-circulating and can only be viewed in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library's reading room (RBML). In order to use the University Archives collections at the RBML, you will be required to register your own Special Collections Research Account before your visit and to validate the account in person with government-issued photo identification or Columbia ID card. Once you have created your Special Collections Research Account, you will be able to request materials directly from the finding aid: click the check box located on the right 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. This should lead you directly to your Special Collections Research Account to complete the request form.

  • The Core Curriculum Records, 1937-2007 contains teaching and administrative materials chiefly pertaining to the Contemporary Civilization and Humanities A (now called Literature Humanities) courses. Materials include syllabi, exams, quizzes, teaching resources, administrative correspondence and memos, and curricular reviews and reports.

  • The Historical Subject Files consists of clippings, press releases, programs, and other printed matter compiled over the years by curators of the Columbiana Collection and staff of the University Archives. You can find Core-related materials in the following folders:

    • "Core Curriculum, 1930s-1990s" Box 18, folder 4; Box 19, folder 1
    • "50 Hours Report, 1989" Box 19, folder 2
    • "Contemporary Civilization Course, 1940s-2000s" Box 19, folder 3
    • "Literature of the Humanities, 1930s-2010s" Box 20, folder 1
    • Distinguished Service to the Core Curriculum Award, 1990s-2000s" Box 421, folder 4

To find the materials related to the your research project, you should conduct keyword searches on the finding aids. Look for the "View all" link on the left side navigation (this will allow you to see the full container list or  folder titles in the collections) and then "Find" (Ctrl +F) keywords in the container lists. Above, we have suggested some words or terms in the collection descriptions but don't forget to look for people's names as well.

For more information on how to access our collections, check out our Research & Access website. If you have any questions about how to find materials or how to access materials, please contact uarchives@columbia.edu.

Archival collections are non-circulating and can only be viewed in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library's reading room (RBML). In order to use the University Archives collections at the RBML, you will be required to register your own Special Collections Research Account before your visit and to validate the account in person with government-issued photo identification or Columbia ID card. Once you have created your Special Collections Research Account, you will be able to request materials directly from the finding aid: click the check box located on the right 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. This should lead you directly to your Special Collections Research Account to complete the request form.

  • The Columbia College Papers, 1703-1964 contains the surviving files of official correspondence, reports, documents, and printed materials of King's College from 1750 to 1784 up to Columbia University up to 1964.The collection includes documents concerning the Contemporary Civilization program from 1929 to 1937 which can be found in Box 98.
     
  • Central Files, 1890-1984 (or Office of the President records) is composed chiefly of correspondence sent and received between Columbia University administrators and other University officers, faculty, and trustees, as well as correspondence sent and received between University administrators and individuals and organizations from outside the university. As such, this collection documents a wide range of people, topics and functions. You can start your research by looking for Core-related correspondence within the files of the following individuals:
    • De Bary, William Theodore, files, 1958-1971. (6 folders) 8/1958-6/1971. Box 497, folders 13 to 18
    • Moore, Douglas files, 1940-1962.(11 Folders) 9/1940-5/1962. Box 382, folders 10 to 20
    • Truman, David Bicknell, files, 1957-1968. (7 Folders) 8/1957-6/1968.  Box 496 folders 18 to 24
       
  • The Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs records, 1939-2006 consists mainly of correspondence and material on issues related to academics, appointments, budgets, departments, faculty, planning, programs, schools, and students. Look for the following Core-related materials:
    • Core Curriculum, 1988-1992. (Box 577 Folder 6)
    • Contemporary Civilization (Program of required coursework),
      • 1957-1963 (Box 28, folder 7)
      • 1964-1968 (Box 91, folder 9)
      • Staff, 1973 (Box 243, folder 3)

To find the materials related to the your research project, you should conduct keyword searches on the finding aids. Look for the "View all" link on the left side navigation (this will allow you to see the full container list or  folder titles in the collections) and then "Find" (Ctrl +F) keywords in the container lists. Above, we have suggested some words or terms in the collection descriptions but don't forget to look for people's names as well.

For more information on how to access our collections, check out our Research & Access website. If you have any questions about how to find materials or how to access materials, please contact uarchives@columbia.edu.

There are a number of publications which have been digitized and are now easily searchable online.

  • Columbia Daily Spectator
    You can search the issues of the student newspaper, either by date or by keyword, by visiting the Columbia Spectator Digital Archive. The paper provides articles, opinion pieces and cartoons during the publication's long run (1877 to the present).

  • Columbia University Record Archive
    Beginning as the University Record (September 1973-May 1975) and continuing to this day as the Columbia University Record (July 1975-present), this important university-wide publication, now scanned and fully searchable, is an incredibly rich resource of past Columbia activities, events, scientific research, awards and honors,  faculty and staff updates, and informative profiles of campus personalities from 1973 to June 2016.

  • Columbia College Today
    Started in 1954, Columbia College Today (CCT) is the official alumni magazine of the undergraduate Columbia College. Issues contain the latest news "Around the Quads," faculty and alumni publications, sport teams scores, alumni profiles, class notes, and obituaries. The Core has been the focus on a number of issues:

In addition to the special issues, here are some articles from CCT about the Core:

  • "Pioneering C.C. Course Starts Fifth Decade: Two Groups Are Planning Revision in Course" CCT, March 1960, 3.
  • "Columbia University Press: In the Western World in the Twentieth Century," "From the Dean," and "Excerpts from the President's Committee Report on the Contemporary Civilization Courses in Columbia College" CCT, July 1961, 2-9.
  • "Liberal arts at the College" CCT, Winter 1962, 12-24.
  • "Again and again and again" CCT, Winter 1963, 9.
  • "CC under siege" CCT, Summer 1970, 46-63.
  • "Desiderata for the core" by Stephen Joel Trachtenberg CC 1959. CCT, Spring/Summer 1989, 37-38.
  • "The Right to be wrong" by Hon. Jose A. Cabranes CC 1961. CCT, Spring/Summer 1991, 18.
  • "The Lion's Den: Export the Columbia Core" by Toomas Hendrik Ilves CC 1976. CCT, Fall 1993, 64. (The Ambassador of Estonia to the US explains how the Core can help democratize Eastern European nations)
  • "The Core of the Matter" by Martin S. Kaplan CC 1961. CCT, Fall 1194, 22. (Announcement of celebratory events during the year marking 75th anniversary of the Core)
  • "Columbia Forum: An electronic Tower of Babel" (Excerpt from a speech given by John D. Rosenberg CC 1950, the William Peterfeld Trent Professor of English and Comparative Literature, as he accepted the fourth annual Award for Distinguished Service to the Core Curriculum, February 26, 1997) CCT, Fall 1997, 16.
  • "Music Humanities: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow" CCT, Fall 1998, 28-33.
  • "General Science Course Being Created for Core" CCT, November/December 2002, 7.
  • "A Passion for Teaching" CCT, July/August 2003, 16-19. (Profile of Kathy Eden professor of English and comparative literature who also teaches the Core)
  • "Around the Quads: Popkin Receives 11th Annual Core Award" (31) and "Living Legacies of Columbia College: Disputatious Learning: Asian Humanities and Civilizations at Columbia" (32-40) by William Theodore de Bary. CCT, January/February 2004.
  • "The Core Curriculum Defines Our Culture" CCT, September/October 2005, 80.
  • "Gareth Williams’ Core Principles" CCT, May/June 2010, 22. (Gareth Williams, the Violin Family Professor of Classics, puts a modern spin on Literature Humanities texts)
  • "Around the Quads: Gergiev Speaks at Core Music Event" CCT, Winter 2011/2012, 9.
  • "Around the Quads: A Look Behind the Core Curriculum"  CCT, Spring 2012, 6. (About the RBML online exhibitions:Contemporary Civilization and Literature Humanities)
  • "Loyal to His Core: As a Columbia teacher, scholar, academic statesman and alumnus, Wm. Theodore de Bary ’41, ’53 GSAS has long exemplified the highest standards of character and service. The private man might come as a surprise." CCT, Fall 2013, 20.
  • "Within the Family: Core Curriculum Knows No Borders" (Daniel Gordis CC 1981 exports the Core to Shalem College in Israel); "Around the Quads: New Core Course to Replace Frontiers" (Dean Valentini announces the formation of a committee to design a replacement for Frontiers of Science) CCT, Winter 2013-2014.
  • "Within The Family: The Importance of Thinking Critically" (An exploration of the relationship between the Core and journalism, particularly in critical thinking: Robert Lipsyte CC 1957, JRN 1959, Leonard Koppett CC 1944, Poppy Harlow CC 2005) and "Around the Quads: Mini-Mini-Core: Traveling Tales" (Professor Patricia Grieve gives examples from her three-part Mini-Core Course “Traveling Tales: 1001 Nights, Boccaccio’s Decameron, and Cervantes’ Exemplary Tales”) CCT, Spring 2016.

Here are some other sources you can consult online:

  • Online exhibitions: Columbia University’s commitment to the Core Curriculum extends to the University Libraries' special collections.  Columbia University Libraries preserve and provide access to important editions of, and in some cases autograph manuscripts by, many of the authors taught in the Core Curriculum. Additionally, the collections include subsequent editions, translations, and adaptations, which demonstrate the transmission and reception of these works across centuries and attest to their continuing importance.
  • Annual reports: The Annual Reports of the President and Treasurer to the Trustees offer a yearly "state of the University" from 1891 to 1946. In addition to the President's remarks and the Treasurer's financial reports, each Dean reports to the President on the previous academic year at their school or division (Columbia College, Law, Business, Journalism, Barnard, Teachers College, etc.) as well as reports from the Librarian, the Registrar, the Secretary and other senior administrators. Look for the Columbia College Deans' reports, which may include current events, curricular changes, facts and figures of students enrolled and degrees conferred, and other trends and issues at Columbia College.
     
  • The Columbia University Quarterly was published by the Alumni Federation of Columbia University from 1898 to 1941. The first issues from 1898 to 1919 (volumes 1 to 21) are available online. Publication was suspended from 1920 to 1929 and resumed from 1930 to 1941.

 

The following materials are non-circulating and can only be viewed in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library's reading room (RBML). For some, there are additional copies in the Butler stacks (Please check the Libraries' online catalog CLIO to see if there are other copies of these works. In order to use the University Archives collections at the RBML, researchers 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.

  • Textbooks: To request a copy of any of the following textbooks, you will need to enter the request manually from your Special Collections Research Account. In your account under New Request, look for the Manual Request Form (at the bottom of the page), and complete the form with the title, edition, year and call number as specified below:
    • An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization, 1st edition, 1919 (call # CN C763)
    • An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization, 2nd edition, 1920 (call# CN C7631)
    • An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization, 3rd edition, 1921 (call# CN C7632)
    • An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization, 4th edition, 1924 (call# CN C7633)
    • An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization, 5th edition, 1925 (call# CN C7634)
    • An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization, 6th edition, 1926 (call# CN C7635)
    • An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization, 7th edition, 1930 (call# CN C7636)
    • An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization, 8th edition, 1930 (call# CN C76361)
    • An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization, 9th edition, 1933-34 (call# CN C763611)
    • An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization, 10th edition, 1934-35 (call# CN C7636111)
    • An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization, 10th edition revised, 1935-36 (call# CN C76361112)
    • An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization, 11th edition, 1936-37 (call# CN C7636112)
    • An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization, 12th edition, 1937-38 (call# CN C76361121)
    • An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization, 13th edition, 1938-39 (call# CN C7636113)
       
  • University Archives holdings: The following items belong to the University Archives and can be viewed at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library's Reading Room. For some, there are additional copies in the Butler stacks. Please check CLIO to see if there are additional copies of these works. To request any of these titles, you will need to enter the request manually from your Special Collections Research Account. In your account under New Request, look for the Manual Request Form (at the bottom of the page), and complete the form with the title, year and call number as specified below:
    • Man in Contemporary Society: A Source Book Prepared by the Contemporary Civilization Staff of Columbia College, Columbia University, Vol. I, 1955 (call# CN C7272)
    • Introduction to Contemporary Civilization in the West: A Source Book, 1960 – 2 vols. (call# CN C7273)
    • Chapters in Western Civilization, 1961 – 2 vols. (call# CN C7274)
    • Readings in Contemporary Civilization, 1993 (call# CN C7275)
    • Contemporary Civilization Reader, 1994, 3rd edition (call# CN C7276)
    • Contemporary Civilization B. Field Work Manual, 1932-1933 (call# CN C7639)
    • Contemporary Civilization I Chart (call# CN C7677)
    • Readings in Contemporary Problems, Vol. I by Horace Taylor, 1929 (call# CN C711)
    • Contemporary Problems in the United States by Horace Taylor and The Columbia Associates, 1935-1936 (call# CN C7111)
    • Outline Readings in Important Books: Prepared for the General Honors Course in Columbia University, 1924 (call# CN C7234)
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Aboout the images

Top -  Cover of An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization, 5th edition, 1925 (call# CN C7634). University Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.

Right - Students walking out of front entrance of Hamilton Hall next to Alexander Hamilton statue. (Scan 1144) Buildings and Grounds Collection, University Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.