Women in the Black Freedom Movement: Using Archives: How to Locate Archives

Sources Outside CUL

The Columbia Libraries system includes twenty-one (21) libraries and centers. There are numerous repositories throughout New York City, New York State, the United States and beyond. Here is a list of search tools that can help you find archival collections, as well as a list of repositories that may relevant to your work in this course.


WorldCat.org 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.

Exercise - Search women Black Freedom Movement


ArchiveGrid (a subset of WorldCat) includes over four million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more.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.

Archives and Manuscripts at the New York Public Library (NYPL)

The New York Public Library holds nearly 10,000 archival and manuscript collections comprising over 50,000 linear feet of material in nearly every format imaginable. Divisions include Manuscripts and Archives Division; Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature; Billy Rose Theatre Division; Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division; Jerome Robbins Dance Division; Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound; Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy; Dorot Jewish Division; and others.

Howard University Archives - Moorland-Spingarn Research Center (MSRC)

As one of Howard University's major research facilities, the MSRC collects, preserves, organizes, and makes available for research a wide range of resources chronicling the Black experience throughout the African Diaspora.

Swarthmore College Peace Collection (SCPC)

The SCPC gathers, preserves, and makes available material that documents non-governmental efforts for nonviolent social change, disarmament, and conflict resolution between peoples and nations. The collection offers materials on such subjects as pacifism, women and peace, conscientious objection, nonviolence, civil disobedience, African-American protest and civil rights, feminism, and other reform movements.

Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research

Prepared by the Society of American Archivists, this guide addresses the second purpose by outlining the functions and procedures of archives, and is designed both for first-time archives users and scholars who have already conducted research in archives.


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

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