Theological Seminary Studies: Archives & Rare Materials

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Special Collections at the Burke

The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary preserves and provides access to rare books, manuscripts, and archives. These special collections cannot be checked out, but students, staff, and visiting researchers can see them by appointment as soon as 24 hours in advance in the Special Collections Reading Room (on level L3 in the Burke Library) during open hours. Special Collections research is FREE and easy to do!


How to see Archives, Rare Books & Manuscripts at the Burke Library:


Collection Highlights:

Miscellaneous Arabic rare books and manuscripts



Ancient Greek materials, including several papyri

Items from the Van Ess Collection – some 13,000 pieces, which formed the core of the Library's original collection, consisting of manuscripts and early printed books, including many incunabula.

Items from the McAlpin Collection – an eminent collection of some 18,000 sixteenth and seventeenth century imprints, sources critical to an understanding of the political, theological, and ecclesiastical climate of this important period.

The Missionary Research Library Archive – a unique record of Protestant missionary activity throughout the world, provides a fascinating array of materials related to the geographic, sociopolitical, religious, and cultural settings in which this activity occurred.

The Union Theological Seminary Archives

The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Papers

The Archives of Women in Theological Scholarship Collection (including the papers of figures such as Emilie Townes, Carter Heyward, Phyllis Trible, and others)

Much more...

Other Resources

The website ArchiveGrid lets users locate and discover archival collections and primary-source materials, both housed in libraries and online.



Other Special Collections at Columbia

Rare Book & Manuscript Library

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) at Butler Library is Columbia's principal repository for primary sources. The range of collections in RBML span more than 4,000 years and comprise rare printed works, cylinder seals, cuneiform tablets, papyri, and Coptic ostraca; medieval and renaissance manuscripts; as well as art, realia and born-digital objects. Some 500,000 printed books and 90,000 linear feet (17 miles) of manuscripts, personal papers, and records form the core of the RBML holdings. One can find manuscripts from as early as the 14th century to the modern archives relating to Herman Wouk, Erica Jong, Serge Prokofiev, and Arthur Mitchell. Archives as varied as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Random House, and Amnesty International-USA, and the archives of Columbia University are available for research.  


Starr East Asian Library

The C.V. Starr East Asian Library owns many rare and unique materials in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, and Western languages. Our Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room provides access to the rare book collections, particularly strong in Chinese local histories and genealogies, Japanese Edo-period woodblock-printed books, and the Korean Yi Song-yi Collection, such non-print collections as ancient Chinese oracle bones, Chinese posters, Edo-period ukiyo-e, as well as a growing collection of major archives. These non-circulating materials are available for use by patrons during scheduled open hours. 


Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library

The Avery Drawings & Archives Collection consists primarily of drawings and architectural records by American architects of the 19th and 20th centuries. We hold a diverse range of original and reprographic drawings, photographic materials, project and building files, business papers, correspondence, diaries, and more. The Avery Classics Collection is the rare book collection of Avery Library and one of the largest architectural rare book collections in the world. Its strengths reflect the Library's original subject scope, established by Avery's founders in 1890: architecture, archaeology, urbanism and the decorative arts. Avery Library's Research Collection contains books and periodicals on architecture, historic preservation, art history, painting, sculpting, graphic arts, decorative arts, city planning, real estate, and archaeology, from all areas of the world and covering all time periods. It is a non-circulating, open stack collection housed in Avery Library and ReCAP, Columbia University Libraries offsite storage facility.



armenian_leather Armenian leather bound manuscript (15th or 16th century).
briggs Manuscript page from the archives of Emilie Grace Briggs, first woman graduate of Union Theological Seminary in 1897. (UTS Archives)


Faculty talking to students at Low Library protest, 1968 Columbia University student strikes of 1968. (Office of Public Affairs Protest & Activism Photograph Collection, Butler Library)

"Skyboy" photograph, 1930 Empire State Building Archive. "Skyboy," 1930. Photographer Lewis Wickes Hine. (Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library)