Photography: Guide to Research: CUL Photo Collections

Finding collections of original photographs at Columbia University Libraries:

Use the Archival Portal site. 
To find:

1. Go to Columbia University Libraries Website
2. Go to the “Find” dropdown and click on “Archival Collections”
3. Once in “Archival Collections Portal” type in photograph* (the asterisk is a truncation symbol which allows the search to include photograph, photography, photographic, photographer) and any additional narrowing subject, creator or title terms.

4. Narrow your results by the facets on the right side of the page (by collections, repositories, names or subjects)

For a nice overview of 19th-century photographic gems held at Columbia University Libraries, see this checklist of an exhibition curated by a former Curator of Avery Classics:  Nineteenth-Century Photography at Columbia University : an exhibition celebrating the 150th anniversary of photography / Herbert Mitchell.  New York : Columbia University,  22 p. 1989. Avery Offsite NH50 N4C7 M69.


The following seven major special collections at Columbia University Libraries have photographs in their archives or photographic collections.  Researchers are urged to talk to the curators of these departments, as many photographs exist in unprocessed collections or collections that do not always describe the photographs in the catalog records, or sometimes not even in existing finding aids.

Rare Books and Manuscripts Library in Butler Library
Burke Library, Union Theological Seminary
Starr East Asian Library
Special Collections, Health Sciences Library
Drawings & Archives, Avery Library
Avery Classics (Rare Books), Avery Library
Art Properties, Avery Library

Here are a sample of some major collections held at Columbia University Libraries arranged by department: 

Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library -- Classics Collection:

Architect Photo Albums:
McKim Mean & White Photograph albums  (1876-) (Avery Classics <Cage> AA712 M1953)

Cass Gilbert Photograph Albums (1921-1934)  (Avery Classics AA737 G3 G333 F)

Photographs of the work of Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, architects  (1920-1935; supplement: 1950-1970)
(Avery Classics AA737 Sh84 Sh84 F)

[Little & Browne, Architects Scrapbook] (1900-1937) (Avery Classics AA737 L77 L77)

Photographic Magazines/Books – Montage:
Voilà : l'hebdomadaire du reportage (owned: 1931-1940) (Avery Classics AB V874)  

URSS en construction (owned: 1949) (Avery Classics AB U78 F)

Rivista illustrata del Popolo d'Italia / Italia imperale (owned: 1935) (Avery Classics In process LSI 132727)

Place Photo Albums:
Viewbook collection (owned: 19th and early 20th century) (Avery Classics arranged by Sweets Numbers)

[Album of photographs of Central Park, New York](c1900) (Avery Classics AA9065 N4 AL15)

View of Camp Dick Robinson (between 1861 and 1865) (Avery Classics Cage AA497 Un3 V67)

Ordnance survey of Jerusalem, made with the sanction of...Earl de Grey and Ripon...under the direction of Sir Henry James  (1865) (Avery Classics Cage AA240 W69 F)

Photographs of French architecture [chiefly of Paris, photographed prior to the war of 1870-71 and the Commune.] (mid 19th century) (Avery Classics Cage AA1041 B193 F)

A series of calotype views of St. Andrews; published by D. O. Hill and R. Adamson (1846) (Avery Classics Cage AA976 Sa2 Se6 F)

National Academy of Design : Photographs of the new building / with an introductory essay by P.B. Wight, architect (1866) (Avery Classics AA6710 W63 F)

Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library -- Department of Drawings and Archives:

NOTE: Most of the large 20th century archives in Avery Drawings & Archives of architects and architectural firms contain photographs of the architect’s work.  In addition, Avery has the following photographic collections:

Samuel Gottscho American architecture : photographs and negatives, circa 1925-1939. (Avery D&A Gottscho)

Geroge [i.e. George] Cserna photographs and papers, 1937-1978.(Avery D&A Cserna AND D&A Cserna ReCAP)

Empire State Building archive, circa 1930-1969 (with 232 photographs by Louis Hine). (Avery D&A Empire State) (Includes digitized examples: DIAP digital images

Joseph W. Molitor architectural photographs, 1935-1985 (bulk 1946-1980). (Avery D&A Molitor)
Link to collection overview.

C. D. Arnold photographic collection, 1892-1901. (Avery D&A Arnold)
Link to finding aid.

Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library -- Department of Art Properties:

Art Properties holds a significant collection of about 1000 historical and contemporary photographs, from nineteenth-century daguerreotypes to prints by twentieth- and twenty-first-century photographers, including Harold Edgerton, Donna Ferrato, Sally Gall, Ralph Gibson, Helen Leavitt, and Cindy Sherman,  plus hundreds of photographic prints by Leon Levinstein and more than 150 Polaroids and prints by Andy Warhol from the Warhol Foundation's Photographic Legacy Program.

Rare Books and Manuscripts Library (Butler Library 6th Floor):

Digital Scriptorium [Electronic resource].[Berkeley, Calif.] : Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley ; [New York, N.Y.] : Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Columbia University, 1997-

Herbert H. Lehman Papers, 1878-2002 [Bulk: 1930-1963].
(RBML Offsite Call # MS#0763 & MICROFLM F d 8365Link to finding aid.

New Leader records, 1895-2008 (bulk dates, 1924-2006). (RBML MS# 1427) Link to finding aid.

Paul Richard Palmer records, 1907-1986. (RBML Call # MS#0968)

Spanish Refugee Relief Association records, 1935-1957. (RBML Offsite Call # MS#1181 Parts A-W – Parts A & W are onsite) Link to finding aid.

Edmund Clarence Stedman papers, 1840-1960. (RBML Offsite MS#1194) Link to finding aid.

Community Service Society records, 1842-1995. (RBML Offsite MS#0273) Link to finding aid and Digital Content (1) and Digital Content (2).

Mary Lasker papers, 1940-1993. (RBML MS#0745) Link to finding aid.

Ernst Jäckh papers, 1900-1961. (RBML MS#0655) Link to finding aid.

Robert College records, 1858-1972. (RBML MS#1445) Link to finding aid.

American College for Girls records, 1880s-1979. (RBML MS#1445) Link to finding aid.

Rare Books and Manuscripts -- University Archives

Nathaniel Fish Moore Photographs, c. 1855. (University Archives, Butler 6th Fl. East -- Special Collections)

Historical Photograph collection ca.1858-. (University Archives, Butler 6th Fl. East UA#0003)
Consists chiefly of images of persons, events, and activities related to Columbia College (1754-1896) and Columbia University (1896-). Link to finding aid

Margaret Bourke-White Photographs, 1931. (University Archives, Butler 6th Fl. East -- Special Collections)
Link to finding aid.

University Protest and Activism Collection, 1958-1999 (Bulk dates 1968-1972). (University Archives Butler 6th Fl. East , and some are <Offsite>  UA#007 (unprocessed) -- Special Collections)
Link to finding aid.

Photograph album, 1932-1943 / Walter Lawrence Bogert. (University Archives Butler 6th Fl. East -- Special Collections)
Views of Columbia University in the City of New York and the surrounding neighborhood of Morningside Heights taken by alumnus W.L. Bogert (Columbia College 1888). Buildings depicted include Low Memorial Library, St. Paul's Chapel, Grant's Tomb, Avery, Livingston, and John Jay Halls.

Varsity Show Records 1894- (University Archives Butler 6th Fl. East <Offsite> UA#0106)
Document productions of Columbia University's annual Varsity Show. Link to finding aid & Digital content.

Starr East Asian

The Barbara Curtis Adachi Bunraku Collection, 1964-2003. This collection includes some 13,571 slides,  and 7,571 photographic items including negatives, in addition to other materials. It covers the Japanese puppet theater called Bunraku. If you need more detail, the lengthy catalog record is in CLIO.   Finding Aid.

The Barbara Curtis Adachi Hands of Japan Collection, 1942-2003.  This collection includes 2,449 slides, 5,200+ photographs, 886 strips of 35mm negatives, medium-size negatives and transparencies, in addition to other materials. It represents the material Barbara Adachi collected in preparation for two of  her publications, and deals essentially with backstage matters of Bunraku and Kabuki theater.  More detail can be found in CLIO. Finding Aid.

The Makino Mamoru Collection on the History of East Asian Film, 1870-2015. Series XVII: Photos and Posters, 1911-1987.  This series of the Makino Collection includes a substantial number of film stills, and photo albums. More detail can be found in CLIO. (Note: this is still a work in progress).

Japanese Photograph and Postcard Collection, 1911-1990.  This Japanese photograph and postcard collection is composed of five different groups: photographs and postcards collected by Samuel McCune Lindsay (Series 1); photographs and postcards collected by J. W. T. Mason (Series 2); photographs donated by Katharine Becke (Series 3); Japanese Subjugation of Rehe Sheng (China) Public Relations Photographs (Series 4); and other postcards and photographs (Series 5). The majority of items were created and/or collected during the 1930s in Japan; however, the collection includes items created throughout the Twentieth Century as well as originating in neighboring countries such as China and Korea. More detail can be found in CLIO.  Finding Aid.

The Heinrich Harrer limited edition portfolio = Han-rig Ha-rar tshad can par deb kyi par bźi = Das Heinrich Harrer limited edition portfolio.  This is a set of ten silver gelatin archival photographs, printed from the original negatives, that were used in the exhibition: "Seven years in Tibet, 1944-1951, photographs by Heinrich Harrer." More detail can be found in CLIO.

The Theodore Richard Conant Collection.  Though the primary focus of this collection is on Conant's work as (documentary) filmmaker, it includes over 300 photographs covering Korea during and immediately after the Korean war. There is no public catalog record for this collection yet, but there is a preliminary Finding Aid.

Burke Library -- Union Theological Seminary

   G.E.E. Lindquist Native American photographs / The Burke Library Archives@Columbia University.
An online presentation of the 1322 photographs, 124 postcards, 388 negatives, and 34 glass plate negatives/lantern slides, which derive from the G.E.E. Lindquist Papers archival collection at The Burke Library. They depict the people, places, and practices of Native Americans and their communities from at least 34 States, plus Canada and Mexico in the period from 1909-1953. The majority of the images were taken by G. E. E. Lindquist (1886-1967), an itinerant representative of the ecumenical Home Missions Council of the Federal Council of Churches. Link to finding aid & Digital content.

Health Sciences Library -- Photographic Collections:

The Elizabeth Wilcox Photographic Collection. (uncatalogued) consists of over 100,000 images taken by Elizabeth "Libby" Wilcox (1916-2000) at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center from 1957 to 1991. It is an unparalleled picture of life at one American medical center during the last half of the 20th century. While it covers a wide range of activities, the collection is unusually rich in images of nursing, pediatrics and surgery.  Most of the collection remains in negative form. However, there is an index to the collection that can be consulted at Archives & Special Collections and the several dozen prints that came with gift have been digitized.

Avery Library

Avery Librarians