Columbia University Archives: Schools & Departments

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.

Schools and Departments

How to find information about schools and departments

Publications

To learn about Columbia's numerous schools, divisions and academic departments, start your search with the following publications, mostly available online.

  • Bulletins - The yearly bulletins or bulletins of information are the course catalogues for each school or division. These volumes include department course offerings, with full descriptions of the courses and the faculty assigned to teach those courses. You can find our holdings, organized by school or faculty, in the Columbia University Bulletins finding aid. There are also many volumes available online.
     
  • Annual Reports During President Barnard's administration, starting in1865, the President’s report to the Board of Trustees was published on a yearly basis. By 1891, these published volumes included not just the President’s and the Treasurer’s reports, but also those of the Deans of the various schools and even some departmental reports.
     
  • Annual Catalogues - These were also published every year but they offer a University-wide perspective all in one volume. This means that information is not as full as that listed in the Bulletins (for example, you will find course names but not descriptions). The Catalogues from 1848 to 1945 are available online.
     
  • Bicentennial History of Columbia University - As part of Columbia’s Bicentennial celebration, the University published a multi-volume history of the University, edited by History Professor Dwight Miner. Each volume focuses on a different school and some are organized by department. They go back to the beginning of instruction in the different disciplines up to the current faculty (1954). Drafts and unpublished materials, such as the chapters for the Faculty of Pure Science, are available in the Dwight D. Miner papers on the history of Columbia University, 1938-1978. 

Additional publications

A number of Columbia-related publications are available online that contain valuable information about schools and departments. The student newspaper, the Spectator (1877-2015) and the University’s newspaper, the CU Record (1973-2016) have been digitized and are easily searchable. The Columbia College alumni magazine, Columbia College Today (1954-2016), has published articles on the undergraduate curriculum in different disciplines. These issues have been digitized and there is an index to help you identify relevant articles. For earlier materials, the Columbia University Quarterly (1898 to 1919 and 1930 to 1941) used to offer department histories and other education-related articles and those issues are also available online.

The University tasks different committees and commissions to conduct periodic reviews of its operations and to issue reports on their findings. The Macmahon Report, named after Arthur Whittier Macmahon, was issued in January 1958. This Report of the President's Committee on the Educational Future of the University called for the establishment of a Science and Engineering college; proposed that the School of General Studies be limited only to those students working towards a degree; urged a broad program of expansion of University facilities, including a new gymnasium and the formation of a graduate center; asked that the number of required courses be reduced; and called for the creation of a senior honors program. Similarly, in 1979, the Presidential Commission on Academic Priorities in the Arts and Sciences was published. This report is better known as the Marcus Report, named after the Commission Chair Steven Marcus, 

Archival Collections 

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 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” in the red-rimmed box at top. This should lead you directly to your Special Collections Research Account to complete the request form.

  • Central Files
    While these are officially the Office of the President records, that description does not fully capture the breadth and depth of these records. President Nicholas Murray Butler and his surrogates were actively involved in all University matters and the letters in this collection can be quite candid. For information about a particular department, go to the Catalogues to find out the department’s executive officer or chair and look for the correspondence under that name. You can also try keyword searching on the name of the department (e.g., "economics") in the container list to see what is available. These records include discussions about personnel matters, budgets, requests, compensation, promotions, raises, leaves and replacements.

  • Faculty Meeting Minutes
    This collection contains the minutes from the various faculties: Columbia College, Faculty of Political Science, School of Business, etc. There are general faculty meeting minutes but, for some divisions, there are also the Committee on Instruction (COI) minutes. The COI  meetings discussed the affairs of school: student petitions, changes in requirements, new course proposals, courses eligible to fulfill requirements, student awards, and faculty appointments and leaves.

This collection also includes the University Council meeting minutes. From 1890-1968, the Council managed the academic organization and operations of the University, including admission criteria, degree requirements, the academic calendar, the date and order of Commencement exercises. In addition to the meeting minutes, the volumes include lists of recipients of Ph.D.s, M.A.s, fellowships, and awards, as well as reports prepared by/for the Council. The Council continued to serve until 1968, when it was replaced by the University Senate

  • Historical Subject Files
    Holdings about different departments and schools vary greatly but normally include newspaper and magazine clippings, press releases, and other printed matter regarding the various schools, departments, institutes, and centers that are currently or were previously associated with Columbia University. There are also records related to admissions, enrollment, academic calendars, curriculum, examinations, and syllabi.


Additional collections:
  • Office of Provost records
    As the chief academic officer at the University, these records cover a wide range of issues: tenure procedures, faculty recruitment, new degrees and programs, and the closing of the School of LIbrary Service.
     
  • Departmental Reports to the President, 1900-1927
    This collection offers a few sets of reports: some submitted to President Seth Low (1890 and 1900) and the others submitted to President Nicholas Murray Butler (1927). The Low-era reports include the names and rank of current faculty and their current roles, a department's financial needs (for salaries, libraries, and equipment), and what new courses they would like to offer. In the Butler era (1927), department heads were asked to conduct a self-assessment and to predict their needs for the year 1950. The replies to the questionnaire were confidential and allowed the departments to provide thorough and often blunt evaluations of their role in their own academic fields and of their standing compared to their competitors at other universities. They provide frank and detailed information about the financial requirements and individual accomplishments of Columbia's various departments. For earlier reports, see the Columbia College papers.
     
  • Minutes of the Board of Trustees
    Certain academic issues need to be approved by the Board of Trustees (e.g., tenure decisions). These minutes are closed for 50 years from the date of creation.

School Records

Columbia University is made up of different colleges, faculties and schools. Below are the collections of records from the individual schools or division. In addition to the official school records, we have included some relevant resources, articles, books and even websites, but please note that these are not comprehensive lists.

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 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” in the red-rimmed box at top. This should lead you directly to your Special Collections Research Account to complete the request form.


Columbia College
Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP)
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS)
Graduate School of Business
Graduate School of Journalism
School of the Arts
School of General Studies
School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA)
School of Library Service
School of Social Work
Summer Session
Other Schools

Department Records

Below are the collections of records from the individual academic departments and disciplines. In addition to the official records, we have included the folder titles of materials available in the Historical Subject Files. These folders may include newspaper clippings, articles, publications, documents, etc. collected by the University Archives staff. Please note that these are not comprehensive lists. The list below does not include Faculty Papers which are available, organized by department, in the Faculty Search research guide.

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 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” in the red-rimmed box at top. This should lead you directly to your Special Collections Research Account to complete the request form.


African-American Studies
Anthropology
Art History and Archaeology
  • Historical Subject Files
    • Art History and Archaeology, Department of, 1960s-2000s
    • Fine Arts and Archaeology, Department of, 1914-1950s
Astronomy
Biological Sciences
Chemistry
Classics (formerly Greek and Latin)
Computer Science
Earth and Environmental Sciences
East Asian Languages and Cultures
  • Historical Subject Files
    • Asian American Studies and Asian Studies, 1960s-1990s
    • Chinese and Japanese Studies, Department of, 1900s-1980s
    • Chinese Language Program, High School, 1960s
    • East Asia at Columbia (includes info on Starr Library, Department of East Asian Studies, and Weatherhead Institute), 2000s
    • Oriental Studies, 1920s-1960s
    • Summer Language Program in Beijing, 1990s-2010s
  • Jackson, Abraham Valentine Williams. "The Chinese Chair as a New Branch of Oriental Study.Columbia University Quarterly IV, March 1902, 144-146.
Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology
Economics
English and Comparative Literature
French and Romance Philology
Germanic Languages and Literatures
History
Italian
Latin American and Iberian Cultures
Mathematics
Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies
Philosophy
Physical Education
Physics
Political Science
Psychology
Religion
Russian and Slavic Languages
Sociology

Related Collections

Although the University Archives is charged with preserving the institutional memory of Columbia University from its founding in 1754 to the present-day, the UA does not actively collect records from the following divisions and affiliates: Architecture, Law School, Health Sciences campus, Barnard College, Teachers College, and Union Theological Seminary. The repositories listed below may have records more closely related to these academic institutions and subject areas. Please note that most materials, whether at the University Archives or at any of the Columbia libraries, are searchable through the Archival Collections Portal and/or CLIO, the Columbia Libraries online catalog.

  • Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library
    Avery Drawings & Archives Collection consists primarily of drawings and architectural records by American architects of the 19th and 20th centuries. They also have drawings related to Columbia University, in particular, the Morningside Heights campus. For more information, please contact avery-drawings@library.columbia.edu.
     
  • Barnard College
    The Barnard Archives and Special Collections acts as the final repository for the historical records of Barnard College, from its founding in 1889 to the present day. They collect materials that reflect campus and academic life at Barnard College. For more information, please contact archives@barnard.edu.
     
  • Burke Library & Archives at Union Theological Seminary
    The Burke Library and Archives holds personal papers and institutional records covering a broad range of themes. The Archives reflects the Seminary's leadership in social issues, religious morals and theological thought. If you have any questions about these collections, please contact burkearchives@library.columbia.edu.
     
  • Health Sciences Library
    The Archives and Special Collections at the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library of Columbia University collects, preserves, organizes, and makes available rare and unique materials documenting the history of the health sciences in general and at the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) in particular. The department also serves as the archives for the schools of the CUMC: College of Physicians & Surgeons (1767), School of Nursing (1892), College of Dental Medicine (formerly the School of Dental & Oral Surgery) (1916), Mailman School of Public Health (1922), College of Pharmaceutical Sciences (1829) and Presbyterian Hospital (1868-1997). For more information, please contact hslarchives@columbia.edu.
     
  • Law Library
    The Law Library's Special Collections contains a number of materials useful for either genealogical or institutional research such as class lists, student newspapers, photographs, and yearbooks from select years. The Library also holds materials which document many aspects of the Law School's history including student notebooks, faculty directories, building plans, course catalogs, reunion materials, and Law School publications such as the Columbia Law School Magazine. For more information, please contact the Special Collections Librarian Irina Kandarasheva
     
  • Gottesman Libraries at Teachers College
    In addition to contemporary collections in all areas of the Teachers College curriculum, the Gottesman Libraries maintain four major historical collections of books, manuscripts, and archival materials.  These collections focus on the history of Teachers College, educational research and scholarship, curriculum materials, and children’s fiction. For more information, visit https://pk.tc.columbia.edu/.

 

About the image

Engineering students attending a lecture inside Havemeyer Hall. Scan #1240. Historical Photograph Collection, University Archives. Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.