Imagining the World: Unexplored Global Collections at Columbia: Online exhibit

The Global Studies Unit at the Columbia University Libraries has launched an online exhibit entitled: Imagining the World: Unexplored Global Collections at Columbia. This online exhibit is a reworked version of the physical exhibit put on display in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 2016. It reflects the depth and breadth of our global collecting at the Columbia University Libraries, and it features a small selection of rare, unique, and unusual items produced between 1454 and 2014 from around the globe, which entered the Columbia University Libraries’ special collections throughout the past few decades. The items cover many world regions, disciplines, and formats, including books, maps, photos, posters, scrolls, sheet music, stamps, and typescripts. They cover over 17 languages, including: Arabic, Czech, English, French, Gujarati, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Malayalam, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Sanskrit, Spanish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Wolof, and Yiddish. The items provide a glimpse into the Libraries’ far ranging and long-standing  commitment to collect items of scholarly relevance from and about numerous cultures, societies, languages, disciplines, and regions around the globe. This exhibit reflects the attempt to support and expand scholarly horizons within the academy by documenting both the unquestioning power structures of social and historical realities of many eras, societies and cultures, as well as the dissenting and critical voices, the micro-histories and diverse ways of being in the world. It is also a reflection on the fact that  archives and special collections circulate through networks within a larger knowledge production body politics with its own ideas, interests, structure, goals, and logistics. These networks have a life of their own, and a “reason” of their own, ones of which we often have only a hazy awareness. We can learn as much from reflection on how we have collected, on what we give access to and choose to highlight and research and engage with, as from the items themselves. This exhibit was a learning experience for us, and we hope you enjoy it.

The exhibit is curated by: Yuusuf Caruso (African Studies), Michelle Chesner (Jewish Studies), Rob Davis (Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies), Pamela Graham (Director, Humanities & Global Studies), Gary Hausman (South & South East Asian Studies), Peter Magierski (Middle East and Islamic Studies), Sócrates Silva (Latin American & Iberian Studies). 

Many thanks to the staff of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, the Preservation & Digital Conversion Unit, to the Cataloging Staff, and especially to Melanie Wacker, Metadata Coordinator at the Columbia University Libraries, and to Pamela Graham, Director, Humanities and Global Studies for their sustained support and encouragement.

For more information about Global Studies, Columbia University Libraries, and to contact us, please see our web page.

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