The Development of CUL’s Slavic & East European Collections Redux: The Fall 2021 Harriman Institute @ 75 Atrium Exhibit “People, Books & Archives in Pictures 1903-2021” Re-Opens in Lehman Library


During the fall 2021 semester, the Harriman Institute (founded as the Russian Institute in 1946), celebrated the 75th Anniversary of its establishment.  The oldest institute of its kind in North America, the Harriman has also played a key role in the development of Columbia’s library holdings in the vernacular languages of Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union.

Introductory panel to the second section, as installed in the Harriman Atrium, September 2021

From September 7 through October 26, 2021, the Harriman Atrium in the International Affairs Building hosted a 26-panel exhibit devoted to the development of Columbia’s Slavic and East European collections from 1903 to date.  Also documented was the growth of library partner Cornell’s collections from 1884 to the present: Columbia’s Librarian for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Collections is

Section One of the exhibit, as re-installed near the Global Studies Division, Lehman Library, April 2022

responsible for the development of Cornell’s collections as well.  Divided into three chronological sections—1903-1946, 1946-early 1990s, and the 1990s-2021—the exhibit traced a line from the early gifts-in-kind of individuals as diverse as the Tsarist diplomat Count Sergei Witte, and the banker Felix Warburg, through the advocacy of figures such as Slavic Department founder John Dyneley Prince, first Russian Institute Director Geroid T. Robinson, and Central Asianist Edward Allworth, to distinctive collecting initiatives of recent years.

Panel on the early 20th century benefactions of the Seligman brothers, and Professor Simkhovitch

Now, the exhibit—designed by grad student Erica Stefano—is on display in Lehman Library, outside of the Global Studies Department of the Columbia University Libraries.  This “second life” for the exhibit brings home to the viewer a better appreciation of the many threads that have come together over more than a century to form the rich fabric of the collections we have access to today.


Robert H. Davis

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