Tag Archives: library resources

Human Rights Day 2013

On December 10th, 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Two years later the UN proclaimed December 10th as Human Rights Day. This day is commemorated throughout the world and calls attention to the ongoing work of promoting and protecting human rights. Columbia University Libraries has made a significant investment in supporting teaching, learning, and research related to human rights and related advocacy movements. Our Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research acquires unique primary resources, including the archives of several major human rights organizations. We have a network of subject specialist librarians who build excellent general collections of resources from around the world in many languages.

Some highlights our our collections: Human Rights organizational archives,  including the records of Human Rights Watch , Amnesty International USA, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Committee for Health in Southern Africa.


Notable individuals’ papers

  • Gay J. McDougall South Africa and Namibia Papers, which includes records of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Southern Africa Project.  This collection documents Ms. McDougall’s work in coordinating the defense of political prisoners, and her work on South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission.  This collection is being processed.  Please check our Center’s website for updates on the availability of the collection for research.
  • Telford Taylor Papers, 1918-1998.  Taylor was a prominent lawyer who served as Counsel  for the Prosecution at the International and Nuremberg Military Tribunals.

Digital Collections:

Asian Film Online Trial

Columbia University Libraries now has an ongoing trial of Asian Film Online through December 31, 2013. We are considering purchase from Alexander Street Press. This is the result of a partnership between Asia Pacific Films and Alexander Street Press.

South Asian languages represented in this film streaming collection include:

Bengali – 23 films from Bangladesh and India, including directors such as Tanvir Mokammel, Aparna Sen, Bappaditya Bandopadhyay, Moinak Biswas, and others

Farsi – 57 films from Iran

Hindi – 45 films, including such directors as Basu Chatterjee, Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Saeed Akhtar Mirza, Sudhir Mishra, and others

Malayalam – 5 films, including one of my favorites, Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Four Women  

Marathi – 2 films, including Amol Palekar’s The Raw Mango

Nepali – 5 films

Oriya – 2 films

Sinhala – 14 films from Sri Lanka, including portrayals of the social repercussions of the recent civil war on everyday life. Directors represented include Prasanna Vithanage, Dharmasena Pathiraja, Asoka Handagama, and others

Tamil – 1 film from India, and 1 from Sri Lanka

Telugu – 2 films

Asian Film Online offers a view of Asian culture as seen through the lens of the independent Asian filmmaker. Through a selection curated by film scholars and critics, viewers can explore the impact of globalization and urbanization on people’s everyday lives throughout the greater Asian region. Faculty and students engaged in area studies, anthropology, film studies, philosophy, geography, education, religion, gender studies, world literature, urban development, cross-cultural communication, journalism, social sciences, and humanities will benefit from exploring this rare collection of films that make silent voices heard.

Librarian Travel Report: Bogot√°, Colombia

For the second time in two years, I traveled to Bogotá, Colombia in April to attend the International Book Fair of Bogotá, popularly known as FILBO. Along with nineteen other international librarians, I received a generous invitation from Proexport Colombia, La Cámara Colombiana del Libro, and the Centro Internacional de Negocios y Exposiciones –CORFERIAS. Together, they covered air travel, fair registration, and provided other assistance during the professional days of the fair. I also wish to acknowledge the additional support of Columbia University Libraries.

FILBO is one of the three largest annual book fairs in Latin America (together with Guadalajara and Buenos Aires). It is an excellent means of both professional development and selection as 95% of Colombian publishers participate in the fair. Walking around the pavillions, it was exciting to see Columbia and Cornell faculty members' work on prominent display, to include works by Joseph Stiglitz (in Spanish translation) and Edmundo Paz Soldán, among others.

View a Slideshow of Photographs from FILBO 2013

Read an interview with US-based librarians at the FILBO Blog:
Bibliotecólogos buscan libros colombianos para universidades en EE.UU

Although primarily a national showcase, Portugal’s pavilion was irresistible as the selection was excellent. Portugal sent over 20,000 copies of their best recent publications in various disciplines. I dedicated almost an entire day to review and select Portuguese titles as the opportunity to explore Portuguese books up close does not come too often.  As this was the first year working with a shared vendor to provide Colombian materials to both Cornell and Columbia libraries, I spent half a day working closely with our vendor, Carlos Retta, to fine tune our selection criteria. In the end, I’m confident that moving forward we will build a deep, wide-ranging collection of Colombian publications in many academic disciplines. We will not duplicate nearly as much (in the past decade Cornell and Columbia's collection of Colombian publications overlapped a full 30%). Instead, by working together, we will reinvest those savings into additional titles from the country to collect deeply from all the university presses and beyond to include La Carreta, Tragaluz, Letrarte, and many more. 

A visit to the Candelaria sparked stops at the Librería del Centro Cultural Gabriel García Márquez, the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango, and the Archivo General de la Nación. I had not previously visited the national archives and did so at the request of a professor at Cornell to investigate the acquisition of a primary resource collection now available on microfilm.


Sean Knowlton
Latin American and Iberian Studies Librarian
Cornell University Library and Columbia University Libraries (2CUL)

Online Resources: Holocaust and Genocide


The Shoah Visual History Archive is largest database of first-person Holocaust testimonies, founded by Steven Spielberg.  With over 50,000 testimonies from Holocaust survivors and liberators, carefully indexed in short segments for ease of searchability and use, the VHA is a tremendous resource for the history of the Holocaust.

Recently, the VHA has expanded to include other genocides, and now also holds 65 indexed testimonies of survivors from the 1994 Rwandan Tutsi Genocide.

To search the database, visit the Visual History Archive.  Once you create a username and password, you will be allowed access to the tremendous index within the database.  You can search by basic keyword, but also limit by qualifiers like "Warsaw" or 'ghetto bribery," to narrow your search and make it extremely specific.

Due to the large size of the database, the videos are not held locally at Columbia, but are uploaded upon request to a Columbia server.  Once you find a testimony that looks appropriate for your research, click on the link to "request this testimony."  You will receive an email notification when it is available for viewing. Because the uploaded videos are held on a Columbia server, the testimonies can only be viewed on the physical campus.  If you are not in New York, or can't get to Columbia, you can view testimonies at one of many access sites (sfi.usc.edu/locator/) located around the world.

(Cross-posted on the Jewish Studies blog: https://blogs.cul.columbia.edu/jewishstudiesatcul)

Guatemala, Human Rights, and the Documentary Trail

Cover of Memory of Silence b Daniel RothenbergToday marks the opening of the trial of Efraín Ríos Montt, former Guatemalan army general and dictator, who is being charged with genocide and crimes against humanity.   Guatemala's truth commission report, issued in 1999, put the death toll at 200,000 during the course of an almost 40-year civil war. In a press release, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated   "This is the first time, anywhere in the world, that a former head of State is being put on trial for genocide by a national tribunal.”  The prosecution will turn to an extensive body of documentation, including military records, government documents, and the testimony of 142 witnesses in making its case. It is the exception and not the rule to see so much documentation survive a conflict.

Columbia Libraries and its Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research (CHRDR) provide a gateway to learning about and researching this conflict and the transitional justice process now unfolding.  Some recommended resources:

Recommended subject searches in our library catalog, CLIO Beta:

Beyond Columbia Libraries:

Follow the trial which is projected to last into the summer:
Twitter:  #RiosMontt, #GenocideGT and @NISGUA_Guate  @PzPenVivo (Plaza Pública)  and @ReedBrody (HRW)

The Bolivarian Revolution and the future of Venezuela

With the death of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela faces an unpredictable future. I invite researchers interested in exploring Venezuela's recent political history and current affairs to dig deeper using Columbia University Libraries resources:

EIU (Economist Intelligence Unit)
Get the latest country report and country profile of Venezuela. Also, browse the online archive of these weekly, monthly and annual reports.

Emerging Markets Information Service (EMIS)
Full-text news from Latin America, including government publications, and political, economic and financial sources.

Full-text current and archival news sources, including Latin American news sources such as "El Nacional" from Caracas.

HAPI (Hispanic American Periodicals Index)
Use this index to citations from over 500 Latin American studies journals (with links to full-text articles) to identify scholarly articles on your topic. Coverage: 1970 to the present.

Explore CLIO efficiently using Subject Headings. Instead of a keyword search, simply search by "Subject":

  • Chávez Frías, Hugo
  • Democracy–Venezuela
  • Populism–Venezuela
  • Political Parties–Venezuela
  • Presidents–Venezuela
  • Elections–Venezuela
  • Venezuela–Politics and Government, 1999-
  • Venezuela–Politics and government–1974-1999
  • Venezuela–Foreign relations–United States