Author Archives: Columbia Rare Book & Manuscript Library

What is this place? A short intro to RBML

That is the question we hear a lot at the beginning of the new academic year as students explore Butler Library and end up here, in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, aka “The Pink Palace.”

pink castle design and acronym rbml

Is there difference between a “castle” and a “palace?”

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) is Columbia’s principal repository for primary source collections.  The range of collections in the RBML spans more than 4,000 years and includes rare printed works, cylinder seals, cuneiform tablets, papyri, and Coptic ostraca; medieval and renaissance manuscripts; posters; art; comics & cartoons, and oral histories.

Forming the core of the collections: 500,000 printed books, 14 miles of manuscripts, personal papers, archives and records, and 10,000 (and counting) oral histories.

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New from RBML’s Archivists | August 2019

rows of archival boxes in a white room

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Head Archivist Kevin Schlottmann shares collections newly opened or updated by RBML’s Archivists.

New finding aids

Yehudah Joffe papers, 1893-1966, bulk 1920-1945
“The collection consists of Joffe’s correspondence, manuscripts/notes, and newspaper clippings. Joffe’s correspondence in Yiddish in English is both personal and professional, covering communication with institutions he was working at or hoping to work at. Joffe’s manuscripts contain drafts for lectures and notes on university seminars and lectures he attended under Prof. Roman Jakobson and others. Joffe’s newspaper clippings contain a selection of clippings relating to Prof. Peck, his undergraduate advisor, and miscellaneous clippings.

Agudath Israel Records, 1933-2008, bulk 1940-1947
” This collection consists of autograph signed letters, typed signed letters, postcards, telegrams, printed material, programs, newspaper clippings, and written public announcements pertaining to the Agudath Israel movement in America, Eretz Israel/Palestine, and Lithuania. Most materials are dated during the 1940s (wake of WWII). Most letters are addressed to Rabbi Aaron Ben Zion Shurin. The materials are mainly in Hebrew and English with some in Yiddish. Most materials concern the role of Orthodox Jewry in the wake of the Holocaust.”

Andrew Alpern Collection of Edward Gorey Materials
“A collection of original artwork, published books, printed ephemera, and branded merchandise by the writer and artist Edward Gorey (1925-2000), assembled by Andrew Alpern.”
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United Bronx Parents – A Commitment to Service

By Rachel Klepper

(Part II of II. Read part I.)

Founded in the 1960s by Evelina López Antonetty (1922-1984) as a movement for school reform, United Bronx Parents developed into an important grassroots social-services provider.

Over time, the networks and power that Antonetty built transformed into an organization that provided public health services to Bronx residents and advocated for solutions to issues that residents faced, including substance abuse, hunger, homelessness, and HIV/AIDS. There are many reasons for these shifts, and UBP was certainly impacted by changes to neighborhood needs, local and national politics, and the nonprofit sector. The United Bronx Parents Inc. Records offer the opportunity to look to two internal factors that contributed to these changes: the staffing and management of UBP and its funding sources.

Executive director Lorraine Montenegro posed with a poster of her mother and UBP founder, Evelina López Antonetty

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Lo and behold: a new finding aid for the Wellington Koo Papers

Processing collections and creating finding aids according to updated archival standards gives RBML archivists the opportunity to discover anew our collections. In this post, Processing Archivist Yingwen Huang reflects on creating a new finding aid for the heavily used Wellington Koo Papers. Wellington Koo, a graduate of Columbia and a prominent statesman and diplomat from China, played a major role in positioning China in the 20th Century international political scene. Koo used this papers as the basis for his extensive (10,000+ pages!) oral history interview held in RBML’s Oral History Archives.

“I hope this record will contribute in some small way to a mutual understanding between East and West, and to an understanding of history.” – Speech on the presentation of the Koo oral history to Columbia University, May 28, 1976

At the age of 31, Koo was the youngest delegate in the Chinese Delegation to the Paris Peace Conference. He was the key figure in speaking on the behalf of China in the direct restitution of Shandong province during the conference. He later went on to serve as the Chinese Ambassador to France, England, the United States, while representing China at the League of Nations and contributing to the founding of the United Nations.

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RBML’s copy of rare Galileo text appears in PBS’s Secrets of the Dead

Galileo’s sketches of the moon from Sidereus Nuncius, published in March 1610.

Perhaps you saw a familiar place in PBS’s new program on the forgery of the Galileo Sidereus Nuncius?

Segments of the show Secrets of the Dead: Galileo’s Moon were filmed here in the RBML. You’ll also be able to see mathematician David Eugene Smith’s true copy of Sidereus Nuncius, which is in the RBML collections. It turns out the RBML’s copy may be the only one in New York.

Missed the show’s debut? You can watch is for free, streaming online at the PBS website

United Bronx Parents – A “Community Grown Organization”

By Rachel Klepper

(This is Part I of a two-part story. Read part II.)

In 2018, the Lorraine Montenegro Women and Children’s Program Facility opened in a new building at 773 Prospect Avenue in the Bronx. With $12 million from New York State, this residential recovery center was built on the site where United Bronx Parents (UBP) began and worked for decades to improve the health and education of its community. The original building was called “La Escuelita,” and it was known in the Bronx as a hub for activism, community development, and social services. The new facility was named after UBP’s second executive director, Lorraine Montenegro, who died in 2017 in the aftermath of Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria. The RBML’s newly processed collection documents UBP’s path from its founding and the legacy that the new facility sought to honor.

Photograph of United Bronx Parents marching in a New York City parade, c.2000

In 1965, United Bronx Parents began as a grassroots coalition of Puerto Rican parents and activists concerned with the quality of their South Bronx public schools. Founder Evelina López Antonetty (1922-1984) brought her experience as an organizer and as a parent together to call for changes to an unequal and segregated school system. United Bronx Parents led workshops that trained parents to advocate for bilingual schools, more relevant curricula, and free lunch, among other demands. They called for “parent power,” joining the many Black and Latinx activists that fought for community control in the 1960s. These efforts led to the decentralization of the New York City school system in 1969. Other successes included the founding of the first bilingual public school in New York City, and a free summer lunch program that fed thousands of children. Continue reading

Tips for researchers’ first time in the archives: photos and scanning

blue and white arabic writing on page from Q'uran

Photo credit: Ali Wahid

Carrie Smith, Lecturer at Cardiff University, recently posted a thread on Twitter with basic advice for first-time archives researchers. The thread has  tips that work well for our own RBML users — even for our more regular visitors. Continue reading

It might’ve heated up outside — welcome, summer! — but inside the RBML reading rooms it can be quite chilly.

While we can’t let you bring in coats, jackets or other large coverings, you can bring a light cardigan or long-sleeve shirt. Please review our reading room guidelines before your visit. 

New from RBML’s Archivists | May – June 2019

rows of archival boxes in a white room

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Head Archivist Kevin Schlottmann shares collections newly opened or updated by RBML’s Archivists.

Barnard Family Papers
“Correspondence, financial records, and legal documents of the Barnard family of Sheffield, Massachusetts. Frederick A. P. Barnard (1809-1889) was President of Columbia College from 1864-1889. His brother John Gross Barnard (1815-1882) was a career officer in the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers who served as a Brevet Major General for the Union during the Civil War. Anna Eliza Barnard was John Gross Barnard’s second wife, who raised four children and managed the family’s affairs during her husband’s last illness, 1879-1882. Augustus Porter Barnard, the son of John G. Barnard and his first wife, was a mining engineer.”

United Bronx Parents Records
“United Bronx Parents (UBP) was founded in 1965 as a grassroots organization of parents and local businesses advocating for improved education for children in South Bronx public schools. In 1984, under executive director Lorraine Montenegro, the organization shifted focus to address other issues facing Bronx residents, including homelessness, substance abuse, and HIV/AIDS. The United Bronx Parents, Inc. Records document the organization’s work for social services in the Puerto Rican community of the South Bronx from the 1960s to the 2010s.”

Albert Goldman Papers
“The papers consist of correspondence, diaries, journals, interviews, manuscripts, transcripts, and printed material of  Albert Goldman, one of the foremost chroniclers of American popular culture. ”

Faculty Meeting Minutes, 1864-2011
This collection contains the recorded minutes from the different faculty meetings: from the representative University Council to the individual schools (Columbia College, Engineering, Journalism, Law, etc.). Faculty meeting minutes include information on admissions, the academic calendar, curricular changes, faculty appointments and leaves, student petitions, fellowships, grants, prizes, and graduation requirements among other topics.

Flat Files Collection, 1754-2018
This collection consists of oversize posters, maps, newspapers, drawings, floor plans and architectural plans related to Columbia events, people and locations. The collection has been organized by subject matter.

Departmental Reports to the President, 1890-1927
This collection contains three sets of reports from the academic departments to the President of Columbia College (1890) and Columbia University (1900 and 1927).

Nicholas Murray Butler football correspondence, 1905-1907
This collection contains correspondence received by Columbia University President Nicholas Murray Butler regarding the banning of intercollegiate football at Columbia in 1905 and the ban lasted for 10 years.

***An exhibition on Football at Columbia will open in the fall.***

Collections of speeches by Columbia University Presidents:
– Seth Low speeches, 1878-1916
– Nicholas Murray Butler speeches, 1882-1947
– William McGill speeches, 1971-1980

J. Franklin Crowell Papers
“Correspondence, manuscripts, notes, questionnaires, and printed materials relating to a study of lynching conducted by Crowell. Included are letters from governors, elected and appointed officials, and others replying to inquiries from Crowell. There are more than 100 manuscripts and manuscript notes by Crowell, eleven completed questionnaires returned to him approximately 150 newspaper clippings, and twelve printed items on the topic of lynching.”

Updated F. A. P. Barnard Papers
Four boxes of Frederick Barnard’s professional materials were separated from the Barnard Family papers and added to the end of the existing collection.

Lawrence Walsh papers — Pepperdine Law Collection Series
One large series of the Lawrence Walsh papers, consisting of law volumes, books, and clippings, has a finding aid.

The listing of the Tennessee Williams library were added to the existing finding aid as series X, making directly discoverable over 2,000 previously hidden books.

The Indian Princely State Documents now have a container list:
“These are manuscripts and typescript documents of 34 different princely states that existed as distinct political entities in pre-independence India. Although the majority of these states were tiny principalities in western India (primarily in what is now Rajasthan), some (e.g., Hyderabad) were located in other regions of India and represented major powers in the region at that time.”

Librarian Jane Siegel picks favorites from the RBML collections

The Current, a journal of contemporary politics, culture, and Jewish affairs at Columbia, stopped in to the RBML to speak with Jane Siegel, Librarian for Rare Books.

She’s all-around fount of knowledge about how so many of our rarities and oddities came to reside in Butler Library.

Read more about Jane’s career here in the Libraries and which items in the RBML’s vast repository are her favorite. Yes, we play favorites.