Columbia University Archives

Historical photograph collection, 1858-

Summary Information


The Historical Photo Collection contains images of persons, events, and activities associated with Columbia College (1754-1896) and Columbia University (1896-).

At a Glance

Call No.: UA#0003
Bib ID 4080179 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Columbia University. Archives
Title Historical photograph collection, 1858-
Physical Description 179.89 Linear Feet (211 document boxes; 50 OS flat boxes; 9 XL flat boxes; 6 XXL flat boxes; 11 clamshell boxes)
Language(s) English .

This collection is located onsite.

There are no restrictions on this collection.



Arranged in sixteen series.


Scope and Content

Black and white gelatin silver negatives and prints, color negatives and prints, albumen prints, cyanotypes, lithographs, and postcards from various sources with or without provenance, ranging from the latter part of the 19th to the present 21st century at Columbia University. The bulk of the collection consists of black and white prints, including portraits of individuals (ca. 34,000 items). Series VII. Buildings and Grounds contain the greatest volume (ca. 12,000 items / 35 cubic feet) of subject images. Many prints from 1946 through 1973 are attributed to University Photographer Manny Warman, including Series IV. Athletics (ca. 5600 items). Other known photographers include Joe Pierno and Walter Lawrence Bogert.

  • Series I: Academics

    Arranged in four sub-series, these images depict the various academic areas of the University, including schools, departments, institutes, centers and affiliated institutions of Columbia University. This series also contains images related to some of the fellowships and scholarships offered by Columbia.

  • Series II: Administration

    Arranged in 4 sub-series, these images depict subjects and departments that reports to the Office of the Executive Vice President, the Office of the President and the Office of the Provost.

  • Series III: Artifacts

    Studio photographs depicting works of art and items for the purpose of two-dimensional duplication are filed under this series. The items are often isolated and no other contextual information may be recorded (location, date, etc.). The subjects include medals and artifacts under the custody of the University Archives, including many objects once located in the Kings College Room.

  • Series IV: Athletics

    This large series contains images of numerous Columbia athletic competitions and teams. Basketball, baseball, crew, and football are particularly well represented in this series.

  • Series V: Atomic Energy

    A small series of images related to atomic research conducted by Columbia. Included are images of the Nevis and Pupin Laboratories and a 1948 exhibit about atomic energy.

  • Series VI: Bicentennial

    This series contains images of events and activities that either took place during or are associated with Columbia University's bicentennial celebrations in 1954.

  • Series VII: Buildings and Grounds

    Among the largest series in this collection, images include interior and exterior images of buildings and campus features for Columbia's various homes over the years (Park Place, 49th Street, Morningside, Health Sciences) as well as places associated with Columbia but not located at one of the main campus sites (e.g., Baker Field).

  • Series VIII: Class Portraits

    This series contains mostly large format (oversized), group photographs of Columbia's graduating classes from across the various schools, including the College, School of Mines and Law. Classes represented are mostly from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Photos included also depict reunion dinners for various classes.

  • Series IX: Events

    Arranged in 15 sub-series, this series contains images of annual and one-time only events held at Columbia University over the years.

  • Series X: Portraits

    Studio and informal photographs depicting various individuals associated with Columbia University over the years. Individuals include students, faculty, trustees, honorary degree recipients and lecturers.

    It is strongly suggested that patrons search the other online finding aids for information on portraits.

  • Series XI: Student Activities and Student Life

    Arranged in 7 sub-series, this series contains images of Columbia student clubs, fraternities, performing groups, publications and student traditions over the years.

  • Series XII: University Symbols

    Images depicting major Columbia University symbols including the King's Crown, the lion mascot, the University seal and shield.

  • Series: XIII: World War I

    Photographs depicting campus activities during the World War I period (1914-1919).

  • Series: XIV: World War II

    Photographs depicting campus activities during the World War II period (1939-1945).

  • Series XV: Columbiana Negatives

    Original and copy negatives depicting a variety of subjects and individuals associated with Columbia University. Negatives are primarily 4x5 in size. Other sizes include 8x10, 5x7, 35mm, 120mm, and slides. Many of the negatives are on Safety Film (one will notice an "SF" in the corner of the negative envelope to signify this). There are also silver gelatin and glossy negatives within this collection. Most of the negatives are in black and white, but there are some that are color negatives. Before the advent of digital scanning, copy negatives were often created from original photos to create duplicate prints. This series is comprised of many such negatives created for past patrons.

    Some negatives included in this series are negatives of articles, books, drawings/sketches/etchings/paintings, etc. One will notice that there are two titles concerning coffeepots—one is "Myers Coffeepot," the other is "Johnson, Samuel—Coffeepot." It appears that the coffeepots depicted are identical, however, these were the titles assigned them and processing did not deviate from that.

    Please note that box numbering for this series re-starts from Box 1.

  • Series XVI: Columbia University Libraries Photograph Division negatives,, 1939-1943

    This series contains 5x7 negatives made by the Columbia University Libraries Photograph Division between 1939 to 1943. This Division, for the most part, made photostat prints (copies of books and images) but was also equipped to do pictorial photography. This series contains some of their original photographs (John Jay Hall, Dr. Bennett in the darkroom) and some of their photostat work (Pope Pious XII document). It also includes photographs of different exhibitions held at the South Hall or Butler Library.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is located onsite.

There are no restrictions on this collection.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

For use of images specifically attributed to Jessica Raimi, please contact the photographer for permission. Contact information will be provided by RBML staff upon request. Please note that this rule does not apply to images of the University Senate taken by Ms. Raimi.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Historical Photograph Collection; Series Number; Box and Folder (if known); University Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York.

Related Material at Columbia

Class Photograph Albums, 1856-1902

Columbia Spectator Photograph Collection, 1950-1999 (UA#0036)

Columbia University Faculty Photograph Collection, 1938 (UA#0115)

Graduate School of Journalism Photograph Collection, 1918-2002 (UA#0110)

Health Sciences Archives & Special Collections

"No More Shadows: Women Leaders of Color at Columbia University" Records, 1993 (UA#0570)

Office of Public Affairs Photograph Collection, 1947-2006 (UA#0109)

University Protest and Activism Collection, 1958-1999 [Bulk Dates: 1968-1972] (UA#007)

Varsity Show Collection, 1894- (UA#016)

Women's Graduate Club of Columbia University Portrait Collection, c. 1920-1930s (UA#0114)

Custodial History

A large portion of the collection was administratively transferred from the Division of the Libraries in 1998 at the time of the merger between the Columbiana Library and the University Archives. The Columbiana Photo Collection and material removed from the Historical Subject Files and Historical Biographical Files were part of this transfer. Post-1998 acquisitions (mainly from the Office of Public Affairs) have been incorporated into the collection.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

This collection was originally processed by Mae Pan through funding of the NHPRC (1999-2002). Processing was continued by Jennifer Ulrich between 2002 and 2007. Additions have been added by Jocelyn Wilk and numerous work study students. EAD finding aid created by Jocelyn Wilk Laura Thomas (School of Arts 2013), Gillian Rhodes (CC 2012) and Maya Meredith (CC 2014) during the Summer of 2012, based upon information formerly maintained in an MS Access Database and a legacy finding aid draft created by Jennifer Ulrich.

Revision Description

2010-12-13 File created.

2016-04-01 xml document instance updated by Catherine C. Ricciardi

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Albumen prints Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Cyanotypes Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographic prints Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photogravure prints Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Postcards Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Silver gelatin negatives Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Architecture -- United States -- History -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Barnard, Frederick A. P (Frederick Augustus Porter), 1809-1889 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Butler, Nicholas Murray, 1862-1947 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Classrooms Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
College students Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University -- Administration Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University -- Alumni and alumnae Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University -- Buildings Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University -- Faculty Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University -- Presidents Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University -- Students Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Eisenhower, Dwight D (Dwight David), 1890-1969 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Kirk, Grayson L. (Grayson Louis), 1903-1997 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Low, Seth, 1850-1916 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

The Historical Photo Collection consists chiefly of images of persons, events, and activities related to Columbia College (1754-1896) and Columbia University (1896-). The collection is made up of the Columbiana Photo Collection (part of the Division of the Libraries until 1998), images removed from the Columbiana vertical subject files, and post-1998 acquisitions.