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   Historical Photograph Collection, 1855-2012 [Bulk Dates: 1860-1980]

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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. Columbia University Archives.
Title:Historical Photograph Collection, 1855-2012 [Bulk Dates: 1860-1980]
Physical description:179.47 linear feet (210 document boxes; 50 OS flat boxes; 9 XL flat boxes; 6 XXL flat boxes; 11 clamshell boxes).
Language(s):In English
Access: This collection is located on site.  More information »



Arranged in sixteen series.

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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.

Subseries I.1: Affiliated Institutions

Images of institutions affiliated with Columbia University such as Teachers College, Columbia University Press and Seth Low Junior College.

Subseries I.2: Fellowships and Scholarships

Images related to various fellowships and scholarships offered by Columbia University.

Subseries I.3: Institutes and Centers

Photographs depicting the myriad of different Columbia institutes and centers, such as the Computer Center, American Press Institute, and the Arts Center.

Subseries I.4: Schools and Departments

This is the largest of the four sub-series and contains images of numerous schools and departments found at Columbia University. The School of Mines (predecessor to the School of Engineering) is particularly well represented in this sub-series.

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.

Subseries II.1: General

Images related to administrative topics that do not fit into any specific sub-category, such as Admissions.

Subseries II.2: Executive Vice President (EVP), Office of

Photographs of certain activities that administratively fall under the Office of the Executive Vice President.

Subseries II.3: President, Office of

Images of activities and offices that have traditionally fallen under the auspices of the Office of the President.

Subseries II.4: Provost

Images of activities and offices which are associated with the Office of the Provost. This includes several files of images related to the Libraries.

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).

Subseries VII.1: General

Images of buildings, sites and campuses associated with Columbia over the years but not at one of the major campus sites. This sub-series includes images of places such as Baker Field, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Nevis Labs and general photos of New York City.

Subseries VII.2: 49th Street Campus

From 1856 to 1897 Columbia occupied buildings at the midtown location of 49th Street and Madison Avenue. The images in this sub-series are of buildings and campus features from Columbia’s second campus home. The School of Mines is well represented in this sub-series.

Subseries VII.3: Health Sciences Campus

Images of the medical school campus and associated buildings located at 168th Street and its previous home at 59th Street.

Subseries VII.4: Morningside Campus

Photographs of the buildings and campus features found on Columbia’s Morningside campus, the school’s third home since its founding in 1754. This sub-series includes images of buildings and features that have since disappeared from campus, such as Ferris Booth Hall, Bloomingdale Asylum structures and The Green. There are also several folders of "General Views" images which broadly depict the campus in various time periods.

Subseries VII.5: Park Place

Images of Columbia’s first home in downtown New York City. Although there are some photographs of the original college building as it was being torn down in 1856, most of the images in this sub-series are sketches, lithographs and drawings of this campus site which was in use between 1754 and 1856.

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.

Subseries: IX.1: General

Images of events associated with Columbia University alumni, such as Dean’s Days, Reunion activities, Alumni Association events, and Commencement luncheons.

Subseries: IX.2: Alumni

This small sub-series contains images of some of the anniversary celebrations held by schools, such as Columbia College and the School of Mines.

Subseries: IX.3: Anniversaries

Images of awards ceremonies and related photos associated with numerous awards granted by Columbia University. Awards covered in this sub-series include the Bancroft Prizes, DuPont Awards, Alexander Hamilton Medal, Pulitzer Prizes, and Vetlesen Prizes.

Subseries: IX.4: Awards

Chronological arrangement of images of university commencement ceremonies held over the years. The holdings for the ceremonies are predominantly from the 20th century. Also includes files of images depicting more general subjects associated with commencement day at Columbia.

Subseries: IX.5: Commencement

Images of Columbia sponsored community related programs and events.

Subseries: IX.6: Community Affairs

Images of the First Institute Concerts held in 1928-1929.

Subseries: IX.7: Concerts

Images of some of the conferences held at Columbia University. Columbia Scholastic Press Association conference is well represented in this sub-series.

Subseries: IX.8: Conferences

Images of some of the numerous convocations held at Columbia University in the 20th century.

Subseries: IX.9: Convocations

Small sub-series of images depicting some of the exhibitions that have been presented at Columbia University over the years.

Subseries: IX.10: Exhibits

Images of some of the lecture events held at Columbia University over the years.

Subseries: IX.11: Lectures

Very small sub-series depicting Columbia University opening exercises held in 1926 and 1940 to 1950.

Subseries: IX.12: Opening Exercises

Small sub-series of images depicting protest activities on campus. Images are mostly from the 1960s but there are some events from the 1940s and 1950s represented in this sub-series. See Office of Public Affairs Photograph Collection and the University Protest and Activism Collection for more extensive collections of images from campus protests in 1968 and surrounding years.

Subseries: IX.13: Protest and Activism

Small sub-series of images of just a few of the many University Seminars held at Columbia University over the years.

Subseries: IX.14: University Seminars

Small sub-series of images of some of the visitors who have come to Columbia University campus over the years.

Subseries: IX.15: Visitors

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.

Subseries: XI.1: General

Images of student activities and student life that did not easily fit in the other sub-series categories created.

Subseries: XI.2: Clubs

Images of a variety of student clubs that once existed or continue to exist at Columbia.

Subseries: XI.3: Fraternities

Mostly group portraits of fraternities at Columbia from 1920s and 1930s.

Subseries: XI.4: Honorary Societies

Images of honorary societies such as the Blue Key Society, Phi Beta Kappa, and Varsity "C" Club.

Subseries: XI.5: Performing Groups

Photographs depicting student performances (theatre, musical groups, etc.) at Columbia over the years. Images include performances by Theatre Associates and the Soph Show. Images of the Varsity Show can be found within the Varsity Show Records, 1894-Present (UA#0003)

Subseries: XI.6: Publications

Images of student publication groups such as Spectator and Jester .

Subseries: XI.7: Traditions

Images of some of the student traditions of Columbia College students, many of which are no longer continued today. Traditions represented in this sub-series include rushes, cane spree, Goodwood Cups, freshmen beanies and the Yule Log.

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).

Sub-Series: XIII.1: General

Images of general activities associated with Columbia during World War I that cannot fit in the other sub-series categories.

Subseries XIII.2: Commencement

One folder of commencement images from 1917.

Subseries XIII.3: Convocations

Contains one folder of images from convocation of Cardinal Mercier in 1919.

Subseries XIII.4: Instruction

Images of the military training programs held on campus and sponsored by Columbia during World War I.

Subseries XIII.5: Reviews and Parades

Images depicting the military reviews and parades held on campus and nearby.

Series: XIV: World War II

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

Subseries XIV.1: General

Images of general activities associated with Columbia during World War II.

Subseries XIV.2: Convocations

Images of three different World War II related convocation ceremonies held in 1945 and 1947 at Columbia University.

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.

Subseries XV.1: Subjects-Original Negatives

Arranged alphabetically, these are original negatives depicting a variety of Columbia related subjects. Some of these original negatives are attributed to Walter Lawrence (W.L.) Bogert. Otherwise, provenance is uncertain.

Subseries XV.2: Subjects-Copy Negatives

Arranged mostly alphabetically, these are copy negatives created from original photographs to create duplicate prints created for past patrons.

Subseries XV.3: People

Alphabetically arranged original and copy negatives of various individuals associated with Columbia University over the years

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.

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Using the Collection

Access Restrictions

This collection is located on site.

There are no restrictions on this collection.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Historical Photograph Collection; Series Number; Box and Folder (if known); University Archives, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.

Preferred Citation

Historical Photograph Collection, ca. 1858- . Columbia University Archives, Columbia University in the City of New York.

Related Material at Columbia

Class Photo 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)

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About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Archives; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

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..

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion December 13, 2010 Finding aid written in English.
    2010-12-13 File created.
    2016-04-01 xml document instance updated by Catherine C. Ricciardi

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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.


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Albumen prints.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Photographic prints.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Photogravure prints.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Silver gelatin negatives.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID


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

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History / Biographical Note


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.

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