The University Seminars Archive

The University Seminars Archive is a valuable compilation of intellectual history spanning nearly 75 years. In the academic year 1944-1945, five seminars began to meet on an ongoing basis; three of those original seminars remain active. Since these WWII-era beginnings, scholars have founded over two hundred seminars, and the questions, concerns, and challenges of the intervening decades can be traced through the development of new seminars. Today over 90 seminars meet, and The University Seminars continues to provide venues for open and unfettered intellectual exchange among peers, allowing attendees the freedom to try out ideas without the inherent limitations of a public discussion.

In 2003, then Director Robert L. Belknap began the project of scanning the first fifty years of the pre-digital meeting minutes of the seminars. Under his supervision, over a half million pages were digitized. The original documents were organized, boxed, and entrusted to Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library. In 2011, Summer Hart was hired to work with Robert Belknap and Robert Pollack to unify the various components of the archive.

On December 1st, 2015, The University Seminars Digital Archive was launched, opening up full-text searchable files to scholars on dedicated laptops in the RBML reading room on the 6th Floor of Butler Library. Researchers can browse, keyword search, and view the records of seminars. Boxes containing original materials, housed offsite, may also be requested.

Library Access:

For scholars using Butler Library, librarians can offer assistance. The University Seminars finding aid can be used to locate and request a laptop or specific boxes from the collection. For additional assistance, contact: uarchives@columbia.edu.

The date range of the archive is 1944-2012, with 40,625 items from 194 seminars. Additional files are incorporated on a yearly basis, keeping in-line with the Seminars’ five-year privacy policy.

Remote Access: At the start of each fall semester, Summer Hart updates a list of permissions for remote access to the archive for all active chairs and rapporteurs. Additional permissions will be considered on an as-needed basis.

See: Digital Archive Quick Guide.

The University Seminar’s material is sorted into the following series:


Series I: Minutes and Notes
Series II: Related Papers
Series III: Books Based on University Seminars
Series IV: Digital Archive