The University Seminars Archive

The University Seminars Archive is a valuable compilation of intellectual history spanning nearly 75 years. In academic year 1944-1945, five seminars began to meet on an ongoing basis; three of those original seminars remain active to this day. Since these WWII-era beginnings, scholars have founded 207 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.

On December 1st, 2015, The University Seminars Digital Archive was launched, opening over 36,000 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 157 seminars. Boxes containing original materials may also be requested through the library finding aid.

The date range of the digital archive is 1944-2012. Additional files will be incorporated on a yearly basis, keeping in-line with the Seminars’ five-year privacy policy.

Archival materials can be accessed in Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library, where librarians can offer assistance in setting up Special Collections Research Accounts; scholars can then use The University Seminars’ finding aid to locate and request a laptop or specific boxes from the collection. To access a laptop in the Digital Archive, a request must be submitted at least two business days in advance.

To submit a request to access archival materials, please use the University Seminars online finding aid. You will be directed to set up a Special Collections Research Account. From here you may request a laptop or specific boxes from the collection.

The University Seminars 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


The laptop request check box is in Series IV Digital Archive.

You will need to request material at least two business days in advance.

If you have any additional questions regarding the archive, please contact Summer Hart.