The University Seminars Archive

In 1945 five University Seminars began to meet. Hashing out challenging, topical and sometimes radical ideas – asking questions not typically raised in traditional academic settings – these seminars set out to broaden the nature of academic discourse.

As years passed, the number of University Seminars increased, with seminars forming around intellectual inquires and areas of study. Minutes were taken, recorded first by hand, then by typewriter, then by computer keyboard.  The minutes were carefully filed, eventually becoming half a million pages of intellection.

Robert Belknap, director from 2001 to 2011, initiated the task of digitizing and archiving the minutes of seminar meetings. All papers produced between 1945-2000 were scanned and saved as searchable PDF files. The original documents were organized, boxed, and entrusted to Columbia University’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Library.

With a new director, Robert Pollack, the project expands and continues with the digitization of remaining analog minutes, Directors’ papers, and seminar-related correspondence. Under the supervision of Summer Hart, the preservation and cataloging of an ever-expanding archive of “born digital” files has begun. Summer is collaborating with the Columbia University Libraries to preserve and unify the various components of this archive, and to make seminar minutes and documents digitally searchable to scholars in the RBML reading room.

To recall currently available materials, go to the University Seminars Finding Aid.


If you have any questions regarding the archive, please contact Summer Hart at sh3040@columbia.edu.