Imagining the World: Unexplored Global Collections at Columbia

Imagining the World: Unexplored Global Collections at Columbia

We put on display here a small selection of rare, unique, and unusual items produced between 1454 and 2014 from around the globe, which entered our Columbia University Libraries’ special collections throughout the past few decades. The items cover many world regions, disciplines, and formats, including books, maps, photos, posters, scrolls, sheet music, stamps, and typescripts. They cover over 17 languages, including: Arabic, Czech, English, French, Gujarati, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Malayalam, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Sanskrit, Spanish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Wolof, and Yiddish.

While these items represent only a minuscule fraction, and a sampling of what is collected by the Columbia University Libraries, they also provide a glimpse into the Libraries' far ranging and long-standing  commitment to collect items of scholarly relevance from and about numerous cultures, societies, languages, disciplines, and regions around the globe. 

We hope that this exhibit reflects our attempt, through showcasing some of our collecting, to support and expand scholarly horizons within the academy by documenting both the unquestioning power structures of social and historical realities of many eras, societies and cultures, as well as the dissenting and critical voices, the micro-histories and diverse ways of being in the world. Indeed, we hope that this exhibit highlights the fact that as we collect, preserve, provide access to, display, juxtapose, and bring these items in dialogue with one another, and as we engage, through them, with different communities and multiple disciplinary interests and angles, the sum of our global collecting amounts to much more than its particular parts: in the multi-faceted mirrors we hold to each other’s area specific collections and collecting processes, a richer, more connected and animated understanding and teaching of a global world is invoked, reproduced, and amplified.

Many thanks to the staff of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, the Preservation & Digital Conversion Unit, to the Cataloging Saff, and especially to Melanie Wacker, Metadata Coordinator at the Columbia University Libraries, and to Pamela Graham, Director, Humanites and Global Studies for their sustained support and encouragement.

For more information about Global Studies, Columbia University Libraries, and to contact us, please see our web page.

Exhibit Curator

Yuusuf Caruso (African Studies), Michelle Chesner (Jewish Studies), Rob Davis (Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies), Pamela Graham (Director, Humanities & Global Studies), Gary Hausman (South & SouthEast Asian Studies), Peter Magierski (Middle East and Islamic Studies), Sócrates Silva (Latin American & Iberian Studies). Many thanks go to Kaoukab Chebaro (Global Studies, Head) for her editorial and curatorial support.

Global Studies / Lehman Library / 420 West 118th Street / New York, NY 10027 / (212) 854-3630 /