Imagining the World: Unexplored Global Collections at Columbia


“Ah, Sir, a novel is a mirror carried along a high road. At one moment it reflects to your vision the azure skies, at another the mire of the puddles at your feet. And the man who carries this mirror in his pack will be accused by you of being immoral! His mirror shows the mire, and you blame the mirror! Rather blame that high road upon which the puddle lies, still more the inspector of roads who allows the water to gather and the puddle to form.” Stendhal

In an attempt to reveal some of our hidden collections and understand our collecting practices, we delved into the special global collections held and accumulated throughout the years at Columbia University Libraries, and picked items that would arrest our attention from our respective world areas (African Studies, Jewish Studies, Latin American and Iberian Studies, Middle East and Islamic Studies, Slavic and Eastern European Studies,  South Asian Studies), in a variety of languages and formats, and about a variety of subjects, cultures and eras. We did not know what other global studies librarians from different areas of the world would pick, or how we would end up holding the Stendhalian mirror to each other’s world area collections. We then came together to group the selected items under five broad thematic categories that stood out to us as shared among the various selected themes.

The five broad thematic areas we grouped the items in this exhibit under are as follows:

  1. Encounters, Movement and Travel;
  2. Fashioning the Word and the World;
  3. Politics, Power and Resistance;
  4. Arts, Performing & Graphic Arts;
  5. Religion and Science.

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