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About the Archival Collections Portal

The Archival Collections Portal provides access to descriptions and finding aids for more than 3,500 archival collections in six Columbia University Libraries repositories. Archival collections include personal papers, institutional records, corporate archives, architectural drawings, printed ephemera, realia, and many other types of content.

There is a separate Oral History Portal that provides access to information about Columbia's extensive oral history collections, although both archival collection and oral history information may also be searched simultaneously from within this interface.

What information is available?

The Archival Collections Portal searches:

  • finding aids
  • collection descriptions
  • available digital content, such as online exhibits and images


Finding Aid

A finding aid is a document that provides a researcher with contextual information on a given collection. For example, a finding aid includes an historical note, a description of the scope and content of the material, notes on access (restrictions and the like), and a box level inventory of the contents. The Portal searches all HTML finding aids available in our collections.

Collection Description

Older collections often do not have finding aids. In such cases you will be routed to a collection description that provides basic information such as creator, title, and a brief description. These collection descriptions often, but not always, provide a link to a contents list or a more specific description. For collections that have been newly acquired there is often no return in the search results. For further information on accessing older or newly acquired collections, please contact the relevant repository for more information.

Using the collections

Contact staff at the relevant repository about:

  • information on individual collections
  • access guidelines
  • making an appointment
  • materials you were unable to find through the portal