We collect, preserve, organize, and make available rare and unique materials documenting the history of the health sciences in general and at the Columbia University Medical Center in particular. Our holdings include books, journals, manuscripts, photographs, prints, sound recordings, moving images and artifacts which because of their historical value, rarity, or fragility must be kept separate from the library's general circulating collection.
The department also serves as the archives for the schools of the Columbia University Medical Center:
- College of Physicians & Surgeons (1767)
- School of Nursing (1892)
- College of Dental Medicine (formerly the School of Dental & Oral Surgery) (1916)
- Mailman School of Public Health (1922)
- Some records of the defunct College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, founded in 1829 as the College of Pharmacy, even though it was never part of the Medical Center.
Archives & Special Collections also has substantial records of Presbyterian Hospital (1868-1997), now New York-Presbyterian Hospital, the medical school's main teaching hospital since 1911, and the hospitals that merged with it including Babies Hospital (now Children's Hospital) and the Neurological Institute of New York.
The department houses a 27,000 volume rare book library in the history of the health sciences dating from the 15th into the 20th century and holds all serials printed before 1876 and all books printed through 1922. Other outstanding collections include the Auchincloss Florence Nightingale Collection, the Freud Library, the Hyman Collection in the History of Anesthesiology, and the Webster Library of Plastic Surgery.
We also collect the personal papers of physicians, nurses, biomedical scientists and others with a connection to Columbia University, as well as from organizations and individuals in the health sciences from the New York City area. The department's image collection numbers in the thousands of items and mostly relates to Medical Center individuals, buildings, and events.
Archives & Special Collections material does not circulate and all items must be used in the department's Geraldine McAlpin Webster Reading Room.