The Idea of the Western Hemisphere

Research Guide


Instructor: Seth Fein

Personal Librarian: Vani Natarajan

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This guide is co-written by a team of Barnard and Columbia librarians and archivists: Sean Knowlton, Vani Natarajan, Robert Scott, John Tofanelli, and Eric Wakin.


Archival Research

Eric Wakin, Lehman Curator for American History, Columbia Rare Book & Manuscript Library:


Archival Research How-To Guides: Websites

American Historical Association: A Survival Guide to Archival Research

Internet for Archives

Learning to Do Historical Research

William Cronon's Sources: Manuscripts and Archives

Using Archives: A Practical Guide for Researchers

New to Archival Research


Archival Research Sources accessible through CU Libraries Website


Archive Finder

Archives Outside of Columbia

Barnard Archives

CU Libraries Archival Collections Portal

Columbia Center for Oral History Collections Portal

Social and Cultural History: Letters and Diaries Online

American Historical Association (AHA) Archives Wiki

Measuring Worth (economic value calculators over time)


A note on “finding aids” (guides to what is in an archival collection)

Archives typically consist of personal or organizational correspondence, administrative records, unpublished manuscripts, ephemera, and assorted media, but can include almost any type of “text.” The document that serves—for better and worse—depending on its condition—as the roadmap to what is contained in an archival collection is the finding aid. It describes the organizational and intellectual order of the collection, which typically includes

  • the scope and content of the collection
  • a biographical note or description of the person or institution related to the collection
  • restrictions, if any, that apply to the access and use of the material
  • a statement explaining the organizing structure of the collection
  • a box and folder list of the actual contents (running from general to item level description, depending on the collection)


US History Resources

John Tofanelli, Research Collections and Services Librarian for British and American History and Literature: Butler 309:



Gale Virtual Reference Library : Online full text of a wide range of encyclopedic works in history, the arts, business, law, medicine, religion, and social science.

American National Biography (ANB Online): Life histories of “more than 18,700 men and women -- from all eras and walks of life -- whose lives have shaped the nation.” Updated twice a year, “with new entries and revisions of previously published entries to enhance their accuracy and currency.” Only deceased figures are considered for inclusion.


Finding Articles

America, History and Life with Full Text : “Covers the history and culture of the United States and Canada, from prehistory to the present. Provides selective indexing for 1,700 journals from 1955 to present; also provides full-text coverage of more than 200 journals and nearly 100 books.”

Historical Abstracts with Full Text :“Covers the history of the world (excluding the United States and Canada) from 1450 to the present. Provides indexing of historical articles from more than 1,800 journals in over 40 languages back to 1955. Also provides access to the full text of more than 349 journals and more than 120 books.”

Proquest Historical Newspapers: Full-text and full-image articles, dating back to their first issues, for major UK and US newspapers from the mid-1800’s to the late 20th century.   

NOTE: To limit your search to one or more of the above newspapers: Click on "Select Multiple Databases" in the main search screen, scroll down to "Historical Databases," and de-select items as desired.

American Periodicals Series Online, 1740-1900: “Contains over 1,100 periodicals that first began publishing between 1740 and 1900, including special interest and general magazines, literary and professional journals, children’s and women’s magazines, and many other historically-significant periodicals.”

Periodicals Archive Online
Focus: American, British, and European
Coverage: items published 1665 to 2000
Archive of hundreds of digitized journals published in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and areas of general popular interest. Each periodical is covered back to its first issue, regardless of when it began publication. International in scope, Periodicals Archive Online covers periodicals in a number of Western languages.


United States Government Documents

ProQuest Congressional includes bills, laws, legislative histories, committee prints, House and Senate documents and reports, Code of Federal Regulations, and Federal Register. Includes full text of Congressional Research Service reports, 1916-present; full text of Congressional hearings, 1824-2003; full text of Committee Prints, 1830-2003; and full text of the Serial Set Collection with Maps, 1789-1969.

U.S. Congressional Serial Set: Digital Edition (Readex)
Type of Resource: Full-text and full-image database
Coverage: 1817 - 1975
A digital reproduction of the United States Congressional Serial Set, which consists of the sequentially numbered volumes containing the Reports, Documents, and Journals of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.


Old Books and Pamphlets

The Making of the Modern World: the Goldsmiths'-Kress Library of Economic Literature, 1450-1850
Digital facsimiles of literature on economics and business published from the last half of the 15th century to the mid-19th century. Contains materials on commerce, finance, social conditions, politics, trade and transport. 


For a Wider Range of American History Resources, see:

American History and American Studies


Latin American Studies Resources

Sean Knowlton, Latin American and Iberian Studies Librarian: SIA 307:


Handbook of Latin American Studies 
: HLAS Online (1936 - present)
, HLAS Web (1990 - present)   An annotated, authoritative bibliography on Latin America since 1936, HLAS is edited by the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress. Covers books and published reports in addition to journal articles. The tables of contents from print volume 50 (1990) to the present may be browsed. 

HAPI (Hispanic American Periodicals Index) covers Central and South America, Mexico, the Caribbean, the US-Mexico border, and Hispanics in the US. Index to citations from over 500 Latin American studies journals with links to full-text articles. Coverage: 1970 to the present.

Classic Mexican Cinema presents full color scans of popular cinema periodicals from Mexico, dating from the early twentieth century 1960. The collection also includes images of dozens of film flyers, in addition to the scrapbooks of filmmaker Fernando de Fuentes. Source material comes from the archives of the Filmoteca de la UNAM in Mexico City.

Hispanic American Newspapers, 1808-1980 includes Spanish-language papers published in the US in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Sabin Americana, 1500-1926 : Based on Joseph Sabin's landmark bibliography, this collection contains works about the Americas published throughout the world from 1500 to the early 1900's. Included are books, pamphlets, serials and other documents that provide original accounts of exploration, trade, colonialism, slavery and abolition, the western movement, Native Americans, military actions and much more.

World Newspaper Archive includes digitized newspapers from the collections of the Center for Research Libraries covering 1805-1922. 
Note: Not all titles have complete holdings


For a wider range of Latin American Studies resources, see:

Latin American and Iberian Studies at Columbia University Libraries


Francophone Caribbean Studies Resources

Black Studies Center : this fully cross-searchable portal includes scholarly essays, recent periodicals, historical newspaper articles, and much more.

Caribbean Literature provides full-text access to literary works by writers from the Caribbean regions. 

Persee provides full-text online versions of back issues of selected French journals in the humanities and social sciences.


Multimedia Resources

American History in Video provides the largest and richest collection of video available online for the study of American history. Includes commercial and governmental newsreels, archival footage, public affairs footage, and important documentaries.

AccuNet/AP Multimedia Archive : Associated Press archive of over 4.6 million photographs from 1826 to the present, audio files of radio broadcasts, text of wire stories, and info-graphics.

ARTStor provides more than one million digital images in the arts, architecture, humanities, and sciences with a suite of tools for  research.

Smithsonian Global Sound, a project of Smithsonian Institute and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, serves as a "virtual encyclopedia of the world's musical and aural traditions." You can browse entries by cultural groups, languages, places, instruments, and musical genres. Most albums feature digitized liner notes, as well.

World History in Video provides access to over 1750 English-language documentaries in streaming video.


Search for Books

CLIO is the online catalog of Columbia University Libraries, including Barnard Library but excluding the Law Library and Teachers College Library.  CLIO includes records of CUL materials held offsite, which can be requested through the catalog.

CLIO search tips:

  • Use the truncation symbol ? to search for variants of a word stem (example: Guatemal? searches for Guatemala, Guatemalan, Guatemalteco, etc)
  • Limit your search to Barnard College Library, if you wish.
  • To find primary sources in CLIO, use the keywords: archives, correspondence, diaries, interviews, narratives, memoir


Browse the stacks using these call numbers:

E: History of the Americas  and the United States (General)

F: US Local History, British America, Dutch America, French America, and Latin America

G1-G9999: Geography, including atlases and maps

HT: Communities. Classes. Races

HX: Socialism.  Communism.  Anarchism

PQ6001-PQ8929: Literature in Spanish

PS: American Literature

Worldcat : search for items in libraries outside of the Columbia University Library system, especially when considering ordering items through BorrowDirect or Interlibrary Loan.

Digital Dissertations provides subject, title, and author access to almost all American dissertations accepted at accredited institutions since 1861, with selective indexing of Masters Theses since 1962. Doctoral dissertation records include abstracts from July 1980 to the present. You can access the full text of dissertations published since 1997 (and some from earlier dates).

BorrowDirect : borrow books directly from the libraries of Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale, in addition to select libraries of Harvard and MIT. Items requested through BorrowDirect typically deliver in 3 to 4 business days, with a 6-week loan period + one 6-week renewal.

Interlibrary Loan: borrow books, articles/book chapters, music scores, and selected audiovisual items (i.e. maps or films) that are not currently available at Columbia University Libraries. ILL has a larger scope of participating institutions than Borrow Direct.



Digitizing, Citing, Organizing, and Analyzing Your Sources

Bob Scott, Head of the Digital Humanities Center: 305 Butler:


Digital Humanities Center Page
Bibliographic Software Info Page

Subject Code: 
Course Code: 
HIST 4678x