Archives Project

The Amnesty International USA Archive is a collection of over 3,000 linear feet of material that documents the founding, growth, and activities of the organization from the early 1960s through the present.

Managed by volunteer leaders, the collection is part of Columbia University’s Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research. This page has background and contacts about the Archive.

In 1994, a dedicated effort was launched to collect, preserve, and make available the history and activities of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). Today the AIUSA Archive is a collection of over 3,000 linear feet of material that documents the founding, growth, and activities of AIUSA from the early 1960s through the present. The collection is part of Columbia University’s Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research (CHRDR), the official designated repository for the archives of major human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, and the Committee of Concerned Scientists as well as many individual human rights activists. CHRDR enhances the visibility and accessibility of these collections through programming, collaborative projects, and library services.

AIUSA ARCHIVES: A brief history

In 1992, Bruce Montgomery, faculty director of the archives at University of Colorado, approached AIUSA’s Urgent Action Program staff in Colorado with the idea of beginning a substantial and comprehensive human rights collection; he called it the Human Rights Initiative. The AIUSA board approved the AIUSA Archives Project; board members, local group members and activists, the International Secretariat, and AIUSA staff discussed the benefits of archiving, and collecting materials began in 1994. On the strength of the HRI containing the AIUSA Archives, many small and large human rights NGOs and individuals deposited their materials at HRI at the University of Colorado-Boulder, creating the world’s pre-eminent human rights archives. Human Rights Watch joined the HRI early in 1999.

After an AAAC meeting in 1999 at CU-B, the AAAC learned that University of Colorado officials had determined that the HRI no longer fit within the University’s priorities or resources and therefore would have to be relocated to a new institutional home. As a result, the major affiliated organizations of the HRI began searching for a new university which would serve to fulfill the original vision and mission of Human Rights Initiative to establish an international documentation center to preserve and make digitally accessible the global legacy of the human rights movement in the United States. Columbia University was selected after extensive communication with over a dozen possible institutions.

What’s in the AIUSA Archives?

The AIUSA Archives is comprised of a variety of materials that document the work of the New York headquarters; the Washington, DC lobby office, regional offices, local and student chapters; as well as all programs, committees, and departments of AIUSA. Also documented, is the work of country coordination specialists and members of steering committees and task forces comprised of volunteer leaders and staff members. Correspondence, memoranda, organizational-bylaws, meeting minutes, newsletters, brochures and fliers, reports, photographs, audio/visual materials, oral histories, and memorabilia make up the bulk of the Archives.

How To Access AIUSA Human Rights Materials

The AIUSA archives are held at the Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research at Columbia University Libraries. Collections can be accessed in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, located in Butler Library. At the present time the National Office Records are available for research. Material continues to be prepared for public access. Finding aids for all human rights collections may be accessed by keyword search in the Columbia University Libraries Archival Collections Portal. Some material is temporarily restricted and will be marked as such on the finding aid; most other material that has been processed is available for public access. 

AIUSA routinely requests that researchers and writers using the AIUSA Archives include attribution of the AIUSA Archives and Columbia’s CHRDR in their publications, mention of AIUSA and the CHRDR in the credits in the forward or acknowledgements’ section of publications.

Contact [email protected] or [email protected] for assistance with using the archives.

Permission to quote or publish materials from the AIUSA Archives must be requested in writing. Please email your request to Ellen V. Moore at [email protected] or call 303-258-9246.

How may I donate AIUSA material?

All individuals who wish to submit material should email the Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research at Columbia University Libraries, [email protected]. If the materials are appropriate for addition to the collections, you will be provided with further instructions. Material received without first contacting the CHRDR will be returned.

What to Save for Deposit in the AIUSA Archives

Individual activists, AI groups, and AIUSA board members, volunteer leaders, and staff should seek to retain materials that document their major operations, activities, achievements, and policy decisions. These might include, for example, meeting minutes, organizational by-laws, policy memorandums, documents detailing major decisions, investigative reports and publications, correspondence, development/donor materials, press clippings, promotional materials: brochures, fliers, and case materials, photographs and videotape, posters and t-shirts, documents regarding internal deliberations and debates, interactions and networking with other domestic and international organizations.

If you’d like your AIUSA experiences and opinions to be a part of the AIUSA Archives, please contact Ellen V. Moore at [email protected].

What is the Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research (CHRDR) at Columbia University Libraries?

The CHRDR is a programmatic center of Columbia University Libraries dedicated to documenting human rights advocacy movements in support of research, teaching, and advocacy. By Spring of 2006, the CHRDR featured Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, and Human Rights First as its cornerstone human rights collections.  The CHRDR currently holds collections of other smaller human rights NGOs, and the papers of individuals who have made important contributions to human rights advocacy. Since 2008, the CHRDR has been developing the Human Rights Web Archive, a effort to capture and preserve openly available websites related to human rights advocacy. Researchers from throughout the world regularly use and consult CHRDR collections to support theses, dissertations, and other research and advocacy projects. 

The AIUSA Archives Advisory Committee is involved in continuous email conversation, telephone calls with one another, and with the CHRDR’s  Director Pamela Graham and other staff at Columbia Libraries.