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Research Institute for the Study of Man (RISM): Introduction to RISM at NYU

The Collections of RISM at New York University

The Collections of RISM at New York University

Founded in 1955 by Dr. Vera D. Rubin (1911–1985), RISM brought the burgeoning methodologies of the social sciences to bear on the study of developing and rapidly changing societies. Much of this seminal work was pioneered in the Caribbean, and the Collections form an important resource for that region. But they document as well the breadth of social science research that has flourished at RISM, as researchers in fields ranging from history to anthropology, medicine to demographics have sought to understand the human experience through the lens of societies being transformed by economic and social forces. Dr. Rubin herself described this relationship between Caribbean Studies and the broader goals of the social sciences at a 1957 symposium sponsored in part by RISM: “The systematic study of the unity and diversity of the Caribbean cultures presents the opportunity to add to our knowledge of localized, yet significant societies and to establish models for the study of other regions at a similar stage of development.” * The RISM Collections reflect that combination of local focus and broad perspective.*

The RISM Collections are comprised of monographic, serial, vertical file andarchival materials. There are nearly 10,000 monographs in the Collections, both published and unpublished, including government documents, doctoral theses, and typescripts covering all major disciplines in the social sciences: anthropology, sociology, politics, government, and economics. The holdings in Caribbean history include studies of the region as a whole, comparative studies and histories of specific countries or islands, material relating to the period of the first contact of indigenous peoples with Europeans, early colonial history, slavery, emancipation, the decolonization process, and post-colonial legacies. The Collections are particularly strong in primary literary texts by non-Hispanic Caribbean authors. There are also unique holdings in religion, covering indigenous and New World syncretic religions. The geographic scope concentrates on publications dealing with those mainland and insular possessions or former possessions of Great Britain, France, The Netherlands, and the United States in the Caribbean region. There are regional publications in a number of languages including English, French, Dutch, German, Spanish, Papiamento, Russian, Swedish, Danish, and Portuguese. Approximately 20 percent of the monographs are to be found in no other North American research libraries.

The RISM journal holdings number more than 200 titles, including a comprehensive collection of journals related to and published in the non-Hispanic Caribbean, as well as titles published in North America and Europe related to Caribbean Studies. Newspaper holdings include rare nineteenth-century titles originating in the Caribbean region, such as the only near- complete run of Barbados Advocate in United States,one of only two known near-complete runs of the Trinidad Guardian, and the nation’s only complete run of The Dominican. The vertical files, organized by subject, contain more than 6,400 items, including short papers, reprints, photocopies of rarely-held articles, original and unpublished manuscripts, government documents, speeches, reports, political broadsides, tracts, and assorted print materials that complement the titles in the monographic and journal collections.

Finally, the RISM Research Collections and Archives, dating from 1947 to 1985, document a wide range of basic research projects organized by RISM in collaboration with scholars and institutions in and outside of the United States. The holdings include the records of training programs for field workers in the social sciences, unpublished conference materials, and an array of professional papers. The archives include a broad range of manuscript, typescript, photographic, audio, video, and film materials.

* Vera D. Rubin, “Cultural Perspectives on Caribbean Research,” Caribbean Studies: A Symposium. University of Washington Press, 1960.

The RISM Archival Collections

The RISM Archival Collections reside in the University Archives on the 10th Floor of NYU's Bobst Library. To examine the contents of the Archival Collections, see the Finding Aids at:

RISM Materials Processed for NYU Libraries

Monographic & Journal/Serial Collections Processed

Total RISM items Cataloged and Accessioned: 11,627 *

Total Monographs: 10,709

  • Bobst Stacks: 9,169
  • Fales: 1,213
  • Tamiment: 327
  • Total Journals/Serials: 918
    Bobst Stacks: 843
    Fales: 25
    Tamiment: 9
    Newspapers on Microfilm: 41

RISM Vertical Files

  • Total Items in the RISM Vertical File Database: 6,397
  • Total Vertical File Items Selected for Full Cataloging: 463
    • Bobst Stacks: 395
    • Tamiment: 65
    • Fales: 3

* 3,968 total duplicate items ("RISMX" items already held by Bobst and left behind at RISM, now going to Univ. of the West Indies).