Columbia Association – Columbia Archives

Welcome to Columbia Archives, a service of Columbia Association in Columbia, Maryland.

Columbia Archives is the primary resource on the history of the planning and development of the planned community of Columbia, as well as the life and career of its visionary founder, James Rouse. Columbia Archives serves researchers at every level and welcomes residents and visitors who wish to learn more about Columbia’s past, present, and future.James Rouse image

James W. Rouse speaking at the U.S. Business Hall of Fame Induction,
1981, James W. Rouse Papers, Columbia Archives

To view this exhibit, click here.

Visit or contact Columbia Archives

  • We are located at 6310 Hillside Court, Suite 100, Columbia, MD 21046.
  • Our hours of operation are Monday-Friday from 9am to 5pm.
  • All archival materials must be returned to archives staff within 10 minutes of closing.
  • There are times that we close to accommodate off-site outreach programs or staff schedules.
  • Appointments are preferred — that way, we may prepare for your visit and serve you better.
  • Please call 410-715-6781 or email us at

The history of Columbia Archives

Columbia Archives grew out of a community initiative. In 1982, longtime Columbia resident Rebecca Orlinsky organized a display of clippings and other ephemera for the Columbia Forum Day of Work. Enthusiasm for the exhibit led to a petition to form an archive to chronicle the history of the then 15-year-old community. A year later the Museum and Archives of the History of Columbia, MD, aka Columbia Archives, was incorporated and Orlinsky and Ruth McCullough began working as volunteers on a daily basis.

Donations of materials from those involved in the planning and development of Columbia, as well as from residents and others who helped shape the city, began to pour in. Former Rouse Company employees Mickey Dunham and Jeanne Shea and community activist Norman Winkler were among the first donors. In 1985, “The Land Puzzle” exhibit — featuring the surveyor’s land plats of the property sold to The Rouse Company for the development of Columbia, photographs of some of the landowners and original drawings of the first concepts of Columbia — was mounted at a gallery at Howard Community College.

The collection grew with donations from community activists such as Florence Bain, Priscilla Hart, Lloyd Knowles, May Ruth and Henry Seidel, and Helen Ruther, among many others. We outgrew our original space in Banneker Building, which was at the time the headquarters for Columbia Association’s open space division, and moved to Century Plaza, another office building in Town Center. Among the outreach programs we presented to involve the community was an exhibit of the work of local art legends Wes Yamaka and John Levering. A call to the community brought in more than 200 pieces for a one-day event. Many works were ultimately donated to us and this collection remains popular with residents.

In 1992 Columbia Archives became part of Columbia Association, the nonprofit community services corporation that serves Columbia. The collection and the activities grew considerably. Columbia Archives received the papers of James Rouse in 1996, doubling the size of our holdings and increasing the significance of the collection.

Columbia Archives has remained true to its mission to collect, preserve and make available the documentation of the early history of Columbia and the ongoing development of the community. Over the years, the Archives has further developed its programs by conducting community outreach through public programs, exhibits, articles in local publications and stories on Columbia Association cable TV productions. It continues to collect materials, including those related to community organizations and oral histories with residents.

Columbia Archives is the primary resource on Columbia and James Rouse. Documents and items in the Archives have been used for research by many authors, including Joshua Olsen (“Better Places, Better Lives, a Biography of James Rouse”); Ann Forsyth (“ReForming Suburbia”); Nicholas Bloom (“Suburban Alchemy and Merchant of Illusion: James Rouse”); Paul Marx (“Jim Rouse Capitalist/Idealist”) and Joseph Mitchell and David Stebenne (“New City Upon a Hill”) and filmmakers Cari Stein and Kim Skeen (“Global Harbors: a Waterfront Renaissance”).