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Urbanarium (Rochester, N.Y.) collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: RITArc-0063

Scope and Contents

The Urbanarium (Rochester, N.Y.) collection consists of documents related to the program's development and activities. The collection includes annual reports, correspondence, news releases, newsletters, program announcements, promotional materials, and clippings. These items are from various stages of the program and reflect a diverse array of activities. There is also a folder that contains project ideas for a "Greater Rochester," as well as files on two specific programs: Discover Town Centers and Rochester Insight. There is a binder at the end of the collection that houses planning phase documents including correspondence, meeting minutes, and steering committee reports.

Finally, the collection also contains documents related to the Rochester Institute of Technology's (RIT) former president, Dr. Paul A. Miller, specifically correspondence and planning documents. Miller helped develop the program and invited the Urbanarium to use RIT's facilities during the early 1970s.


  • Creation: 1971-1984


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Biographical / Historical

In early 1970, the Rochester Museum and Science Center was looking for a way to increase community involvement. The hope was to reach out to the Rochester community by allowing members of the area to educate themselves on the successes and needs of the city. The result was a program that consisted of films, exhibits, workshops, and simulation games. Gradually, the museum hoped to extend the program to create a larger impact on the local area. An agreement was reached with the Rochester Institute of Technology's (RIT) president, Dr. Paul A. Miller, to move the program to the RIT campus in 1972. The team was able to secure three years worth of funding from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, guaranteeing the initial success of the project.

The Urbanarium, as it was named, was essentially a community-based education program. According to a brochure, the project's purpose was to:

...develop an informed and competent citizenry - people who are capable of identifying pressing physical, social and economic problems - recognizing their relationship - and - then determining alternate methods to "take action" on these problems.

A six month planning phase began on July 1, 1973 so that the project was in full operation by 1974. The project was governed by three councils: the community council, which assessed the needs of the community; the program council, which planned and designed various educational programs and initiatives; and the Urbanarium council, which was responsible for project policy and administration. Members of the community could participate in a variety of programs, workshops, and seminars. Some events included the "Discover Town Centers" program, a land-use seminar, a workshop on "The Emerging Role of the Suburban Village," and a leadership training course. Ultimately, the program was seen as a way for the 16 participating academic institutions in the area to encourage the Rochester citizenry to think "realistically and creatively" about the challenges facing the area as it moved into the future.

After three years, the project's team began a period of self-assessment. The result was that in 1978 the Urbanarium re-emerged as an independent, not-for-profit organization. Urbanarium, Inc. was a consortium of local education-related institutions, once again partially funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. Some of the participants included: Center for Governmental Research, Monroe Community College, Nazareth College, RIT, Rochester Museum and Science Center, Rochester Public Library, St. John Fisher College, SUNY Brockport, and local television and radio stations. These educational sponsors provided mostly administrative funding and in-kind services. However, it was up to the organization to raise any other necessary funds. Over the project's lifetime, the Urbanarium had more than $1.3 million in funds, a large portion of which was provided by the Kellogg Foundation.

Yet, by 1982 the Urbanarium's directors decided to shut down the project. Although the project was able to sustain itself, most of the staffs' time was spent fundraising. Thus, in October 1982 Urbanarium, Inc. held its "first and last annual dinner and awards night." During the ceremony, some of the project's accomplishments were noted such as the consolidation of technical services among local police departments, which resulted from research into the community. Although the Urbanarium lasted less than 12 years, the project that started as a museum program did leave an impact on Rochester and the surrounding area.


1.5 Linear Feet (1 document box, 1 half document box)




Documents related to the Rochester Urbanarium. The Urbanarium was a community-based education program in Rochester, NY during the 1970s. The collection includes correspondence, news publications, promotional clippings, correspondence, and other related documents.


Materials in the collection are arranged by type. There is also a binder at the end of the collection that contains planning phase documentation.

Other Finding Aids

In addition to this finding aid, an inventory is available below. For more information, please contact the RIT Archive Collections.

Urbanarium (Rochester, N.Y.) collection

Processing Information

Finding aid created by Lara Nicosia in January 2011.

Urbanarium (Rochester, N.Y.) collection
RIT Archives
Lara Nicosia
20 January 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the RIT Archives Repository

Rochester NY 14623 USA