Digital Archive: Cooper Union 100th Anniversary Photographs

January 10, 2012

Detail of panel discussion,

Detail of panel discussion, "The Practice of Engineering," October 9, 1956 at the Waldorf Astoria.

On April 20, 2011, The Cooper Union Library announced the first searchable digital collection from the Cooper Archives: The Cooper Union 100th Anniversary Photographs. The collection gathers historic pictures from the Cooper Union's 100th anniversary celebration and makes them accessible electronically for the first time. As part of the centennial celebration, many panel discussions and public talks were organized throughout New York City to commemorate the occasion and richly documented in the archive. Speakers and panelists taking part included architect R. Buckminster Fuller, former President of the United States Herbert Hoover, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, writer and urbanist Lewis Mumford, and many other notable thinkers.

Writing in the Winter 2012 issue of Metropolitan Archivist, Cooper librarians Julie Castelluzzo and Carol Salomon discuss the challenges of realizing this project:

Without funds for additional staff, we decided that existing library personnel would take on the project as a team, even though the staffing level at the time could be best described as adequate. The learning curve would be steep, and it meant trying to squeeze more work out of the day. However, the benefits of experience gained as well as the promotion and visibility for the Cooper Archives and the Library in general outweighed the costs.

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  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.