Voices from the Great Hall

Historic shot of Great Hall

Friday Night Forum: The Performing Arts, 1970-1971

For over 160 years, Cooper Union’s Great Hall has been a bastion of free speech, social activism, education, culture, and electoral politics. The Voices from the Great Hall digital platform encompasses all known sound and video recordings made in the Great Hall and held by The Cooper Union, from John Dewey’s 1941 address "In Philosophy" to the 2019 panel "America’s Death Penalty Problem," and beyond. This historical collection, which documents over 3,000 Great Hall programs, also includes photographs, fliers, press releases, and other ephemera dating back to 1859. Among the renowned speakers represented here are poet and author Carl Sandburg; cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead; Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall; architect Louis I. Kahn; psychologist and writer Timothy Leary; feminist, journalist, and activist Gloria Steinem; nearly every New York City mayor from the 1950s to the present; and Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Voices from the Great Hall was made possible through the generous support of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation. Other partners in this project include The Cooper Union Archives and Special Collections, the Cooper Union AV/Multimedia Services department, The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, the Cooper Union School of Art, and the New York City Municipal Archives WNYC collection.

Listen to Voices From the Great Hall at greathallvoices.cooper.edu/


  • 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.