Online Gallery Raises the Curtain on a New Archives Exhibit

Posted by John Dojka on April 26, 2012 in

During the construction of EMPAC, the Institute Archives and Special Collections had an exhibit in the Folsom Library lobby about performance spaces at RPI.  Now with EMPAC well into its third year as a complete and dedicated space for the performing arts at Rensselaer, I had the opportunity to create an online exhibit from materials in the archives, including items used in the original lobby exhibit.

Battle of the Bands contestants performing in the Union's McNeil Room.
Battle of the Bands contestants performing in the Union's McNeil Room.

It is amazing how much ingenuity has gone into appropriating a variety of spaces across campus and the community of Troy into venues for the various performing arts groups on campus over more than a century.  Everything from the cliffs above the athletic field to the various incarnations of the Playhouse has been transformed from its original purpose to suit the needs of performers of all types.

Not being a native of the Capital District or even New York State, I found I learned a great deal about RPI and Troy in the process of creating this online exhibit, particularly when seeking out new materials to add.  I flipped through decades of the Transit looking for a decent photograph taken of a performance in the McNeil Room of the Union and searched through dozens of programs and playbills for the most appropriate and beautiful examples in the collection.

EMPAC South Wall
Rendering of the elevation for EMPAC's south wall.

EMPAC now offers a dedicated home for the performing arts but also shares its space with other events, whether stationary exhibits or lectures.  It stands as part of the tradition of the performing arts venues at RPI in that every space welcomes the campus community to participate in a variety of ways.  And even with a dedicated home, many performances still take place in the spaces they called home prior to the completion of EMPAC, the RPI Players and the Playhouse being a notable example.

I hope that everyone enjoys browsing this exhibit and learns even a bit of what I learned in the course of designing it.


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