RIT Archive Collections spans over 180 years of university history. The variety of objects and records offer myriad opportunities to tell stories about students, faculty, alumni, staff members, academics, events, or even a class. Here are just a few.

Bea Nettles Photography Collection

Cooking Cap

White cooking capIn the 1890s the Mechanics Institute organized domestic science classes, offering instruction in cooking and sewing to prepare women for theirGroup of students in a cooking class future as wives, mothers and household managers. It quickly grew into a full-fledged program, offering classes in dressmaking, laundry work, and millinery that might appeal to women needing paid work. Later a teacher education program was associated with the practical courses, drawing even more women with aspirations to teach in the schools. The cap was part of a uniform the women wore to class each day. 


Photography Classes begin at RAMI

Cover for a photography bookSituated in Rochester, New York, home of the Eastman Kodak Company, it should not come as a surprise that photography classes began in 1903 at RIT, long before any other school. Classes were offered twice a week during the day for $ 7.50 per term, evening classes were $5.00. For this sum students received instruction had access to a dark room. They had to supply their own camera outfits. We are fortunate to have this example of an early catalog.


WITR Collection

Students broadcasting WITRRIT's radio station started in 1961 on the downtown campus. A small collection of program guides, clippings, correspondence, event announcements, evatone sound sheets, newsletters and photographs provide a sense of the workings of the station during the 1960s and 1970s as well as the musical tastes of students of the time.                                                                       



Bea Nettles Photography Collection

4 people at a field for a coverNettles generously donated a selection of her works from the 1970s and 1980s, when she was on the faculty at RIT and active in the Rochester photographic community. Included are original prints from important series of this period, including Life's Lessons, Mountain Dream Tarot, Landscapes of Innocence, Complexities, and Rachel's Holidays. The seventies were rife with experimentation in photography and Nettles embraced this opportunity to veer away from traditional techniques. She altered works through hand-painting and sewing, used photo-mechanical processes, and incorporated fabric, Polaroid and xerography into her work. At the same time she was exploring certain feminist issues of the period: her role as a mother, raising children, home life, and family relationships. Her work from this period also delves into the unconscious, and touches on themes of birth, death and memory.


Rochester Athenaeum Collection

Membership ticket for Rochester Athenaeum & Mechanics AssociationFounded in 1829, the Rochester Athenaeum, forerunner of Mechanics Institute and RIT, offered the citizens of Rochester an opportunity to attend lecture series or enjoy an evening of entertainment. The organization housed a lending library that was available to any resident for a nominal fee and meeting rooms for local groups.  Many illustrious people came to the Athenaeum with programs as varied as a performance by Jenny Lind and a speech by editor and politician Horace Greely. The collection includes records that reach back to the founding in 1829, including constitution and by-laws, board minutes, event announcements, texts of addresses, lists of library holdings and membership tickets.

SpiRIT the Tiger Pelt

SpiRIT peltSpiRIT the live tiger mascot walked the halls of RIT for a brief period in the 1960s. Purchased by students with funds raised by selling shares of "Tiger Stock," the animal lived at the Rochester zoo but visited campus for sporting events and photo opportunities. You can read all about his life at the website devoted to his story: Spirit of RIT


RIT Athletics Records

Mechanical Institute LogoFrom the early  days of The Mechanics Institute to RIT's thriving sports program of today, sports at RIT is documented with hundreds of photographs of games, teams and individuals; media guidebooks; clippings about players, coaches and games; brochures; game programs; scorebooks; trophies; uniforms and other memorabilia.


W.W. Charters Collection

A pioneer researcher in education and the scientific method of curriculum development, Charters was engaged in the 1920s by Mechanics Institute President John Randall to consult around the school's educational goals. Working with the administration and faculty, a series of "job charts" or career objectives was developed for each program as well as a set of detailed curriculum for every course. More unusual was the organization of a character training program, in response to businesses noting that personality was just as important as sound technical training. A list of desirable traits was prepared along with examples of actions exemplifying the traits. Faculty then recorded significant trait actions for individual students to use as points of discussion in follow-up interviews. It is not known how long this program lasted. Charters continued to make yearly visits to consult about the university's educational processes until his death in 1959. The records include reports, meeting minutes, correspondence, and charts.