Here is the story on the web project:
When I emptied out my office in 2004, I found that the Cornell Library’s archives, officially the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections (RMC) would take them as part of its already large planning collection (papers of some 150-200 planners). But rather than my personal collection, I named it thematically, as the “Progressive Cities and Neighborhood Planning” collection. I gave them 10-12 boxes, and we had a student assistant that summer, Janine Cuneo, who had experience working in an archive at Notre Dame, who catalogued them. Later, a number of other people gave more boxes: Derek Shearer gave Santa Monica documents, Lee Webb and Ann Beaudry gave documents from the 1970s Conference on Alternative State and Local Policies; Peter Meyer and Bob Kraushaar had things from London and other UK cities; students had done theses – Crystal Launder on Burlington, VT, Jonathan Thompson, who had done a thesis on Porto Alegre in Brazil, began a dissertation collecting documents and oral history in Austin and Detroit; Sean Bennett did a MRP project on Binghamton, Sarah McKinley on CDCs in Newark, Meredith Schmidt on one in Brooklyn; 3-4 others. Later some other items came in unasked-for as people heard about the collection. Ken Reardon joined in –he had just taken over as Chair of CRP here — thinking to participate more fully later and also donated some important things, like transcripts of interviews.
At one point an archivist — Virginia Krumholz in Cleveland — argued that it was wrong to collect documents and bring them to Cornell – they should stay in the city where they were created. I was persuaded of this, and tried to promote local archives – a bit in Burlington in 2006 when Crystal Launder organized a trip up there to collect reports and other materials and we gave a box of these to the University of Vermont library; a bigger effort in Berkeley in 2009-10 when Kathryn Kasch and later Karen Westmont, a former student here, organized meetings for six months until they suspended operations. In any case the theory is that cities need to cultivate their own histories, that these are resources to be valued. But the focus is progressive history. Mainstream institutions will take care of mainstream ideas, but the progressives need a special effort – so let’s do that.
Next thing, I put together this website, starting in 2005 but now about to go through it’s second revision. The first, in 2011, added a “blog” – really a series of short essays commenting on this whole project. It is nowhere near complete, because each city, each CDC or other neighborhood planning effort needs some attention; but also there is much to add, and we need not be restricted to cases we already have collected for – we can write about parallel efforts elsewhere – we have now heard of work in Sicily, an oral history effort in Johannesburg, and Reardon has begun correspondence aiming at starting collections in Patterson, NJ and elsewhere. The point is to add to our collection of knowledge, not just our collection of documents (though it would be nice to get copies of these as well).
The website is www.progressivecities.org, with two main ssections: the “BLOG” and “THE PROJECT”; and short sections on “THE COLLECTION,” “BIBLIOGRAPHY,” AND “CONTACT.” The “CONTACT” section is partly about how people in different places can work on their own archives, and in principle there are contact addresses for people in each city. We only have a few people listed so far, and my purpose in this next phase is to add people.
I would like to see people work on this website from their own places and perhaps with special angles that cut across places. What might these be? Initially, take a look at the website and see if this is something you could see doing. Look at the CONTACT page and see who is listed there. Write us and we can talk about it.
Here are some other web addresses: The “finding aid” for the “Progressive Cities and Neighborhood Planning” collection at RMC. – http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/EAD/htmldocs/RMM06756.html. This is the physical collection, available if your live in Ithaca or visit. Best to call ahead: 607 255 3530, or e-mail them at email@example.com.
The newest version is the digital collection that goes by the same name, accessible most generally at http://hdl.handle.net/1813/40484.