New exhibit features bands on the bricks

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RIT Archives

Folk-rock singer Harry Chapin performed on campus in 1977.

As associate archivist for RIT, I take my job as steward of irreplaceable historical records very seriously. Each day, I am in awe when I find a document from the 
late 1800s or a photograph from the 1940s that assists us in piecing together 
RIT’s history. These records are invaluable when we embark on creating an 
exhibit. Exhibits are an opportunity to tell a story about RIT’s history for the public. 
Although we now create digital exhibits available to the world at large, there is 
great satisfaction in seeing historical objects up close in original form. 

Exhibiting collections is our favorite activity, but at the same time can be our most challenging. How do we accurately represent history when we haven’t lived through it? We have to rely on the written word and visual representation found in our collections. I recently chose “Bands on the Bricks: A Retrospective” as our latest endeavor, which will be a timeline of musicians and bands who have performed at RIT since 1950. 

The Archives has an extensive poster collection representing events held at RIT. Many of these posters, designed by students, promote concerts sponsored by 
the College Activities Board or formerly the College Union Board. These make an excellent visual base for the exhibit, not only for the subject matter, but as a representation of graphic design over time.

Thanks to University News photographers, student events are well documented in our photograph collections. It’s been fun looking at student fashions and hairstyles while searching through photographs representing several decades. We found images of Patti LaBelle, Harry Chapin, the Outlaws, and many others from the 1970s in slide format, and more recently, Rihanna, rapper 50 cent and John Legend, in digital form.

Reporter magazine helps us develop our story by providing reviews of concerts; which bands were hits and which were not. Throughout our research, we also learned that concerts were held in several locations. We didn’t always have the Gordon Field House, so concerts were held in the Student Alumni Union cafeteria, Clark Gymnasium or Ingle Auditorium. When a well-known artist came to town, the concert would be held at the Dome Arena in Henrietta or Eastman Theater in Rochester.

We have unearthed more than 90 bands that will be featured in this exhibit.
 It is our hope that “Bands on the Bricks” will appeal to the entire RIT community. Music is so personal and can invoke memories throughout our lives. We all have 
our favorite groups from our college days and I invite you to come find out if 
yours has performed at RIT.

“Bands on the Bricks: A Retrospective” runs through Oct. 31 at the RIT Museum, Wallace Center, third floor.