SCARP unveils first digital archive of Habitat conferences

habitat conference posters
Credit: Lindsay Brown personal collection

On May 31, SCARP will launch the first comprehensive digital archive of the Habitat conferences — the landmark United Nations-led events that focus on housing and sustainable urban development.

The archive offers a rich and historically significant collection of audiovisual materials and documents from Habitat I and II, held in 1976 and 1996, and the Habitat I Forum. It is open to the public at

“This new digital archive brings to life two important conferences — Habitat I, which was held in Vancouver and catapulted our city onto the world stage, and Habitat II, hosted by Istanbul,” said SCARP director Penny Gurstein. “Both events were significant in seeking to address human settlement issues in a rapidly urbanizing world.”

The archive was developed by a small team of UBC graduate students with funding from the UN. It includes:

  • 173 rare films contributed by participating nations in Habitat I, highlighting local solutions for regional human settlement problems.
  • video recordings of all 63 conference sessions, plus speeches by notable attendees including Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Mother Theresa and Buckminster Fuller.
  • a curated selection of searchable PDFs including national reports, speeches, press releases, newsletters, newspaper articles, books and promotional materials produced for Habitat I and II.

The films were reproduced from videocassettes and many of the digital materials were scanned from records located at the UBC Archives, the City of Vancouver Archives and the personal archives of Vancouver-based participants.

“By digitizing and compiling this rich history and making it open-access, we hope to support further research and inspire future work,” Gurstein added. “Our cities — and human settlements work — have evolved rapidly over the past 40-plus years. This archive preserves important milestones in this process and brings them to a wider audience.”


Event details:

Please join us to learn more about the digital archive, to provide your feedback and to celebrate the collective achievements of this project.

Date: Thursday, May 31, 2018 (the 42nd anniversary of the opening of the Habitat I Conference)

Time: 4:30 to 6:00 pm

Location: Room 150, West Mall Annex, 1933 West Mall, UBC

Please RVSP by Thursday, May 24 at

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