The Utica Center sponsors a number of research projects conducted with its fellows, affiliates, and students. As an urban research center, the institute is concerned with all aspects of urbanization that affect smaller metropolitan areas and their hinterlands. There are, however, two main themes that energize our activities.
Although not limited in focus to cities in upstate New York, the institute pays close attention to its own home region. As early as 1800 water power along upstate streams was being harnessed for industrial activities, such as the mills in New York Mills just west of Utica. With the building of the Erie Canal, this trickle of industrial activity became a flood as upstate products worked their way to Buffalo and the interior of North America and to New York and the global economy beyond. By the mid-twentieth century a variety of products in upstate New York were transforming the American economy, including the first commercial computer in the world (Utica), the first air conditioners (Syracuse), the invention of photography and, later, photocopying (Rochester), and the earliest experimentation with electricity (Schenectady and Niagara Falls).
The center also hopes to identify, document and establish a theoretical foundation for the understanding of the factors that contribute to social, cultural and economic change emerging from smaller cities and towns. While this project emphasizes the historical dimensions as well as contemporary representations of “progress,” it also hopes to propose avenues of developing a civil society composed of prosperous and self-sufficient communities.