SCARP launches Habitat Conferences Digital Archive

SCARP unveils first digital archive of Habitat conferences

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 academics and the public at habitat.scarp.ubc.ca.

“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 U.N. 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.

  • 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 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 May 24th at scarp.ubc.ca/RSVP

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SCARP is pleased to announce the launch of the Habitat Conferences Digital Archive (HCDA), habitat.scarp.ubc.ca, which offers researchers and the public access to a rare and historically significant collection of archival documents and audiovisual materials from the UN Habitat Conferences I & II, and from the Habitat I Forum. The HCDA was developed by a small team of UBC graduate students with funding support by United Nations-Habitat.


Held in Vancouver in 1976, The United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat I) was the largest UN conference then undertaken, the first to include a global NGO Forum and ultimately the birthplace of UN-Habitat. Habitat I was also the largest global event then held in Vancouver, catapulting the city onto the world’s stage. Habitat II, known as 'The People's Summit' took place in Istanbul twenty years later. Both Conferences aimed to address human settlements issues in a rapidly urbanizing world.