Exhibition to Mark 65th Anniversary of Rochester Royals’ 1951 NBA Championship
Dates: Tuesday, March 29– Friday, April 22, 2016
Location: Sunken Gallery, 2nd Floor, The Wallace Center, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY 14623
Hours: Open 24 hours Monday through Friday; weekend hours online: library.rit.edu/libhours
Reception: Thursday April 21, 2016 5:00-6:30 p.m.
Exhibition organizers: RIT faculty Rebecca Edwards, Juilee Decker, and Michael Brown
In 1951, Rochester’s Royals were NBA champions. Six years later, the team was gone. When Rochester Was Royal: Professional Basketball in Rochester 1945-1957, chronicles the Royals’ entrance to and exit from Rochester’s sporting landscape. Curated by a team of museum studies faculty at RIT—Rebecca Edwards, Juilee Decker, and Michael Brown—this exhibition explores the team, its town, and its time at the pinnacle of professional basketball.
The geography of the Rochester Royals’ NBA makes an unfamiliar map for today’s fans. The Pistons played not in Detroit, but in the industrial city of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Hawks—known then as the Blackhawks—did not roost in Atlanta, but in the “Tri-Cities” of Moline and Rock Island, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa. The team that would become the Philadelphia 76ers played in Syracuse as the Nationals. As home to the Seagrams-turned-Royals, Rochester was part of this shifting terrain. Shortly after its 1951 title season, Rochester would no longer be Royal—its franchise, too, departed, embarking upon the westward migration that would eventually bring forth today’s Sacramento Kings.
Despite a team studded with future hall of famers, including Arnie Risen, Al Cervi, Bob Davies, Red Holzman, Maurice Stokes, Jack Twyman, and Bobby Wanzer; one of the most energetic and dedicated owners in league history, hall of famer Les Harrison; loyal fans in an affluent city; and an NBA championship, the Royals did not remain—could not remain—in Rochester. Chair of the History Department and one the faculty curators for this exhibition noted, “This spring marks the 65th anniversary of the Rochester Royals NBA title. It seemed the perfect occasion to reflect on the history and legacy of the Royals and their owner Les Harrison.”
Why did Rochester cease being Royal after so much on-court success? Visit the exhibition to see a landmark story in basketball history detailed through numerous photographs of players and the team over the year; archival material, including the bill of sale that gave the Royals their new home in Cincinnati; programs from several games played at Edgerton Park Sports Arena and more.
In keeping with the desire of the Museum Studies Program at RIT to provide opportunities for further learning and connection with other disciplines, the exhibition will be supported by the creation of digital ancillaries by museum studies students. As Juilee Decker, associate professor of museum studies noted, “a cornerstone of our museum studies program is working at the intersection of theory and praxis. Students in my courses are reading about visitor engagement and coming to understand how the space of the museum can be a platform for content as well as conversation. They apply what they are reading to their design and execution of exhibition content and ancillaries.” Kelli Spampinato, a third-year museum studies major who is part of the team developing this exhibition added, “Working on this project has helped me to understand all of the steps of creating and executing an exhibition. Projects like this help take the theory we have learned in this class and others and make it practical. Doing work in class that will actually be put to use for the public has made me feel as though my education has come full circle.”
A reception will be held on Thursday, April 21, 2016—65 years to the day of when the Royals captured the NBA crown. Visit the exhibition website for more information: https://royalsexhibit.wordpress.com/
Slate of events listed here:
Exhibition Open Times (through 4/22/2016)
Panel discussion on 4/14 with David Dworkin, Scott Pitoniak, and Don Fisher, Thursday, 4/14 4-5 pm, Eastman 2000
Prof. Decker & Kelli Spampinato, 3rd-year MUSE major, on Channel 10, aired 4/17/16
Exhibition Reception on 4/21 5-6:30
This exhibition is the fourth in the series of Exhibitions Across the Curriculum, following Mobilizing America: Fighting WWI on the Homefront and the Battlefront (spring 2014), Resistance, Rebellion, and Renewal in Rochester: Narratives of Progress & Poverty (spring 2015); and Kate Gleason, Visionary: A Tribute on Her 150th Birthday (fall 2015).