In 2003, Leslie visited with staff at Urbis, a newly-opened institution in Manchester which was essentially about comparative urban studies–a kind of museum of the city and city-living in general. We loved this idea: a whole museum devoted to the urban experience. At the time, Leslie had just left working at a history museum about New York City, and she was thinking about how to create a network of storefront institutions that could connect urban dwellers around the globe, city-to-city, with programming, exhibits, idea exchanges, and services. What she had in mind was similar to Urbis but distributed and lightweight.

In subsequent visits, I learned that Urbis had closed. In Manchester this week, I saw that plans have gone ahead to install a Museum of Football in its place. This will probably sell more tickets to pay for such a grand building, but the decision is a disappointment to me. The underlying motivation to create Urbis, I think, is more important than sports right now. Don’t give up on it. Whether the heart of Manchester’s downtown should have a sports museum or Urbis is not really my business, but I hope someone starts Urbis anew in Manchester, this time in a smaller storefront. I’ll be rooting for that team.

In a small way, we’ll be plugging away at these ideas this summer when we have a Uni operating in NYC and another operating half-way around the globe, in Almaty, Kazakhstan. More info to come soon about both projects.

Wiki entry on Urbis here.

Former site or Urbis. Future site of Football Museum. Manchester.

About our “new” name… Street Lab.

Street Lab began in Boston in 2006. In 2011, we moved the organization to NYC and launched the Uni Project, which was a portable reading room that roamed the city. In 2020, we are re-introducing our original name Street Lab to tie all this work together going forward, with much more to come.