The Nationality Rooms were designed to represent and celebrate the cultures of various ethnic groups that settled in Allegheny County. The thirty-one Nationality Rooms located on the first and third floors of the Cathedral of Learning are a community space where visitors are invited to experience the rich heritage of the communities who inspired and supported their creation. The Nationality Rooms are also in use as university classrooms, giving students the opportunity to engage in learning in a unique setting that helps them to explore the historic diversity of the Pittsburgh region.
Quo Vadis--the Latin phrase that means “Where will you go?” -- inspired the name of the student organization founded in 1944 that offers guided tours of the Nationality Rooms for nearly 30,000 visitors each year. Quo Vadis Guides are trained to present factual information using their own creative inspiration. Special interpretations of tours are adapted to meet the needs of visitors, and tours may focus on themes such as architecture, interior design, art, mythology, or religion. Quo Vadis provides early professional training in museum interpretation and visitor services, public speaking, and intercultural learning. The Quo Vadis Guides also create traditional folk craft such as jezyks, handmade paper pointed star ornaments derived from Polish tradition. The proceeds from selling these crafts are the main fundraiser for Quo Vadis, enabling them to hold educational meetings and travel to visit museums and embassies.
To this day, each Nationality Room Committee that designed, planned, and raised the funds to build a classroom remains an active partner on the Pitt campus and in the community. The Nationality Committees--comprised of community volunteers--organize educational and cultural programming and raise funds for scholarships to support intercultural learning opportunities for Pitt students to honor an ideal - education through cultural exchange.
The Nationality Rooms and Intercultural Exchange Programs Office oversees the ongoing maintenance of the museum quality classrooms and artifacts, the construction of new rooms, administers the scholarships, and collaborates with the Nationality Rooms Committees and with academic and other administrative units to advance intercultural learning and to foster an appreciation of diverse perspectives on the Pitt campus and in the community.