A Jumbo-sized exhibition of photographs from the 1870s to the present at East Hall shows the ways that undergraduate campus life has evolved
When James Rice first came to Tufts as a professor of history seven years ago, the department halls were lined with portraits of men who had been chairs over the many years. It set the wrong tone, he thought.
Now those musty portraits have been replaced with a much more inviting set of images—the 57 photos that make up the exhibit Jumbo Generations: A Photographic History of Student Life at Tufts. Located on the first and ground floors of East Hall on the Academic Quad, the exhibit formally opened on September 8 and is planned to stay on view for at least a decade.
“These photos put students at the center, which makes it more welcoming for everyone,” says Rice, who led the creation of the exhibit, with assistance from many history department faculty and others from across campus.
Instead of creating a timeline, which would have been awkward given the space, the exhibit is divided into subject areas: dorm living, the campus through the years, student work, play, sports, activism, and arts. The captions are short and to the point: the emphasis is on the large photos, a mix of black and white and color, depending on the era.
Unlike the old department chair portraits, women are fully represented, and it is diverse in other ways. Black students from the early 20th century are represented accurately; there are a few, but not many. “We don’t suggest that student life at Tufts involved a more diverse student body than it really did. But at the same time, we wanted to honor these pioneers,” says Rice.
“This really was a team effort,” Rice said. Among the key contributors was Pamela Hopkins, the exhibition coordinator with the Tufts Archival Research Center. “She has such an amazing fingertip feel for what looks good in an exhibition, and has an encyclopedic knowledge of these photographs,” Rice said. Another was Alonso Nichols, AG22 (MFA), chief of photography at Tufts, who contributed many of the more current photos.
Jennifer Munson, AG97 (MFA), a lecturer at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and a former senior designer in the exhibitions and design department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, designed the exhibit. “We as a team curated this, but Jennifer’s the one to make it look good,” says Rice.
While students heading to class or waiting to meet faculty will be the immediate audience for the exhibit, Rice hopes many others will come by, too. “We wanted to make it something that would be interesting to alumni and others who are visiting campus—to make it a destination,” he says. And not just them. During move-in week at the end of August, right after the exhibit was installed, students and their parents were already seen marveling at it.
Here are some selections from the Jumbo Generations exhibit.
Students at Work