An Eye on Student Life Across the Generations at Tufts

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.

Dormitory Living

Three rows of young men standing outside East Hall from 1926.

The East Hall gang, 1926. Photo: Melville S. Munroe / Tufts Archival Research Center, Melville S. Munro Papers

Two young women carry a rolled carpet up a flight of stairs in a residence hall, while parents look on.

Move-in day, 2018. Photo: Anna Miller

Students at Work


Black and white photo with view of large room with chandeliers, and students studying while sitting at long desks with lamps

Students studying in Eaton Library, circa 1950. Photo: Tufts Archival Research Center, Historical Materials Collection

Two young women posed in front of a microscope

Japanese students Shizue H. Komu and Ethel Hideko Omori, October 14, 1931. Photo: Melville S. Munro / Tufts Archival Research Center, Melville S. Munro Papers

Split view with half looking out over the Tufts playing fields, half inside a modern building with two students wearing masks sitting separately at tables studying

Students study for final exams in the Joyce Cummings Center, December 2021. Photo: Alonso Nichols

Students at Play

Young woman in a plaid skirt holding a sign saying “Shirl’s the Girl for Tufts”, standing on the bumper of an old car, which is covered with slogans for her election as mayor of Tufts

Shirley Boulanger, J40, campaigning for mayor of Tufts College in May 1940. She later went on to a long career as a physician focusing on pulmonary medicine. Photo: Melville S. Munro / Tufts Archival Research Center, Melville S. Munro Collection

Seven young men in suits standing in a Model T Ford car, one holding a sign

Offering a free ride on campus, 1940. Photo: H.R. Frieze / Tufts Archival Research Center, Historical Materials Collection

A group of students hold up with just their index fingers a long thin tube

Members of the Class of 2026 participate in the Amazing Race with Global Orientation (GO) during pre-orientation on August 28, 2022. Photo: Dave Green

Students and the Arts

Four young Black men in tuxedos standing in a row.

The Shenley Four, 1929. Photo: Munro Melville / Tufts Archival Research Center, Munro Melville Papers

Four young women wearing the same outfit leaning forward on stage during a performance

A student group performs during the O-Show at undergraduate orientation on September 1, 2022. Photo: Jenna Schad

Student Athletes

Twelve men in an entryway, all dressed in horizontal striped tops, with two oversized footballs from the 1800s

Tufts football team, 1876. Photo: Edwin B. Rollins / Tufts Archival Research Center, Melville S. Munro Papers

Ten cheerleaders in outfits with a big “T” on their sweaters, half of them holding pompoms

Tufts Cheerleaders, circa 1971. Photo: Tufts Archival Research Center, Department of Physical Education and Athletics Records

Tufts soccer players walking off a field, two hugging, and all smiling

Victory vs. Middlebury on Parents’ Weekend, October 2022. Photo: Jenna Schad

Student Activism

A young woman speaking at a podium, which has a handwritten sign saying There is death in the family. Four young men are around her

Marjorie Keller speaking at the first strike meeting after the shooting deaths of students at Kent State, 1970. Photo: Tufts Archival Research Center, Historical Materials Collection

Four young Black women carrying signs walk behind Ballou Hall on the Tufts campus

Protest march across campus, 2015. Photo: Tufts Archival Research Center

The Campus Through the Years

A long row of men in uniform stand outside West Hall on the Tufts Academic Quad, circa 1917

Student Army Training Corps, outside West Hall, Academic Quad, circa 1917. Photo: Melville S. Munro. Tufts Archival Research Center, Melville S. Munro Papers

Some 20 students wearing special reflective viewing glasses look up in unison at the sky

Tufts students pose for a photograph as they watch the partial solar eclipse over campus, August 21, 2017. Photo: Anna Miller

A cannon on the Tufts campus is painted blue, with the words: We’ll Meet Again and Class of 2020, from May 2020

Amy Tong, A21, painted the cannon with a hopeful message on May 16, 2020, on the eve of what would have been the commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020. Commencement was postponed due to the pandemic. Photo: Alonso Nichols

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