The murals in Alumnae Lounge on the Medford/Somerville campus have served as an important visual representation of the university’s history since they were installed in 1955. Over the years, however, their physical condition has eroded, and they have increasingly become the focus of debate and conversations generated by their selective view of Tufts history.
Many members of the community, including students, faculty, and staff, have come forward in recent years to say that the murals, which include no people of color, do not reflect the diverse and inclusive culture of the university they know today. These concerns are particularly troubling since this is one of the most heavily used public spaces on campus. Meanwhile, the decaying condition of the murals themselves requires intervention to conserve them.
We recognize that for many these murals are now, in their own right, part of Tufts’ history. And it is undeniable they document the understanding of the university’s past espoused by many influential members of the Tufts community in the 1950s. Today, however, our perspectives on history must encompass diverse experiences that we do not see reflected in the murals.
For that reason, we have decided to accept the recommendation of a special committee that we remove the murals from the walls of Alumnae Lounge (read more about the decision here). As valued historical documents that are part of the university’s permanent art collection, the murals will be professionally conserved and protected, ensuring that they endure. We will be comprehensively digitizing the murals, thus expanding opportunities to incorporate their story into teaching and research. While that work is underway, I invite you to learn more about them here.
Alumnae Lounge itself was initially conceived in the spirit of inclusion. The lounge and its murals were donated to the university by the women of Jackson College after years of assiduous fundraising. In a significant gesture toward the increasing place of women at Tufts, they came together to give the entire university community a major new event space. We hope that in future years this important gathering place will continue to honor and foster an evolving and dynamic understanding of diversity and inclusion at Tufts.
We would like to thank the murals committee for their thorough research into our options. Following a robust review and discussion of alternative points of view, the committee ultimately came to a shared recommendation. They acknowledge that the murals, as historical documents, commemorate and celebrate Tufts’ remarkable evolution, as seen through one particular lens. Still, the mural committee is correct to note that with the passing of time, this important commemorative gift needs review.
The committee’s deliberations confirmed the value of a comprehensive approach to the many complex issues regarding public art. Looking ahead, we have asked Dina Deitsch, director and chief curator of the Tufts University Art Gallery, to chair a new public art committee that will facilitate stakeholder input on issues ranging from siting and conservation to programming, imagery, and community engagement. We believe it is important that our physical spaces reflect the university’s values and offer a welcoming environment for all who study, work, or visit here.
Anthony P. Monaco
Deborah T. Kochevar
Provost and Senior Vice President ad interim