Journal Archive > 2002 > March

Munro's photographic legacy

Gallery showcases Munro's photographic legacy

As part of Tufts' 150th anniversary this year, the University Gallery is presenting a remarkable perspective on university history with the exhibition "Melville Munro: The Legacy, Photographs of Tufts College, 1915-1940."

Munro photographed every athletic team at Tufts. This photograph shows five varsity team captains in the late 1920s for tennis, track, baseball and basketball. Tufts teams were reverently called the "Brown and Blue" (on rarer occasions the Jumbonians) in deference to the school colors. © Melville S. Munro

The exhibition runs through March 24 in the gallery, located in the Aidekman Arts Center on the Medford/Somerville campus.

Selections of more than 100 photographs pay tribute to Munro, who took 30,000 photographs on the Boston and Medford/Somerville campuses over nearly three decades. The exhibition marks the first time selections from the Munro Collection, housed in the Tufts Digital Collections and Archives, have been displayed on a large scale.

"This exhibition provides an overdue appreciation for one of Tufts' most treasured collections," said Greg Colati, director of Digital Collections and Archives. "What's striking about Munro's work is that it records everyday life across the entire institution, documenting how students, faculty and staff lived together in this community called Tufts."

A 1904 graduate of Tufts and a professor of electrical engineering, Munro captured the essence of Tufts' people, places and events with his view camera, printing black and white images from glass negatives.

"In my pictures I have tried to show Tufts as I know it. All of it," Munro said in a 1938 interview.

Munro's versatility, expertise and humor are revealed through photographs that not only documented the history of a small college community, but also were used to publicize the college at the time. In addition to photographs sought after by the Tufts community—student leaders and organizations, staff and faculty, celebrations and athletic teams—he photographed events and people for the Tufts public relations department. With a journalist's instinct, he photographed outstanding faculty and students, dramatic productions and Tufts traditions such as the Horribles Parade, the Baby Party and the Ivy Oration.

The gallery exhibition also includes Munro's meticulous records, notebooks, scrapbooks and publications that printed his photographs.

Doug Bell, director of Tufts exhibitions, who curated the show with Laura Ferguson, associate director of communications for alumni relations, said that the exhibition offers a rare look at life at Tufts from the horse and buggy days to the start of World War II. Bell said he hopes visitors will come away with a deeper appreciation for Munro's range and dedication.

Joe Lippincott, A38, listens in on the world via short wave radio, circa 1936. Lippincott was a member of the Tufts Radio Club, which boasted it could correspond with more than 50 countries. He was one of several Tufts amateur radio operators who enjoyed collecting call letters from around the globe. © Melville S. Munro

"Munro was no ordinary amateur photographer," he said. "We have selected the images from some 70 volumes he called A Photographic History of Tufts, a title that reflects a belief that his photographs would be important in the present as well as the future. We are fortunate that he anticipated the priceless historical value of his work. Because of his careful, consistent vision, we now have this extraordinary window on Tufts' past."

In honor of that foresight, the exhibition includes a section on the Tufts Oral History Project, started in 2001 as part of Tufts' sesquicentennial celebration. Munro's photographs of students from the 1930s are combined with excerpts of interviews with graduates who remember him and a bygone Tufts.

The Munro Collection was left to Tufts upon Munro's death in 1945.

The University Art Gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, call the gallery at (617) 627-3518 or visit the gallery web site at www.tufts.edu/as/gallery