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Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life

Tisch College Sponsors Innovative Chinatown Exhibition

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The exhibition was organized by a Tisch College Senior Fellow and funded by the Tisch College Community Research Center.

On August 13, a new exhibition titled These Words: A Century of Printing, Writing, and Reading in Boston’s Chinese Community, was unveiled in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood. The project was organized by Diane O’Donoghue, Senior Fellow for the Humanities at Tisch College, and is funded by the Tisch College Community Research Center in partnership with the Chinese Historical Society of New England. Additional funding was provided by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

These Words is a bilingual, multi-venue exhibition that displays the history of written and printed material in Chinatown through reproduced archival documents and photographs, along with site-specific projection events. This project takes an innovative approach, using digital replications of historic documents as the objects of a public exhibition. It includes large-scale window displays and image projections on several buildings in downtown Boston. By incorporating the exhibition directly into the neighborhood, it encourages individuals—whether they are residents of the neighborhood or walking through en route to school or work—to consider how books, objects, photographs, and private and public documents have shaped the economic, cultural, and civic life of Boston’s historic and dynamic Chinese community.

As Diane O’Donoghue, explains, “These Words is a response to the important question of how historical and cultural objects can be activated within the public sphere and the ways in which this material can become a participant in contemporary conversations and civic engagement.”

Susan Chinsen, Managing Director of the Chinese Historical Society of New England, said of the project: “I am excited to see some of the highlights from CHSNE’s archives and collections accessible to the public. CHSNE is proud to be connected to the vibrancy of Chinatown life through this partnership with Tisch College.”

For Tisch College, the exhibition is a prime example of our ongoing focus on exploring the rich intersections between civic life and the various disciplines in the humanities. These Words is the first humanities project ever funded by the Tisch College Community Research Center and is part of the Initiatives in the Public Humanities at Tisch, which O’Donoghue directs, and for the past two years has hosted a series of conversations with Tufts faculty on the civic dimensions of topics that included literature, cultural studies, and the visual arts. Through the Initiatives program, Tufts has become one of eleven members of the North Eastern Public Humanities Consortium, currently based at Yale. Additionally, three faculty members from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts—recently integrated with Tufts University—will serve as Tisch Faculty Fellows during the 2016-2017 academic year.

At the same time, the  exhibition represents the latest in a long line of partnerships between Tisch College and Chinatown, where students, faculty, and community members have for years come together to enhance learning and improve community life.

The window displays will be on view at the Chinese Trade Center (2 Boylston Street) and the Tufts University Health Sciences Bookstore (116 Harrison Street). Exhibitions and associated events for the public will be held through October 30, 2016, extending it a month beyond its original closing date, in response to requests that it remain in place longer into the academic year.