Barnum Hall is pictured on April 20, 2018. Rachel Hartman / The Tufts Daily

New tenants announced for Barnum Hall as renovations begin

Barnum Hall, currently vacant after the relocation of the Department of Biology to the Science and Engineering Complex in fall 2017, will be filled by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life (Tisch College) and the Department of Film and Media Studies (FMS) in summer 2019, at the conclusion of ongoing renovations. The renovations, which began shortly after commencement in May 2018, are slated to last a year.

Gretchen Von Grossmann, director of Capital Programs at Tufts, said that Barnum has not had a major interior renovation since 1975, describing the need for a renovation. The hall was completely rebuilt that year, when the original hall, from 1884, burned down.

According to Von Grossmann, major aspects of the current project include a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, new LED lighting, additional restrooms and improved way-finding, including renovations in student spaces.

“Improvements will be made to the lower level auditorium and the first floor will include a new, larger lobby space with seating,” Von Grossmann said.

Von Grossmann said that the outside of the building would remain largely the same, noting that exterior renovations were done in 2012.

Renovations are on schedule and reconstruction will begin in September, according to Von Grossmann.

Malcolm Turvey, the director of FMS expressed his excitement about the department’s new home. Given the short history of the major – first offered in fall 2015 – it will not really be a “move.”

“Barnum will be the first ‘home’ for FMS, in that it will contain spaces specifically designed for FMS’s needs, including: offices, a digital editing lab and classrooms, and most importantly, studio spaces designed for filmmaking,” Turvey said.

The department plans to gradually add equipment to Barnum, said Turvey, particularly to create a “cinema-quality screening space” in one of the larger lecture halls.

Turvey, who is also a professor in the Department of Art and Art History, expressed particular excitement towards the interdisciplinary potential of Barnum.

“[The hall] will also include studios for painting, drawing and for our [School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts] colleagues to teach their arts courses,” he said.

Alan Solomont, dean of Tisch College, said that the move to Barnum will allow Tisch College “the opportunity to design more community-friendly, communal, civic spaces on campus.” Tisch will also begin offering an interdisciplinary Civic Studies major starting this fall.

He looked forward to the fact that the redesigned Barnum Hall will feature more open spaces, as opposed to blocked off classrooms.

“[Tisch College] will occupy pretty much the entire ground floor … looking to create student spaces to engage with one another, to fulfill one of the priorities voiced by the students,” Solomont added.

With the planned move to Barnum, Solomont also expressed interest in expanding Tisch College. He outlined plans for the school to reach all four Tufts campuses and plans to develop a program in civic technology. 

Solomont explained that the large lecture halls in Barnum would be used for events, including guest speakers.

Planning is underway for the future of the Lincoln-Filene Center, the current home of Tisch College, according to Solomont.

In addition to Tisch College and the FMS department, Barnum occupants will include various university environmental groups, select Fletcher School faculty and the Office of Community Relations, according to a Tufts Now article detailing the work.

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