Location: Shriver Hall Lobby, Homewood Campus
Dates: Course Spring 2016; signage installed Fall 2016
In 1939, Johns Hopkins alumnus Alfred Jenkins Shriver died, leaving funds for a lecture hall to be decorated with a set of murals. Shriver’s directives for the murals were very precise and required significant help from the university registrar, Irene Davis, who assisted painter Leon Kroll by gathering physical descriptions, photographs, and costumes to portray the individuals named by Shriver. In 1956, the lobby murals made their debut.
In 2015, an article in the Times Higher Education focused on sexism in the Shriver Hall murals, considering some of the paintings inappropriate for a modern university. This prompted students in Elizabeth Rodini’s course Introduction to the Museum: Issues and Ideas to search the Hopkins archives for more context. Each student wrote two short texts: one providing background information on the murals and one featuring a comparative image of their choosing and interpretation. Their work was assembled into an exhibition booklet entitled Completing the Picture.
As Dr. Rodini notes in her remarks on the project, “The themes that emerge from their brief texts provide a window not only onto the history of the university and the murals, but onto Hopkins students themselves, including the issues they care about and campus life as they experience it.” She hopes that, “through this applied exercise, the student authors have a fuller sense of the entangled narrative strands that make up any historical interpretation.”
This project is part of a larger campus effort to collect and share the history of Hopkins. In addition to visiting the campus project, you can hear Professor S. W. Leslie talk about the murals.