(Photo by Michael Kenny)

Where T-shirts come to endure

A Special Collections exhibit on student life.

Who ever thought a “where fun comes to die” T-shirt would be exhibit worthy? Yet there it is, in the back row of a display of shirts boasting about hell freezing over, the Div School coffee shop, women’s crew, and Harold’s Chicken. The 20 T-shirts hanging in the library’s Special Collections Exhibition Gallery glass case offer a glimpse of the recent UChicago student experience in one quick snap.

The rest of the exhibition, We Are Chicago: Student Life in the Collections of the University of Chicago Archives, captures moments over a 120-year span. Some highlights: a 1935 photo of three women archers aiming bows and arrows, a 1932 cartoon map of campus with capped-and-gowned students scurrying about, and a 1925 silk kimono hand painted to commemorate a tradition of baseball games between the Maroons and Japan’s Waseda University.

In addition to perusing the exhibit cases, visitors can watch a slide show of 7,500 photos the Maroon donated to the University Archives, which Special Collections digitized with a grant from the U of C Women’s Board. Visitors also can post their own memories on an interactive comment board.

The comment board could help the archives collect more information about student life, which can be a challenge. The University has some 300 registered student organizations; since 1892 students have been active in all sorts of social, cultural, academic, and political groups. The library staff notes that some exhibit items were donated by alumni, and they’re always looking to fill in the gaps.

If you have items of interest—even an old T-shirt can shed light on the UChicago experience—e-mail Special Collections Research Center director Daniel Meyer, AM’75, PhD’94, at arch@uchicago.edu or leave your memories as a comment on this story. We Are Chicago runs through March 23.