Generation UCL: 200 Years of Student Life in London

25th Sep 2023  -  8th Dec 2024
Octagon Gallery, Wilkins Gallery

Exhibition graphic featuring a collage of archive student images in blue and lime green. Overlaid in white is the text 'Generation UCL: 200 Years of Student Life in London, FREE EXHIBITION, 25 Sep 2023 - 8 Dec 2024, Octagon Gallery' and the UCL logo.

Students are foundational to the story of UCL. Established in 1826 as the first university in England outside Oxford and Cambridge, UCL opened up higher education to those who had previously been denied access. This included religious minorities, the middle classes, and later, women. Since the beginning, students have been free to invent their own traditions and forge a distinctive student culture in London.

This exhibition places students at the heart of this 200-year history. It also marks 130 years since the formation of what became Students’ Union UCL, now one of the largest student-led organisations in the world.

On display are items from UCL Special Collections, Students' Union UCL and UCL Museums, each of which sheds light on an aspect of UCL student life. These include student identity, spaces and community-building, with UCL students often crucial to organisations like the Central Union of Chinese Students, formed in 1904, and the West African Students' Union, started on the initiative of a UCL student in 1925.

The exhibition showcases national and international student activism and engagement across two centuries, taking in the abolition of slavery, the Spanish Civil War, 1956's Soviet invasion of Hungary, the 2003 war in Iraq and the more recent Black Lives Matter protests. Student action relating to the university itself is also represented, including a 1970s campaign to end sexual harassment on campus, and calls for campus decolonisation, with a particular focus on UCL's role in legitimising eugenics.

The exhibition features audio clips from Generation UCL oral history interviews with UCL alumni and extracts from memoirs voiced by actors. Hear recollections of segregation between male and female students in the 1880s, life as an international student in 1909, the impact of the Second World War, and the 1990s dance music scene in London, among many other memories.

The exhibition was curated by Georgina Brewis and Sam Blaxland from IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society, together with Leah Johnston and Colin Penman of UCL Special Collections.

Initiated as part of UCL’s forthcoming bicentenary celebrations, Generation UCL is a research and engagement project funded by a Provost’s Award.

Read more about the creation of the exhibition on the project page

Upcoming events

Valuing students' union records and archives
Tuesday 21 May 2024, 10:00-16:00

Object Based Learning Lab, Wilkins Building, UCL, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT

This in-person event, open to archivists, historians, students and student's union representatives, will highlight the importance of caring for and making accessible students' union records. There will also be a workshop which will form the basis of future guidance. As part of the event there will be a tour of the exhibition 'Generation UCL: 200 Years of Student Life in London'. This event has been organised by the Higher Education Archives Programme in partnership with UCL, supported by the British Academy Research Project 'Archiving the Mixed Economy of Welfare'.

Book now

Share this: