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A "Jumbo" Collection

A "Jumbo" CollectionA massive collection of more than 3,000 elephants – collected and donated to the University by Tufts graduate John Baronian – is now on display. Medford/Somerville, Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [02.13.03] During more than 50 years of travels, Tufts graduate John Baronian has assembled what may be the most expansive collection of elephants in the world. This week, Tufts opened a new exhibit to showcase the figurines at the University's Koppleman Gallery.

"It's an incredible pyramid of elephants," Doug Bell - Tufts senior gallery administrator - told The Boston Herald. "When you walk in the room, it brings a smile to your face."

Numbering more than 3,000 pieces, Baronian's collection includes elephants from Hong Kong, Thailand, Africa and Europe. According to the Associated Press, "The elephants, made from porcelain, glass, wood and bronze, are part of Baronian's personal collection."

The Guinness Book of World Records is currently considering a request to cite the collection as the world's largest.

"The elephant is a powerful and beautiful animal, and it represents everything that's great about Tufts," said Baronian. "What better place to have the world's largest collection of elephants than the home of the Jumbos - my alma mater Tufts University."

Known on campus as "Mr. Tufts," Baronian has built a legacy around his volunteer service to the University.

He co-founded the Tufts Jumbo Club, which provides financial support for Tufts athletics, and was as president of the Tufts University Alumni Association from 1970 to 1972. The Wakefield, Mass., native also has served as alumni trustee for many years. Tufts named an athletic field house in his honor in 1983. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Commerce degree by Tufts in 1997.

"He is what this is all about," Bell told the Herald. "[The exhibition] is about Tufts and school spirit. That is the value of his collection."

The exhibit - which opens Feb. 13 - will be on display the Tufts' Koppleman Gallery until March 23. The elephants will then be given a permanent home in the Remis Sculpture Court at the Aidekman Arts Center.

Tufts' history with elephants is a long and storied one. The Tufts mascot is actually a specific elephant - the legendary Jumbo from Barnum and Bailey's circus. Jumbo, the circus' star attraction was killed by a train in 1885, and his stuffed remains were donated to the university by Barnum, who was a benefactor of the University.

The majestic pachyderm was on display at Tufts until Barnum Museum, where he was housed, burned to the ground in 1975. A jar of Jumbo's ashes was kept by Tufts Athletic Director Rocco Carzo until he retired in 1999, when he passed it on to the incoming Athletic Director Bill Gehling.

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