A Brief History of the Geddes Language Center

The original 1937 Geddes Seminar Room

The original 1937 Geddes Seminar Room

1937 -The Geddes Seminar Room and adjoining Phonetics Laboratory are opened at BU’s Back Bay campus in honor of Professor James Geddes, Jr. upon his retirement after fifty years of language teaching.


1948 – The College of Liberal Arts relocates to Commonwealth Avenue. The James Geddes, Jr. Modern Language Study is installed in the new building.

1956 – The Geddes Room is described in a university bulletin as a “listening center.”

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The 1961 language lab at work, with Geddes portrait

1961 – The Geddes Language Laboratory, with forty-two open-reel tape stations and a central control console, funded partly by federal grants promoting language study, opens on the third floor of the CLA (later CAS) building. 

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Early 1970s - larger, newer, ready for action

1969 – The language lab, now called the Geddes Language Center, moves into larger quarters on the fifth floor of 685 Commonwealth Avenue and expands its  academic support role into areas of media production, testing, collection-building and classroom equipment.

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About 1980, after the introduction of color to the university

1980 to 1993 – The Geddes Center adds infrastructure and hardware to support significant increases in video taping, editing, library, satellite transmission, group viewings and assignments. Its user-base broadens to include dozens of non-language media-using departments who are drawn to the Center by its service orientation and the diverse charms of its staff.

The lab is upgraded in 1993.

1993 renovation

1993 – Large scale facility upgrade and conversion to audio cassette platform. 

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The present day lab.

2003 to present – Gradual, then rapid transition from analog to digital media: computers replace audio cassettes; discs and streamed video replace video tape; on-line instructional options redefine attendance patterns. The Geddes Language Center moves vigorously into advanced media production, large-group delivery systems, and web-based support, while retaining its traditional decor, sensibility, and plant life.