Archives + MIT History

Telegraphy exhibit opens in the Maihaugen Gallery

Posted September 8th, 2014 by Heather Denny

linemenWired: A World Transformed by the Telegraph, an exhibition highlighting the Libraries’ special collections in telegraphy, recently opened in the Maihaugen Gallery (14N-130).

Until the mid-19th century, most messages could travel across long distances only as quickly as they could be physically carried. Audiovisual systems such as smoke, flags, drums, beacons, and gunshots were cumbersome and severely limited in their sophistication and speed.

The electric telegraph changed all that. The ability to communicate instantaneously across entire continents – and even oceans – heralded the birth of telecommunications.

The current exhibition introduces a rich and varied collection of materials on the electric telegraph and its impact on the world. The collection is a gift of Thomas F. Peterson, Jr. (MIT 1957), who also made a generous donation to process and catalog its contents.

The exhibit includes telegrams, images, books, video, and ephemera that chart the birth of a huge industry, and reveal how business, warfare, social interactions, and even the arts were affected by this transformational technology.

Visit the Maihaugen Gallery Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

What’s new at the Libraries this fall

Posted August 26th, 2014 by Heather Denny

nullWelcome back! The MIT Libraries have been busy over your summer vacation. We’ve made improvements, added new resources, expanded our services, and lined up great events for the fall. Here are some of the new things you can look forward to:

New website

  • Our homepage has a new look Everyone wants to look their best going back-to-school, including us! With your feedback we made major improvements to our homepage. The fresh new design features a streamlined search bar, less clutter, and easy to find hours, locations, research guides, and experts.

New resources & tools

  • Got data? Need help managing it? We can help MIT faculty and researchers manage, store, and share the data you produce. Evaluate your needs with this short checklist on our new Data Management website.

Expanded borrowing & easier renewing

  • More options for borrowing Borrow Direct, the partnership that allows you to borrow books from other Ivy League+ institutions, has expanded to include Johns Hopkins University. Search over 50 million volumes owned by Borrow Direct libraries through MIT’s WorldCat.
  • Keep your books longer You may have noticed this summer that you didn’t have to worry about renewing books as often. We launched automatic renewals this spring, giving you extra time with your books. Your library loans will now automatically renew 3 days before the due date, unless the book has been requested by another patron.

Upcoming events & exhibits

  • Fall exhibit opens Wired: A World Transformed by the Telegraph opens in the Maihaugen Gallery in September. Long before telephone or text, instantaneous messages travelled by telegraph. Explore the historic significance of this technological triumph of the 19th century through an exhibit featuring books, telegrams, photographs, manuscripts, and ephemera from the Libraries’ collections.
  • Fridays just got a little more fun, and furry Starting in October we’re expanding our popular therapy dog program. Now on the first Friday of each month this fall you can stop by Hayden Library for some one-on-one time with a dog. Petting a dog is great stress relief! Just drop by 2-4pm on October 3, November 7, or December 5.
  • Authors@MIT series returns The MIT Libraries and MIT Press Bookstore will offer a series of events with MIT authors. Join us in October for a reading by Ellen Harris who will discuss her most recent work, George Frideric Handel: A Life with Friends on Wednesday, October 22nd, at 5:30pm in the Lewis Music Library. Stay tuned for more events to come.

Follow the MIT Libraries on Twitter and Facebook for all the latest news and events.

Study Sanctuary—Hayden’s Lipchitz Courtyard

Posted June 27th, 2014 by Heather Denny

The Lipchitz Courtyard within Building 14 (adjacent to Hayden Library) is a hidden gem—a quiet, leafy retreat where you can find a sunny or shady spot to pull up a chair and read a book, or enjoy artwork from MIT’s Public Art Collection.

The courtyard contains three sculptures by 20th century Cubist artist Jacques LipchitzPhotographer Yulla Lipchitz donated the monumental bronze sculptures by her late husband in memory of the late MIT President Jerome B. Wiesner, founder of the Council for the Arts at MIT. 

The garden is also featured on the list of MIT’s pocket gardens, It contains paper birch trees, azalea, hydrangea, rhododendron, and flowering perennials. Stop by to see what’s in bloom, and enjoy this special oasis!

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Discovering the Libraries: Top 10 things to know

Posted June 5th, 2014 by Pritee Tembhekar

By MIT Libraries’ student blogger, Pri Tembhekar

Hello everyone!

It is with bittersweet sentiment that I write my last blog for the MIT Libraries. This post will be about the top 10 things to know about the Libraries. I’ve covered some of these tips in other posts, so this entry will be a good way to tie it all together.

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Bonus tip:The courtyard outside Hayden Library is a relaxing place to study.

  1. Library hideaways can make studying just a little better. The Libraries have many beautiful places to study and also contain 24-hour study rooms. Check out my post about the Lewis Music Library.
  2. Stop by the Libraries for textbooks. You don’t have to carry them around in order to study between classes. The Libraries have textbooks on reserve that you can check out for two hour increments. There are also some textbooks available online through the Libraries. It could save you significant money!
  3. Think outside your courses for fun options at the Libraries. The Libraries have resources well outside science and technology. The Libraries have videos and travel books. Check out my spring break post for more ideas.
  4. On a similar note, the Libraries can help you pursue your interests. The Lewis Library has concerts and open mics that could help nurture and preserve your interest in music. If art is more your style, the Libraries’ pass to the MFA allows you to take non-MIT friends along for free.
  5. Student jobs at the MIT Libraries are a fantastic way to make money and learn. There are many ways to get involved. From the student workers I interviewed, I really got the sense that working at the Libraries had become more than just a job. In my short time here I have learned a lot about blogging and felt a community among the Libraries’ staff. Check out my student jobs post.
  6. The libraries can make research less painful! For in-depth, longer-term research making an appointment with a librarian can go a long way. Subject matter experts can really push you in the right direction. See my post on research resources for more information.
  7. Research guides provide a quicker fix and concise information. They can be accessed online and cover a wide range of subjects. More information is available in the research resources post.
  8. One of the lesser known Libraries’ resources are the range of special events they host. During their IAPril series of events, I learned about using Mendeley software to manage PDFs and citations. There were also events on 3-D printing and business resources. Some events can be really surprising. For example, preservation week brought a letter locking event to MIT.
  9. Meet at least one librarian or staff member during your time at MIT. When I met Jana Dambrogio, I was amazed by her passion for letter locking, something I had never heard of. Not only are they incredible resources, but the Libraries’ staff have unique interests that are refreshing for someone immersed in science and technology.
  10. The Libraries’ scanners are fantastic. They create high quality images with no hassle. When I asked a few senior friends what they liked best, this was the most surprising answer.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it! There’s an excellent video on this topic made by the Libraries and featuring students. Best of luck readers!

Discovering the Libraries: Archives and conservation

Posted May 30th, 2014 by Pritee Tembhekar

Hello everyone!

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Letters by William Barton Rogers

It has been a few weeks since I had the pleasure of visiting the Institute Archives and Conservation Lab, but I’m excited to write this belated post. This week’s post is about how the MIT Libraries preserve MIT’s rich history and how old, sensitive materials are treated and conserved for library users.

Most students know that William Barton Rogers founded the Institute in 1861. The details of MIT’s founding and early years are much less widely known. The MIT Libraries however has a surprisingly in-depth collection of materials relevant to MIT’s history. This includes letters that William Barton Rogers wrote, old student newspapers, and photographs of students and buildings. With the help of Nora Murphy, Archivist for Reference, Outreach and Instruction, I got a glimpse of some of the fascinating pieces in the archives.

One of the earliest and, in my opinion, most meaningful pieces was the letter by William Barton Rogers describing his vision for a technical institute. The letter is from 1846 and outlines parts of the MIT mission that are still with us today (right).

Many of the other artifacts give insight into life at MIT in the past. For example, going through old photobooks reveals the presence of international students very early in the Institute’s history (19th century students from China are present in photobooks). There are also pictures of MIT living quarters in the 1930s. Surprisingly, they don’t look starkly different from where we live today.

Important works of MIT students and faculty are also preserved here. I had the opportunity to see a chlorine level map made by Ellen Swallow Richards in the 1880s. Richards was the first female student admitted into MIT and subsequently the first female instructor here.  She is notable for her work in environmental chemistry and testing levels of various toxins in food and water. The MIT Archives has her work as well as some of her personal history. Richards appears in the journal of Louisa Hewins, which the Libraries has in their collection.

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Journal of Louisa Hewins featuring Ellen Swallow Richards (1880s)

A few of the pieces that I saw were just plain fun. For example, the class of ’84 yearbook (1884 that is) has fantastic photos of student organizations. The fencing team is shown below. It also has rosters of fraternity members.

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Fencing team photo in 1884 yearbook

The Tech from June 10, 1910 featured pictures of the Institute buildings and the president of the time. It’s interesting to see what made students of the time take notice.

I went on to see the Wunsch Conservation Lab in the MIT Libraries. Jana Dambrogio, the conservator, gave me an inside look into the life of a book in need of restoration. Jana’s specialty in recent years has been around letter locking, a practice by which letters were sent without an envelope. The letters are folded in different ways that hide the contents of the letter without using more (scarce) paper. It was refreshing to hear about a passion outside science and engineering. Jana explained to me the fine line between restoration of an artifact to its old state and preservation of “imperfections” with historical meaning. I got the chance to see an old work that is currently undergoing analysis.  Jana and her colleagues are looking into the structure of the book and drawing insights about how it was made.

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Tech newspaper from June 10, 1910

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Jana Dambrogio explains the structure of a book

I also met Kate Beattie who was doing a completely different kind of work preparing books for circulation to MIT users. It just goes to show the range of initiatives that the conservation lab engages in.

Thanks again to Jana Dambrogio and Nora Murphy for showing me around!

MIT’s Monuments Men

Posted April 28th, 2014 by Nora Murphy

We are pleased to note that MIT alumni served with the World War II “Monuments Men” to save cultural treasures. Here is information about two of them.

Joseph “Paul” Gardner

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Photo credit: Fold 3 by Ancestry

According to sources in MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections Joseph Paul Gardner was born on October 20, 1894.

Prior to coming to MIT he attended Somerville High School. He attended MIT from 1913-1917, and took courses in architecture (course 4). Gardner did not receive a degree from MIT, but was considered to be part of the class of 1917. While at MIT, he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon and the Architectural Society. He also participated in the Tech Show, where he was described as chief ballet dancer.

Images of Mr. Gardner’s involvement in the Tech Show can be found in the 1915-1918 editions of Technique. Gardner pictured above with the troupe from 1916. (Technique, 1916).

After leaving MIT, Gardner joined the Coast Artillery Corps and served during World War I. He received the rank of 1st Lieutenant of August 9, 1917, and would be promoted to Captain on March 5, 1918. From September 3 to November 26, 1917, he was in the Officers’ Training Camp at Ft. Monroe, Virginia. He served in the American Expeditionary Forces from December 11, 1917 to July 17, 1919. He was at the Heavy Artillery School in Mailly-le-Camp in January 15, 1918. During April he was assigned special duty with the Heavy Artillery Board designing trains for Railway Artillery. From April 25 to November 8, 1918, he was in command of Battery H, 53rd Artillery, Coast Artillery Corps at front in Champagne Sector. While in command, he participated in the Champagne-Marne Defensive and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. After the armistice, he was stationed at Le Mans Embarkation Center. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Palm and Fourragère for the promptness of his unit to return fire while under bombardment by shrapnel and gas shells at age twenty-one. At the end of the war, he traveled Europe studying architecture.

Gardner became the Ballet Master for the Washington Opera Company and the co-owner of the Tchernikoff Gardner School of Dancing. He also spent nine years as a dancer with Anna Pavlova’s Ballet Company. During this time, he received his Bachelor’s of Art in European history from George Washington University, graduating in 1928.

It is unclear what occupation he held after returning from Europe. The 1920 Alumni Directory lists his address as Los Angeles, California, but no occupation is given. By 1925, he had relocated to Washington, DC. In 1929 he received an MA from George Washington University. In 1930 he decided to focus on art, and attended doctoral classes at Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum in order to prepare himself for museum work, completing his studies in 1932. He became the assistant to the Trustees of the William Rockhill Nelson Trust in March of that year and was appointed as first Director of the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art and Mary Atkins Museum of Fine Arts in 1933. In 1932, he was involved with the creation of a new art museum in Kansas City Missouri. The following year he was appointed director of this museum, the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art (now the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art) in Kansas City, Missouri where he would work until his retirement in 1955.

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Photo credit: Monuments Men Foundation

During World War II, he served in the US Army, where he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He served in the Military intelligence Service on the Sub-commission for Monuments and Fine Art in Italy. From 1942 to 1945 he also served as the Military Governor of Ischia, an Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea. In October 1943, he was the lone MFAA officer to arrive to the ruins of Naples after many delays and difficulties. He served during World War II as a Lieutenant Colonel in command of the MFAA in Italy. From 1942 to 1945 he also served as the Military Governor of Ischia, an Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea. In October 1943, he was the lone MFAA officer to arrive to the ruins of Naples after many delays and difficulties. The 1955 edition of the Alumni Directory lists his address was given as Las Milpas, San Patricio, New Mexico. After the war he returned to the museum until resigning as Director in May 1953. For the last nineteen years of his life he spent his summers on his ranch in New Mexico, and his winters in Italy. Gardner died in Lincoln, New Mexico on September 11, 1972.

Robert Edsel’s book Saving Italy discusses the heroism of former Nelson-Atkins director Paul Gardner. Edsel created the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, which honors the legacy of the Monuments Men.

Photo credit: Monuments Men Foundation

 

Sidney Biehler Waugh

Sidney Biehler Waugh was born on January 17, 1904. He attended Amherst High School prior to coming to MIT, and his address on entrance was MAC Campus, Amherst, Massachusetts. Waugh attended MIT from 1921 to 1923, and during 1925, taking courses in architecture (course 4). While at MIT, he was a member of the Architectural Society and the Kappa Sigma fraternity.

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In 1929, Mr. Waugh won the Prix de Rome for his sculpture “Steel.” An image of this sculpture can be found in Technology Review vol. 31, p. 480. As of 1933, he began to produce designs for Steuben Glass.

Images of his glass works can be found in Technology Review (vol. 38, p. 339, and vol 40, p. 66) and the Corning Museum of Glass collection online. In 1934, he had the prize exhibit in a salon devoted to American-made glass. Around this time, he became involved with MIT again, serving on the Visiting Committee for Architecture from 1935-1940, with the exception of the 1937/1938 term. In 1937, he would design a glass medal for a competition sponsored by the Pittsburgh Glass Institute. Mr. Waugh created both a sculpture and fountain that was exhibited in front of the Maritime Building in the NY World’s Fair in 1939.

The 1948 directory states that he served as a captain in the US Army during World War II. For his service he was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Croix de Guerre (twice), and named a Knight of the Crown of Italy. He joined National Sculpture Society in 1930 and was elected president in 1948.

He wrote two books: The Art of Glassmaking in 1938 and The Making of Fine Glass in 1947.

In 1957 Waugh designed the Atoms for Peace gold medal. A folder on Sidney Waugh can be found in the Atoms for Peace Awards records (MC10, b.3) in the MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections.

Sidney Waugh died on June 30, 1963. He had been a member of the National Institute of Arts and Sciences.

Thank you to Sony Pictures for providing a copy of “The Monuments Men, starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, and John Goodman, before its DVD/Blu-ray release on May 20th. The free screening will be shown to the MIT and Harvard students as a part of National Preservation Week celebrations. The film is based on the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel. MIT students will have a chance to win a signed copy of the Edsel’s book at the Movie showing on April 29th. Thank you also to the Monuments Men Foundation.

Thank you to Christina Tanguay, Kate Beattie, and Jana Dambrogio for researching and co-writing this blog post.

Poetry in the Archives

Posted April 24th, 2014 by Nora Murphy

For National Poetry Month, a poem from MIT faculty papers housed in the Institute Archives and Special Collections.

ChromosomeSmall“Ode to a Chromosome,” found in the papers of biologist Francis Otto Schmitt, is one of the poems we came across recently. Poetry in scientific and engineering collections is an unexpected treat. The poetic inclinations of members of the MIT community, from limericks to sonnets, can be found throughout the collections. Early issues of The Tech and Technique are filled with verse.  Some verses are flowery, many are amusing, some reference MIT, and the theme of others is more broadly scientific. Some of the works are good and others not so good, depending on your poetic sensibilities.

MIT has spawned a number of poets, among them Frank Gelett Burgess, class of 1887, whose nonsense verse “Purple Cow: Reflections on a Mythic Beast Who’s Quite Remarkable, at Least” brought him fame but also frustration that it was the verse for which he was best known.

Discussion about the place of the humanities at MIT has been recurring since the establishment of the Institute in 1861. A 2010 editorial in The Tech by graduate student Emily Ruppel (“MIT – poetry = a travesty”) and a subsequent blog by John Lundberg for the Huffington Post (“Should MIT Teach Poetry?“) reflect on the value of poetry in a scientific and engineering community.

Contact the Institute Archives and Special Collections to find out more about poems and other research material created by the MIT community.

 

The art and science of letterlocking

Posted April 24th, 2014 by Heather Denny

Jana Dambrogio, MIT Libraries’ Thomas F. Peterson Conservator
(Photo: L. Barry Hetherington)

Long before email, text, and instant message, important words were passed discreetly from closed palm to palm with a knowing glance and nod. These hand-written notes were often elaborately folded, sealed with wax, and rigged with anti-tamper devices to ensure their protection and authenticity.

The technique of “locking” letters involves folding the parchment, papyrus, or paper securely so that the letter functions as its own envelope. Well-known historical figures such as Queen Elizabeth I of England, Marie Antoinette, and even MIT’s founder, William Barton Rogers, used locked letters for their private communications.

“Letterlocking has been around for centuries, and has been used by prominent figures as well as everyday people,” says Jana Dambrogio, MIT Libraries’ Thomas F. Peterson Conservator. “Some of the earliest examples on paper are found in the Vatican Secret Archives and date back to 1494.”

Dambrogio, who is the conservator of MIT’s rare books, archives, and manuscripts, will demonstrate the technique of locking letters in two upcoming events at MIT: Historic Letterlocking: the Art, Technology and Secrecy of Letter Writing on April 23 during the Cambridge Science Festival, and April 29 during MIT Libraries’ Preservation Week. Read the full article on MIT News.

Guardians of the MIT Community

Posted April 16th, 2014 by Nora Murphy
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Barbara Haven, Raymond Roberts, and Robert Molino

Security on MIT’s campus has evolved since the 1950s when night watchmen, serving primarily as fire watch, patrolled the campus. The responsibilities, duties, and reporting structure of the police have changed with the times and the needs of the community. Crimes on campus previously handled by Cambridge police were taken on by MIT’s force in 1959. Over the last two decades the MIT Police have worked with students and staff more collaboratively on safety issues. Read more about the history of the MIT Police on the Institute Archives and Special Collections web site.

“Be Thou the Advocate…”

Posted April 10th, 2014 by Nora Murphy

Happy Charter Day, MIT!

Letter from Governor Andrew to William Barton Rogers, 9 March 1861

On this day, 153 years ago, the Massachusetts legislature passed, and Governor John Andrew approved, legislation that established MIT.

On March 9, 1861, Governor Andrew had written to William Barton Rogers that a meeting had been scheduled with the State Board of Education to afford an opportunity for proponents of the plan to explain its advantages for education and industry. The letter reproduced here expresses the governor’s confidence in Rogers’s dynamic personality and powers of persuasion.

Rogers had worked long and hard to establish a polytechnic school in Boston, spending years sharing his vision and soliciting support. Two days later the U.S. Civil War began when Confederate soldiers fired upon Fort Sumter. MIT’s first classes were not held until 1865, shortly before the end of the war.

More information about the establishment of MIT is available on the  Institute Archives and Special Collections web site. MIT’s original charter is housed at the Massachusetts Archives among the acts and resolves of the Commonwealth.

Help identify MIT Banjo Club of ca.1893

Posted April 10th, 2014 by Christie Moore

Is one of these players your ancestor? Help identify members of MIT’s Banjo Club of ca.1893, the picture hanging outside the Lewis Music Library!

BanjoClub_1893webFrom yearbooks in the Institute Archives and Special Collections, we have made some tentative IDs. Left to right, standing: Nathan Cheney ’94; possibly Floyd Frazier ’96; Winthrop Tracy Case ’94; possibly Edwin Francis Hicks ’94; possibly F.S.V. Sias ’95. Sitting: possibly Lucius Spaulding Tyler ’96; Albert William Thompson ’95 or ’96; George Frederic Shepard, Jr., ’95.

Post a comment on the Lewis Music Library Facebook page if you can help!

 

The origins of MIT’s Specifications for Thesis Preparation

Posted April 3rd, 2014 by Nora Murphy

Faculty Minutes, 23 May 1868As the deadline for submitting theses for the 2014 June degree period approaches, students may be wondering how the specifications originated. 

In May of 1868 the MIT faculty voted to approve the first specifications for theses, requiring only that a thesis be written “on paper of ordinary letter size (about 8 x 10 in.), on one side of the paper only, and with a margin of one inch on the left.” In 1872 additional specifications were added: the paper was to be of good quality, “with drawings on double elephant paper 40 x 27, or single elephant 20 x 27.” Early theses were handwritten, with hand drawings of illustrations, until about 1914 when typewriters began to be used with regularity.

For more information about early theses, and the development of thesis specifications, contact the Institute Archives and Special Collections. Current thesis specifications are prescribed by the Committee on Graduate Programs and the Committee on Undergraduate Programs and are published by the MIT Libraries.

Preservation Week, April 29–May 1: Explore the art and science of preserving cultural heritage

Posted March 27th, 2014 by Heather Denny

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Join us for a variety of events that highlight the importance of preserving cultural heritage materials during National Preservation Week.

Tuesday, April 29th, starting at 12 pm

The Art and Science of Document Security: Past, Present, and Future, 32-144 A series of talks presenting research on historical, contemporary, and novel methods for creating secure documents in all forms. Join us for one session or several. There will be breaks for refreshments and questions throughout.

  • 12:15 pm “Our Marathon”: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive
    Our Marathon is a crowd-sourced digital archive of stories, photos, video, and social media related to the Boston Marathon bombings and aftermath. Join us for a brown bag talk with Jim McGrath and Alicia Peaker from the Our Marathon team for an overview of the project and the archive.
  • 1:00 pm      Opening Remarks
  • 1:15 pm     Our Digital Lives: Protecting Our Data In Use and At Rest, Michael Halsall, Senior Network and Information Security Analyst at MIT

  • 1:45 pm    Benign Neglect No More: How Document Security Affects Access to Memory, Kari R. Smith, Digital Archivist, MIT Libraries Institute Archives and Special Collections
  • 2:45 pm    Historic Letterlocking: The Art and Security of Letterwriting, Jana Dambrogio, Thomas F. Peterson (1957) Conservator, MIT Libraries Curation and Preservation Services
  • 4:00 pm    Thanks for the Memory: 50+ Years of Computing at MIT exhibit, 14N-130 Gallery visit led by Nora Murphy, Archivist for Reference, Outreach, and Instruction, MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections, Maihaugen Gallery  

  • 8:00 pm   The Monuments Men Movie Screening, 26-100 Enjoy a free screening of The Monuments Men. George Clooney portrays a local art conservation hero George Stout who saved cultural heritage from ruin during WWII.

Wednesday, April 30th, 11 am-3 pm

  • Our Marathon “Share Your Story” event, 10-105 Representatives from the Our Marathon online collection of Boston Marathon Bombing experiences will be on campus to document the personal experiences of the MIT community during and after the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing.

May 1st, 2-3 pm

  • Scrapbook Preservation webinar, 14N-132 Interested in preserving your own items? Join us for a free webinar about scrapbook preservation hosted by the American Library Association. Melissa Tedone, Conservator of the Parks Library Preservation Department at Iowa State University, will talk about older scrapbooks as well as how to identify the most stable materials for new scrapbooks.

All events are free and open to the public. For more information contact preservation-team@mit.edu, or see the Preservation Week website.

Improving Water Quality in 19th Century Massachusetts

Posted March 25th, 2014 by Nora Murphy

A recent MIT news spotlight on research for detecting bacteria brought to mind 19th century research on water quality in Massachusetts.

05.18.10.01_Ellen_edit_300In the 1880s MIT chemist Ellen Swallow Richards, in collaboration with faculty member Dr. Thomas Drown, undertook a multi-year, comprehensive survey of the Massachusetts water supplies for the State Board of Health. The results included definitive information about the flow of rivers, analysis of the chemicals in the water, and high and low water marks. The most significant outcome was the creation of a ‘normal chlorine’ map of the Commonwealth’s water supplies. The varying amounts of chlorine in the water samples taken from Massachusetts’ rivers revealed the extent of man-made pollution in the Commonwealth. The findings lead to the establishment in Massachusetts of the first water-quality standards in the U.S.

Ellen Swallow Richards was chemist to the Massachusetts Board of Health from 1872 to 1875 and water analyst from 1887 to 1897, and an advocate for sanitary water and safe cooking standards throughout her life.

To examine the papers of Ellen Swallow Richards, and to learn more about and MIT’s long history of research on sanitary chemistry and food technology, contact the MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections. Additional information about Mrs. Richards and her scientific contributions are available online.

New Exhibit: Thanks for the memory: 50+ years of computing at MIT

Posted March 12th, 2014 by Heather Denny
 Jay Forrester with Whirlwind staff and computer

Photograph of Jay Forrester with Whirlwind staff and computer, Barta Building, MIT campus

MIT’s wide-ranging impact on computer science is the focus of an exhibit that has just opened in the Libraries’ Maihaugen Gallery. From Project Whirlwind to Project Athena, MIT’s numerous contributions to the science of computing have affected society in ways no one could have imagined a century ago – though we take most of those developments for granted today.

Since World War II researchers at MIT have pushed computers to work faster, and more efficiently. They’ve explored applications for industry and government, and found ways to incorporate computers into research and teaching. This exhibit highlights some of the projects and research that have contributed to the development of computer theory, applications, software and hardware. The exhibit also celebrates the recent 50th anniversary of Project MAC – a project in which collaborative interdepartmental experimentation and research focused on time-sharing, human-computer interfaces, and interactive modeling.

The Maihaugen Gallery (14N-130) is open to the public Monday through Friday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, except for Institute holidays and special events. The exhibit will run through July 2014.

Discussion: Scientific imaging for artwork & other cultural heritage materials

Posted February 20th, 2014 by Heather Denny

Discussion: Thursday, February 27, 2014, 11:00 am, 14N-132 (DIRC)

CulturalHeritageImage

Detail: Two modes of Reflectance Transformation Imaging. The bottom view shows a Japanese woodcut in “Normal” mode. The top view shows the “Specular Enhancement” mode, which removes color virtually to reveal the subtle surface impressions made in the paper by the artist. © Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Konishi Hirosada, artist, Osaka Actor Mimasu Daigoro IV , color woodcut with embossing and metallic pigment, c. 1851-59.

New scientific imaging tools offer the capability to see distinctive details on a 16th century rare book cover, a manuscript, or a work of art, that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Please join the MIT Libraries’ Curation and Preservation Services Department for a fascinating look at how this technology can help us to learn more about our cultural heritage materials, and how to best preserve them.

Carla Schroer, of the non-profit Cultural Heritage Imaging, will discuss the new empirical capture and analysis tools Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), Algorithmic Rendering (AR), and image-based Structure from Motion (SFM) generation of textured 3D geometry. These techniques will be explored in the context of the emerging science of “Computational Photography.” Computational Photography extracts and synthesizes information from image sequences to create a new type of image containing information not found in any single image in the sequence. This technology is in use in many areas from major art museums to remote archaeological sites to fields in the natural sciences.

The event is free and open to the public, no registration required.

Thanks, MIT music, for your dulcet tones.

Posted January 17th, 2014 by Jana Dambrogio

This week was an all-things-MIT-Music for the conservation lab. We de-installed the “Noteworthy Connections” exhibition in the Maihaugen Gallery  featuring the music treasures from the Lewis Music Library and the Institute Archives and Special Collections.

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MIT’s Chorallaries, an a cappella music group, provides cheerful music to listen to while we make protective enclosures for some of the illuminated music manuscripts folios that will be used for teaching next semester. We are curious to discover more “whistle-while-you-work” music created by MIT faculty, staff, and students.

Bound by Hand–Bookbindings created in the Libraries’ Conservation Lab

Posted January 7th, 2014 by Jana Dambrogio

Today is the first day of two Individual Activity Program (IAP) classes the conservation lab is offering. Participants are learning how to transform paper, cloth, board, thread, and glue into two types of blank books–pamphlet and flat back case bindings. Fabricating these foundational book structures reminds us here in the conservation lab why we love books, why we love to make them, and why we are dedicated to preserve them for access-old and new.

Pamphlet bindings made by hand with thread and paper.

A participant is creating the cover for the flat back case binding. Case bindings are made by creating the text block and cover separately; they are attached to each other to create a book.

Instructors for the class: Conservation Assistant Ayako Letizia and Preservation Associate Kate Beattie from the Wunsch Conservation Laboratory, Curation and Preservation Services.

Exploring tools for digital archives

Posted December 16th, 2013 by Myles Crowley

Curious about how the MIT Libraries are working to archive and preserve the digital record and primary sources for the Institute? Check out Digital Archivist Kari Smith’s recent blog post, which explains the current process and describes some software tools that are being considered. Be sure to stay tuned as the life-cycle experiments hosted by the Libraries’ new Digital Sustainability Lab further assess and test use cases and solutions.

IAP 2014: Culture, Arts, and Society

Posted December 9th, 2013 by Mark Szarko

Join the MIT Libraries for a series of classes on topics that range from letterlocking to the music of the Arab Spring. Some classes require registration.Beaver

Creative Bookbinding 2014
Tue Jan 7, 10:00am-12:30pm, 14-0513
Wed Jan 8, 10:00am-12:30pm, 14-0513
Contact: Kate Beattie, knb@mit.edu

Rare Book Speed Dating
Fri Jan 10, 10:30am-11:00am, 14N-118
Fri Jan 10, 11:15am-11:45am, 14N-118
Contact: Audrey Pearson, pearsona@mit.edu

Library Music! Open Mic in the Lewis Music Library
Fri Jan 10, 12:00pm-1:00pm, 14E-109
Fri Jan 24, 12:00pm-1:00pm, 14E-109
Contact: Peter Munstedt, pmunsted@mit.edu

Using Images in Your Work: A Look at Fair Use, Open Licensing, Copyright, and Identifying and Citing Images
Fri Jan 10, 1:00pm-2:15pm, 14N-132
Contact: Ellen Duranceau, efinnie@mit.edu

A Conversation with Ta’Nehisi Coates about Reading, Writing, and Libraries
Mon Jan 13, 11:00am-12pm, 14E-304
Contact: Patsy Baudoin, patsy@mit.edu

Leave It to the Beavers: A Snapshot of Life at MIT in the 1950s
Fri Jan 24, 2:00pm-3:30pm, 14N-118
Contact: Camille Torres Hoven, cttorres@mit.edu

Historic Letterlocking: The Art and Security of Letterwriting
Tue Jan 28, 10:00am-3:00pm, 14-0513
Wed, Jan 29, 10:00am-3:00pm, 14-0513
Contact: Jana Dambrogio, jld@mit.edu

Rap, Rai, Rock, and Revolution: The Role of Music in the “Arab Spring”
Tue Jan 28, 3:00pm-5:00pm, 3-133
Contact: Michael Toler, mtoler@mit.edu

For a complete list of IAP classes offered by the Libraries, please see our Calendar of Events.