Archives + MIT History

Gallery Talk with Kristel Smentek, Assistant Professor of Art History

Posted May 6th, 2010 by Heather Denny

Speaker: Kristel Smentek, Assistant Professor of Art History

Date & Time: Wednesday, May 12, Noon-1pm

Location: Maihaugen Gallery (14N-130)

Kristel Smentek, Assistant Professor of Art History and co-curator of the exhibition Technology and Enlightenment, leads an informal tour and discussion of how work is pictured in Diderot’s Encyclopédie.

This event is part of a series of events associated with Technology and Enlightenment, an exhibition in the Libraries’ Maihaugen Gallery (14N-130) that explores one of the most important and controversial publications of the eighteenth century, Diderot’s Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers.

All spring exhibit events

Libraries' Summer Hours Begin May 22

Posted May 4th, 2010 by Heather Denny

Photo by Christopher Harting

The MIT Libraries’ Summer Hours will begin on Saturday, May 22, 2010.

Barker, Dewey, and Hayden (Humanities & Science) Libraries:
Monday-Friday 10am – 6pm,
Saturday closed, Sunday 1 – 6pm

Rotch Library:
Same hours as above except Sunday closed

Lewis Music Library:
Monday-Friday 11am – 5pm,
Saturday-Sunday closed

For a complete list of locations and hours see the Libraries’ website.

Please note all libraries will be closed Memorial Day weekend (May 29-31) and for a week during the Independence Day holiday (July 2-9).

Music in the Enlightenment-April 14th in the Lewis Music Library

Posted April 6th, 2010 by Heather Denny

The Lewis Music Library (14E-109) will host a performance and discussion of music related to the current Libraries’ exhibition, Technology and Enlightenment, on Wednesday, April 14th at 2pm.  The event will feature Teresa Neff, Lecturer in Music.

This event is part of a series of events associated with the exhibit in the Maihaugen Gallery (14N-130) that explores one of the most important and controversial publications of the eighteenth century, Diderot’s Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers.

All spring exhibit events

Paul Samuelson and Economics: Memorial Exhibit at Dewey Library

Posted March 31st, 2010 by Katherine McNeill

Paul Samuelson and Economics: Evolution of a Classic
A Memorial Exhibit: April 1 – May 6, 2010
Dewey Library (E53-100)

Good questions outrank easy answers.” Paul Samuelson

Paul Samuelson

Please join us for a memorial exhibit in honor of Institute Professor Emeritus Paul A. Samuelson, April 1 – May 6, 2010.

Samuelson was a defining figure of twentieth-century economics who both transformed many of the fundamentals of the discipline and shaped the department here at MIT.  He is widely recognized for increasing the rigor and use of mathematics in the discipline and for introducing Keynesian economics to a wider audience.  He received numerous awards over his lifetime, including the Nobel Memorial Prize in economics in 1970; and the National Medal of Science in 1996; and in 1947 the John Bates Clark Medal, the American Economic Association’s award for the best American economist under the age of 40.

Hosted by Dewey Library for Management and Social Sciences, the exhibit highlights the development of Samuelson’s influential textbook, Economics, the best-selling economics textbook of all time.   Over its nineteen editions, it has sold nearly four million copies and been translated into 40 languages.

The exhibit features books, archival documents, and photographs from the collections of Dewey Library; the Institute Archives; the MIT Museum; and Samuelson’s personal collection, courtesy of the Department of Economics.  Items include:

  • excerpts of editions of Economics containing Samuelson’s hand-written edits,
  • letters between Samuelson and past leaders of MIT concerning the textbook,
  • foreign-language translations of Economics,
  • photographs and archival documents commemorating his life and work,
  • and more.

Note: This exhibit is being held in coordination the upcoming memorial service for Paul A. Samuelson.

For more information contact: Katherine McNeill, Economics Librarian, 617-253-0787, mcneillh@mit.edu.

IAPril 2010: Using the Institute Archives to Research MIT History

Posted March 25th, 2010 by mit-admin

WHEN: Friday, April 2, 1 – 2pm

WHERE: Institute Archives, 14N-118

Ever wonder how to find out more about the history of MIT, locate the thesis of a famous MIT alum, or get historic background information on an MIT department, lab or program?

Many answers can be found in MIT’s Institute Archives, keepers of MIT’s administrative records, faculty papers, theses, and MIT publications dating back to the 1800s. With MIT’s 150th anniversary approaching, this is a particularly timely workshop for MIT communicators.

Contact Nora Murphy with any questions.

Paper and Bookbinding: The Making of Diderot’s Encyclopédie

Posted March 11th, 2010 by Heather Denny

Speaker: Nancy Schrock, Conservator for Special Collections

Date & Time: Friday, March 19 1:00–2:00pm

Location: 14N-118, Institute Archives Reading Room

MIT Libraries’ book conservator, Nancy Schrock, discusses Diderot’s Encyclopédie as an example 18th century French papermaking and bookbinding.

This event is part of a series of events associated with Technology and Enlightenment, an exhibition in the Libraries’ Maihaugen Gallery (14N-130) that explores one of the most important and controversial publications of the eighteenth century, Diderot’s Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers.

All spring exhibit events

Technology & Enlightenment in the Maihaugen Gallery

Posted February 2nd, 2010 by Heather Denny

A new exhibit opens in the Libraries’ Maihaugen Gallery on Wednesday, February 3. Technology and Enlightenment: The Mechanical Arts in Diderot’s Encyclopédie explores one of the most important and controversial publications of the eighteenth century, Diderot’s Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers.

This massive work became infamous in its day as an enlightened attack on French and European religious dogmatism and monarchical inefficiency and injustice. Containing over 2,500 elaborately engraved plates, it documented the mechanical arts and technology, placing equal importance on the manual trades as the arts and sciences.

Curated by Jeffrey S. Ravel, MIT Associate Professor of History, and Kristel Smentek, MIT Assistant Professor of Art History, the exhibit features fascinating images chosen from the 32 original folio volumes owned by the MIT Libraries, as well as multimedia components illustrating the Encylopedie’s significance.  The exhibit is open to the public Mon.-Thurs. during gallery hours, and runs through July 2010.

Harriet Ritvo discusses “The Dawn of Green” in the Archives on Dec. 9

Posted December 7th, 2009 by Heather Denny

Harriet Ritvo, MIT’s Arthur J. Conner Professor of History, will discuss her latest book The Dawn of Green: Manchester, Thirlmere, and Modern Environmentalism on Wednesday, December 9th at 4 p.m. in the Institute Archives (14N-118).

In The Dawn of Green, Ritvo reveals how today’s environmental movement can be traced to Thirlmere, a bucolic reservoir in the English Lake District, and the 19th century battle around it that pitted industrial progress against conservation.

Ritvo is also the author of The Platypus and the Mermaid, and Other Figments of Classifying Imagination and The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age.

During her talk she will show materials used in her research and sign copies of her book.  This event is sponsored by the MIT Libraries’ Institute Archives & Special Collections, and the MIT History Faculty.  It is free and open to the public.

Read all about it–inside the Fall issue of BiblioTech

Posted November 24th, 2009 by Heather Denny

Inside this issue:

  • Learn about new and improved places to study in Barker & Dewey Libraries
  • Connect with the Libraries on your mobile phone
  • Read about the Libraries’ book that traveled into space
  • Discover how a generous gift from an MIT alumnus is revealing a hidden collection in the Libraries
  • Learn how Rotch librarians are helping to archive and share thousands of digital architectural images
  • Follow the latest Libraries exhibits, events and more

Get a PDF copy of BiblioTech or subscribe by emailing  dev-lib@mit.edu.

Astronaut Mike Massimino talks about Hubble mission, and returns a book to the Libraries

Posted November 19th, 2009 by Heather Denny

“Riding the space shuttle is like strapping yourself to a gigantic beast….you go from 0 to 17,500 miles per hour in eight and a half minutes,” MIT alumnus, Astronaut Mike Massimino said in a talk at MIT last month.

After nearly 3 years of training, in May 2009 Massimino rocketed 5.3 million miles into space on a mission to repair NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.  The veteran astronaut spoke about the extensive preparation for the journey, as well as the risks and thrills that were a part of the historic final trip to Hubble.

He also returned an item to MIT that he took into space with him—a book loaned from the MIT Libraries’ collections.  The book, a limited edition facsimile of Galileo’s landmark publication Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger), was chosen to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s astronomical research, the first recorded planetary observations using a telescope.  It is on display through December 2009 in the Science Library (14S-134).

Astronaut Massimino’s talk was sponsored by the MIT Libraries, the Technology and Policy Program (TPP)/ Engineering Systems Division (ESD), and Dept. of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Galileo book returns with Astronaut Mike Massimino on Oct.28

Posted October 20th, 2009 by Heather Denny

Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009
4-5pm
Killian Hall, Building 14

Veteran Astronaut and MIT Alumnus Dr. Mike Massimino (SM TPP 1988, Engineer ME 1990, PhD 1992) will come to MIT on Wednesday Oct. 28 to talk about his recent work servicing NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and to return a book to the MIT Libraries.

In May 2009 Massimino and six other astronauts boarded the space shuttle Atlantis for a journey that took them 5.3 million miles for a final servicing of the telescope.  Massimino and other STS-125 crewmembers conducted five spacewalks to upgrade the Hubble, enabling it to send back spectacular images of the universe well into the next decade.  While on the mission the crew captured photographs and video, and Massimino became the first astronaut to ‘Tweet’ from space—sending back updates on the mission through his Twitter feed (http://twitter.com/astro_mike), which has surpassed 1 million followers.

Accompanying Massimino on the mission was a rare book loaned from the MIT Libraries’ collections.  The book, a limited edition facsimile of Galileo’s landmark publication Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger), was chosen to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s astronomical research, the first recorded planetary observations using a telescope.

In his talk, Massimino will discuss his work and show images and video from the mission.  He will also present the well-traveled book back to the MIT Community and the Libraries.

Sponsored by the MIT Libraries, the Technology and Policy Program (TPP)/ Engineering Systems Division (ESD), and Dept. of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

“Power Supply” Exhibition–Opening Reception Oct.23

Posted October 19th, 2009 by Heather Denny

Power Supply: Energy Resources in the MIT Libraries is a new exhibit in the Maihaugen Gallery that showcases “energy resources” in the Libraries that have supported and resulted from research and education throughout the Institute’s history. Included are books and articles from historical collections, examples of rich working collections, theses by MIT students, and video (below) highlighting MIT’s current efforts in energy research.

The MIT Community is invited to an opening reception on Friday, October 23, 1-3pm in the Maihaugen Gallery (14N-130). Check out the exhibit and enjoy refreshments with friends!

From MIT to the moon–Celebrating Buzz Aldrin and the 40th anniversary of the moon landing

Posted July 17th, 2009 by Heather Denny

Monday, July 20th marks the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, when heroic MIT graduate Buzz Aldrin took his historic steps on the lunar surface.

Institute Archives’ records reveal that it was an accomplishment he had only dreamed about as a graduate student.  In the dedication of his PhD thesis, Aldrin wrote, “In the hopes that this work may in some way contribute to their exploration of space this is dedicated to the crew members of this country’s present and future manned space programs. If only I could join them in their exciting endeavors!”

See Aldrin’s thesis in the current Fascination of Flight exhibit in the Libraries’ Maihaugen Gallery, or find it online in DSpace.

Archives July exhibit commemorates Project Whirlwind

Posted June 30th, 2009 by Lois Beattie

Project Whirlwind report R-209

The July Object of the Month of the Institute Archives and Special Collections celebrates the transfer of the Project Whirlwind records from the MITRE Corporation to MIT.  The Project Whirlwind collection is a compilation of records of the  pioneering digital computing research conducted at MIT in the 1940s and 1950s. Whirlwind was developed as part of a project initiated by the Office of Naval Research to design a universal flight trainer that would simulate flight. Eventually the focus of the grant, a flight simulator (using an analog computer), changed to the development of  a high-speed digital computer.

In 2008 the Project Whirlwind records were transferred to the MIT Archives from the MITRE Corporation, where many research staff  had relocated in the late 1950s. For more information, including documents and digital objects available in DOME, the MIT Libraries’ digital repository, see http://libraries.mit.edu/archives/whirlwind.

“Media in Transition” video on MIT World

Posted June 17th, 2009 by Heather Denny

A panel of archivists, librarians, and historians reflected on the anxiety and exhilaration of a digital age that is constantly transforming their disciplines at a recent MIT Communications Forum event focused on Media in Transition.

MIT’s Director of Libraries, Ann Wolpert spoke about digital archives. “Persistence in the digital world does not happen by luck but through intentional action and explicit investment. The odds that bits will survive in a shoe box in the attic are pretty small,” she said.

View the entire video, or go to Wolpert’s comments which begin at approximately 52 minutes with an introduction by moderator, Peter Walsh.

Archives’ June exhibit celebrates the Blashfield murals in Walker Memorial

Posted June 1st, 2009 by Lois Beattie

Mural - south wallThe murals painted by Edwin Howland Blashfield (MIT 1869) in the main hall of Walker Memorial in the 1920s have, for many years, “elevated the spirit and stimulated the imagination of countless visitors and members of the MIT community,” in the words of former President Howard Johnson. The idea of decorating the hall was conceived by MIT’s Treasurer, Everett Morss (MIT 1885), who also gave the funds to make it possible.

The story of the murals is told in the June Object of the Month exhibit of the Institute Archives and Special Collections. The murals, in what is now called Morss Hall, consist of five allegorical panels illustrating the role of education in society with particular emphasis on science and engineering. The panel illustrated here is on the south wall and shows a mother and her children being guided by knowledge and imagination through the darkness of chaos into the brightness of an enlightened era.

Further information about Walker Memorial and the murals is available in the Institute Archives, 14N-118. The images in the exhibit are from Rotch Visual Collections and are also available in DOME, the Libraries’ digital repository.

A book that has REALLY circulated

Posted May 28th, 2009 by Lois Beattie

Atlantis ready for take-offWhen the space shuttle Atlantis returned to Earth on Sunday, few people knew it was carrying a volume owned by the MIT Libraries – our first book to orbit the Earth.

Astronaut and alumnus Mike Massimino (M.S. 1988, Mechanical Engineer 1990, Ph.D. 1992), through contact with MIT Professor Dava J. Newman, offered to “fly” a book from the Libraries’ collection. Because this NASA mission to repair the Hubble was scheduled to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the invention of the telescope, the Libraries decided to send into space a numbered, limited-edition facsimile of Galileo’s landmark 1610 publication Siderius Nuncius, in which he announced his discovery of, among other things, four of Jupiter’s moons.

The MIT Libraries look forward to welcoming Dr. Massimino back for a visit in the fall. We also look forward to displaying our space-travelling Siderius Nuncius – known in English, appropriately enough, as The Starry Messenger.

MIT Commuications Forum Collection Now Digitized

Posted May 1st, 2009 by Heather Denny

Since 1983 the MIT Communications Forum has hosted cutting-edge discussions about the cultural, political, economic, and technological impact of communications, with special emphasis on emerging technologies.

Valuable summaries and transcripts from the Forum’s earlier years (1983-1995), documenting the words and impact of leading scholars, journalists, media producers and political figures, have now been digitized by the MIT Libraries and are available online at http://dome.mit.edu.

More about “The Perceptual Form of the City” study in Archives’ May exhibit

Posted May 1st, 2009 by Lois Beattie

Map of central Boston used in studyThe May Object of the Month exhibit by the Institute Archives and Special Collections illustrates some of the experiences of researchers in the five-year study of the city environment directed by MIT Professors Kevin Lynch and Gyorgy Kepes from 1954 to 1959. “The Perceptual Form of the City” project was the foundation of Lynch’s book The Image of the City, published in 1960. The part of the study featured in the exhibit involved field trips in Boston to ask directions of a diverse sample of people to get a sense of their perceptions of the city.

The complete documentation of the project is included in the papers of Kevin Lynch (MC 208) and includes research notes, working papers, interview transcripts, trip diaries, course notes used for teaching, and other materials. The collection is available for research at the Institute Archives and Special Collections, room 14N-118. Many of the images and documents have been digitized and are also available in DOME, the MIT Libraries’ digital repository.

Archives April exhibit celebrates MIT’s founding

Posted April 6th, 2009 by Lois Beattie

Cover of the Objects and PlanWilliam Barton Rogers’s ideas for a new kind of scientific institution were well received in Boston in the mid-nineteenth century.  In November 1860 a committee chaired by Rogers petitioned the Massachusetts legislature for incorporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Rogers summarized his plans in a pamphlet entitled Objects and Plan of an Institute of Technology, the focus of the April Object of the Month exhibit by the Institute Archives and Special Collections. To gain support for the proposed institution, the pamphlet was widely disseminated among civic and commercial leaders, educators, and scientific and literary figures. The proposal was approved by the Massachusetts legislature, and on April 10, 1861, Governor Andrew signed the Act to Incorporate the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Learn more about the Institute’s beginnings and William Barton Rogers, the extraordinary man whose vision made it happen.  Rogers’s papers and many documents concerning MIT’s early years are available for research in the Institute Archives, 14N-118.