Archives + MIT History

Archives February exhibit: Tech Songs, 1903

Posted February 2nd, 2009 by Lois Beattie

Cover of Tech Songs, 1903Tech Songs, 1903, was compiled when MIT was located in Boston’s Back Bay and known informally as “Boston Tech” or simply “Tech.”  February’s Object of the Month exhibit by the Institute Archives and Special Collections is a glimpse into student life at the beginning of the 20th century.  A poster is displayed in the exhibit case opposite Room 14N-118; the version on the Web includes the entire song book and performances of some of the songs.

Browsing the Archives’ exhibits may whet your appetite for more information about MIT’s history. You are  welcome to explore further in the Archives, 14N-118, Monday – Thursday, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.

MIT Libraries Receive Audubon Lithographs

Posted January 23rd, 2009 by Heather Denny


The MIT Libraries were recently given 37 hand-colored lithographs from John James Audubon’sViviparous Quadrupeds of North America. The rare lithographs were generously donated by Mr. Ron Juster and family, in honor of Josh Juster, M. Eng. 2004. Several of the prints from the collection can be viewed in the Libraries’ Maihaugen Gallery where they are on display as part of the Celebration of Gifts exhibit.

The prints embody one of the 19th century’s most artistically successful attempts to catalog, illustrate, and promote understanding of the natural world. Following the monumental success of his publication Birds of America, naturalist and artist John James Audubon (1785-1851) attempted to produce accurate illustrations of every quadruped native to North America. In an effort to limit such a massive undertaking, he decided to include only viviparous animals (those that give birth to live young). The result was 150 paintings that are widely celebrated for both their scientific accuracy and their artistic beauty.

The Celebration of Gifts exhibit runs through February 19th in the Maihaugen Gallery, adjacent to the Institute Archives (14N-118). Gallery hours are Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.

Archives greets the new year with “Beacon of Progress” exhibit

Posted January 8th, 2009 by Lois Beattie

Beacon of Progress
In 1900 the Paris Salon awarded its highest medal to MIT Professor Désiré Despradelle (Department of Architecture, 1893-1912) for his extravagant design for a proposed monument “dedicated to the glory of the American nation.” The January Object of the Month exhibit by the Institute Archives and Special Collections describes Despradelle’s “Beacon of Progress” and the state of the Institute at the beginning of a new century.

The account of Despradelle’s design is taken from Technology Review, Vol. 2, No. 4, October 1900. A complete run of Technology Review is available in the reading room of the Institute Archives, 14N-118.

Ellen H. Richards Memorial Home Economics Calendar displayed by Archives in December.

Posted December 1st, 2008 by Lois Beattie

Cover of the calendarEllen Henrietta Swallow Richards (1842-1911) was the first woman to receive a degree from MIT (S.B. in chemistry in 1873). She was instrumental in establishing the Women’s Laboratory, which operated at MIT from 1876 to 1883, for the instruction of women in chemistry. From 1884 to her death, Richards was instructor in sanitary chemistry at MIT.

But beyond MIT, Richards was active in social services, leading efforts to improve the health and education of the general population. The Ellen H. Richards Memorial Home Economics Calendar, the Object of the Month of the Institute Archives and Special Collections, was created in recognition of her leadership role in the area of home economics.

Further information about Ellen Swallow Richards is available on the Archives web site and at the Institute Archives and Special Collections, 14N-118.

Archives exhibit centers on a 1970s “energy initiative”

Posted November 3rd, 2008 by Lois Beattie

Chart from Project on the Predicament of Mankind, 1972

Today’s MIT Energy Initiative, established by President Susan Hockfield in September 2006, began a new stage of highly focused research and policy analysis at MIT. Over the years MIT faculty members have been active in movements committed to long-range planning for energy needs and environmental management. This month the Object of the Month exhibit by the Institute Archives and Special Collections features one of these efforts: the Project on the Predicament of Mankind, which was carried out by an international team at MIT in the 1970s, sponsored by the Club of Rome. Shown here is a chart from a 1972 report from the project.

From MIT’s earliest days, research has been conducted on various forms of energy. The work is richly documented throughout the holdings of the Institute Archives and Special Collections in the records of the Institute and the papers of its faculty and students. The collections are available for use in the Archives, 14N-118.

Arthur D. Little, Inc. Archives Come to MIT

Posted October 14th, 2008 by Heather Denny

Arthur Dehon Little (1863-1935) attended MIT as an undergraduate student in chemistry from 1881 to 1884 and was a co-founder and editor of the student newspaper, The Tech. The firm he founded in 1909, Arthur D. Little, Inc., grew into one of the world’s foremost independent consulting and research organizations with an unmatched reputation for excellence in devising novel solutions to challenging problems and leading the way in management systems development. Over its lifetime, the company worked with MIT on numerous research projects and employed a number of MIT graduates and researchers. Arthur D. Little, Inc.’s longstanding relationship with MIT made the Institute Archives a fitting home for ADL, Inc.’s archives.

The Arthur D. Little, Inc. Collection was purchased at auction by the ADL, Inc. Alumni Association and given to MIT in 2002. It was recently made available to the public in the MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections. Selected items from the ADL Collection, as well as several items on loan from ADL alumni, will be on display through October 31 in the MIT Libraries’ Maihaugen Gallery. An online exhibit Scatter Acorns That Oaks May Grow” is also available. The exhibit takes its name from the ADL, Inc. motto, Glandes Sparge Ut Quercus Crescant.

Archives exhibits report “On the Making of Silk Purses from Sows’ Ears,” 1921

Posted October 1st, 2008 by Lois Beattie

The For its October Object of the Month, the Institute Archives & Special Collections exhibits a small report issued by Arthur D. Little, Inc. in 1921, “On the Making of Silk Purses from Sows’ Ears.” The report describes the process used by the company’s chemists to make two “silk” purses from pork byproducts to disprove the old adage that “you can’t make a silk purse of a sow’s ear.” The report is part of the Arthur D. Little, Inc. Archives Collection (MC 579), which was given to MIT by the Arthur D. Little, Inc. Alumni Association in 2002. The collection is available for research in the Institute Archives, 14N-118.

During the month of October one of the two silk purses is on display in the Maihaugen Gallery (next to the Institute Archives) along with other objects from the collection or on loan from MIT and ADL alumni.

Archives’ September exhibit: Katharine Dexter (McCormick), Class of 1904: “My Preparation for the M.I.T.”

Posted September 2nd, 2008 by Lois Beattie

Katharine Dexter in labKatharine Dexter (McCormick), a pioneer of the women’s suffrage and birth control movements, was also one of MIT’s most important benefactors. A dedicated alumna, one of her most significant gifts was a residence for women, McCormick Hall, which opened in 1963.

For an English composition class at MIT, she wrote of her determination to be fully prepared for entering MIT – preparation that included a degree from another institution and study in France and Germany. Her composition is included in the Object of the Month exhibit by the Institute Archives and Special Collections.

The papers of Katharine Dexter McCormick, which include student papers, class notebooks, and family correspondence, are available for research in the Institute Archives and Special Collections, 14N-118, Monday – Thursday, 10 am – 4 pm.

Photograph courtesy of the MIT Museum

New Faculty Book Delivery Pilot Project

Posted August 27th, 2008 by Ryan Gray

Tenure-track, visiting and emeriti faculty can now take advantage of a new service. Flying book

Find a book you want in Barton, click on “Request item,” log into “Your Account” and select “office delivery” from the drop-down menu.

The book you requested will arrive at your office mailroom in 2-3 business days via campus mail.

For more information, please see our FAQ.

What we did on your summer vacation!!!

Posted August 25th, 2008 by Ryan Gray

road trip

Vera Multi-Search – Vera had a makeover!
The new Vera Multi-Search will still help you find electronic journals, databases, and e-books, and now it will also help you search for articles within journals, conference proceedings, etc.  See the FAQ page for more information.

New LibGuides
We’ve adopted a new system of creating guides to help you find information related to your research.

PDF delivery from the Library Storage Annex
Looking for a journal article, conference proceeding, technical report or book chapter that’s in the Library Storage Annex?  Use the “Request PDF” button in the Barton catalog record to get PDF delivery to your desktop.  This service is free to members of the MIT community with an Illiad account.

Manage Your Research Data More Effectively
The Libraries have a new resource to help you in managing research data that you produce. Check out the guide to Data Management and Publishing.

Printing, Copying and Scanning ImprovementsTechCash
Hayden, Barker, Dewey and Rotch Libraries are moving to TechCASH with new copiers and scanners. You’ll now be able to use TechCASH (MIT ID) to pay at copiers, print for free (MIT community only) through Athena printers, and make color scans that you can email or save to your USB drive. See the Printing FAQ and the TechCASH FAQ for more information.

And coming soon…
Look for an expanded Libraries presence in Stellar including a link to the MIT Libraries Quick Start!

The physics of baseball is the subject of Archives’ August exhibit

Posted August 1st, 2008 by Lois Beattie

Multiflash picture of girl hitting baseball

In July 1965 MIT Professor of Electrical Measurements Harold “Doc” Edgerton produced a batch of multiflash baseball photos and sent them to long-time colleague Vannevar Bush for comment. The Archives’ August Object of the Month exhibit includes Bush’s response, in which he records his thoughts about the physics of baseball, and a page from Edgerton’s notebook showing two of the baseball pictures (Bush’s letter and Edgerton’s notebook from the Harold E. Edgerton Papers – MC 25).

The papers of Bush (MC 78) as well as those of Edgerton are available for use in the Institute Archives and Special Collections, 14N-118.

Photograph © Harold E. Edgerton 1992 Trust

JulyAP 2008 Workshop: Patent Searching Fundamentals

Posted July 25th, 2008 by Ryan Gray

Slinky! Fun for a girl or a boy!WHERE: 14N-132 (Digital Instruction Resource Center – DIRC)

WHEN: Friday, August 1, 12:30 – 1:30pm

While you won’t come out of this session qualified to be a patent attorney, you will be able to successfully find patent references from all over the world and know how to obtain patent text and diagrams. The session will be a hands-on practicum that will help de-mystify the patent literature and expose attendees to key resources for finding patents through free resources available on the web.

Feel free to bring your lunch! Drinks and dessert will be provided.

Sponsored by the MIT Libraries.

See for more information. Contact Darcy Duke with any questions.

Full schedule of JulyAP 2008 information workshops

JulyAP 2008 Workshop: EndNote Basics

Posted July 7th, 2008 by Ryan Gray

EndNote logo
WHERE: 14N-132 (Digital Instruction Resource Center – DIRC)

WHEN: Friday, July 11, noon – 1pm

EndNote is a “personal bibliographic software” package which allows you to create and manage a database of bibliographic references. Your database can be used to automatically generate in-text citations and bibliographies in your manuscripts. It can also help you organize and manage your PDF files. This session will be a hands-on practicum. Attendees will create a personal database of cited literature by importing references from resources such as Barton, Web of Science, PubMed and other sources of published literature. You will learn how to search and manipulate databases, and to generate a manuscript and bibliography.

Feel free to bring your lunch! Drinks and dessert will be provided.

Sponsored by the MIT Libraries.

Contact the Science Library for more information.

Full schedule of JulyAP 2008 information workshops

Archives July exhibit: What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Diary of Robert H. Richards, 1873

Posted July 1st, 2008 by Lois Beattie

Page from diaryThe Institute Archives and Special Collections is exhibiting for its Object of the Month excerpts from a diary kept by MIT Professor of Mining Engineering Robert Richards in the summer of 1873. Professor Richards, Professor John Ordway, and a group of nine undergraduates spent their vacation visiting mining camps in northern New England and the Adirondacks–an excursion that was a requirement for mining students at MIT at that time. Professor Richards’s diary includes notes about courses he was teaching, student assignments at mine sites, and sketches of machinery.

Two years after this 1873 diary, Robert Richards married Ellen Swallow, the first female graduate of MIT (S.B. 1873), and the diary includes a few entries about this personal side of his life. Among the papers of Robert Hallowell Richards (MC 116) are other diaries, course materials, and photographs, which are available for research in the Archives, 14N-118, Monday – Thursday, 10 am – 4 pm.

Archives exhibit: 1916 alumni/ae event, “The Telephone Banquet”

Posted June 3rd, 2008 by Lois Beattie

Cover of Telephone Banquet program

On June 14, 1916, approximately 1,500 alumni/ae along with special guests, including Alexander Graham Bell and Orville Wright, gathered at Symphony Hall in Boston to celebrate the new MIT campus in Cambridge and to raise funds. The speeches presented that night were broadcast via telephone to 34 alumni gatherings all over the country. The June Object of the Month exhibit on the web site of the Institute Archives and Special Collections includes photographs, the banquet program and menu, and links to other events surrounding MIT’s move from Boston to Cambridge. Visit the Archives in 14N-118 to learn more about this momentous milestone in the history of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Drawing on cover of program by Isaac B. Hazelton, MIT class of 1894.

Archives’ May exhibit features 1933 Van de Graaff generator

Posted May 1st, 2008 by Lois Beattie

Van de Graaff generatorThis month the Institute Archives and Special Collections focuses on some of MIT’s early energy research. Robert J. Van de Graaff came to MIT in 1931, where he worked on the development of the high-voltage generator that bears his name. May’s Object of the Month describes the apparatus and includes photographs from the 1933 “Progress Report on the M.I.T. High-Voltage Generator at Round Hill.” The exhibit includes a link to a demonstration of the Van de Graaff generator by Professor Walter Lewin.

The Archives holds several collections that contain materials about the Van de Graaff generator: the Papers of Robert J. Van de Graaff (MC 45), the Records of the High Voltage Energy Corporation (MC 153), and the Records of the MIT President (AC 4). All are available for research, with 24 hours’ notice, in 14N-118, Monday to Thursday, 10 am to 4 pm.

Archives’ April exhibit: Letter from Governor John A. Andrew to MIT’s founder, William Barton Rogers, March 9, 1861

Posted April 1st, 2008 by Lois Beattie

Page 1 of Andrew’s letterInterest was high in 1861 as the proposed Institute of Technology moved through the Massachusetts legislative process. But among those opposed was the secretary of the Board of Education. In March, Governor John A. Andrew invited William Barton Rogers to a meeting of the board to persuade them of its advantages for education and industry. “Be thou the advocate,” wrote Massachusetts Governor Andrew in a letter exhibited as the Object of the Month by the Institute Archives and Special Collections. The proposal was finally approved by the Massachusetts legislature, and on April 10, 1861, Governor Andrew signed the Act to Incorporate the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Celebrate MIT’s anniversary month, and the countdown to MIT’s sesquicentennial in 2011, by learning 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, Monday – Thursday, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.

New FAQ, “Thesis Access and Availability,” added to the MIT Libraries web site

Posted March 18th, 2008 by Ryan Gray

A new FAQ, Thesis Access and Availability, has been added to the MIT Libraries web site.

The Thesis Access and Availability FAQ provides basic information about interpreting our public records for MIT theses in Barton. This page will help answer questions such as:

  • How do I determine the “publication date” for a thesis?
  • When is a thesis available to the public?
  • How long does it take for theses to be added to DSpace?

For further information about MIT Thesis Collection, contact the Institute Archives.

Opening celebration for MIT Libraries’ Maihaugen Gallery

Posted March 17th, 2008 by Heather Denny

exhibit1.jpgOn Friday, April 18, from 1-3pm the MIT Libraries will host a community celebration in honor of the opening of the Maihaugen Gallery. The newly constructed exhibit space will showcase some of the extraordinary items from the MIT Libraries’ collections.

The first exhibit: A Celebration of Gifts will feature rare and unique items donated to the Libraries by MIT alumni, faculty, and friends. Among the treasures that will be exhibited to the public for the first time are items from the collection of the Institute’s founder, William Barton Rogers. The exhibit will also include original notebooks from Harold “Doc” Edgerton, several rare books including a first edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, and a book of illustrations from the 1553 volume Historiae animalium by Konrad Gesner. Also featured will be items from the personal library of architect Charles Bulfinch, balloon prints from the Vail Collection, books by architect Santiago Calatrava with original artwork, works from the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, and other items given to the Libraries.

The new facility is located adjacent to the Institute Archives (14N-118). The celebration will begin at 1pm with remarks by Ann Wolpert, director of the Libraries. Refreshments will be served. Please join us!

Photos by: L. Barry Hetherington, Bottom photo: Copyright Harold E. Edgerton 1992 Trust

MIT’s wind tunnels chronicled in Archives’ March exhibit

Posted March 3rd, 2008 by Lois Beattie

MIT Wind Tunnel, ca. 1914The subject of the Archives’ March Object of the Month exhibit is MIT’s wind tunnels, beginning with an early improvisation in 1896. The focus of the exhibit is a photograph and description of a wind tunnel in use from 1914 to 1921, which was built on Vassar Street in Cambridge two years before MIT moved from Boston to Cambridge.

The photograph is from the MIT Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel Records (1914-1963) in the Institute Archives and Special Collections. These and other records concerning aeronautics and aeronautical engineering are available for research in the Archives in Building 14N-118.

Archives February exhibit: Boston’s Mayor Curley and MIT President Compton on snow removal methods, 1948

Posted February 1st, 2008 by Lois Beattie

Snowflakes on black backgroundFor its February Object of the Month the Institute Archives and Special Collections focuses on snow removal, exhibiting a 1948 letter from Mayor James M. Curley to MIT President Karl T. Compton, and Compton’s reply. Curley communicates his concern about snow removal and possible spring floods, makes a few tentative suggestions on methods, and expresses his hope that Institute researchers will tackle the problem.

The letters exhibited are from the Records of the Office of the President, 1930-1959 (AC 4) which span the tenures of Karl T. Compton and James R. Killian, a period of enormous change at the Institute and in the world. The subjects documented in this rich collection range from MIT administrative history, through scientific research during World War II and the postwar period, to science policy. The records are available for research in the MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections, Building 14N-118, Monday – Thursday, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.

Watercolors by Eleanor Manning O’Connor subject of Archives January exhibit

Posted January 2nd, 2008 by Lois Beattie

Watercolor by Eleanor Manning O’ConnorThe January Object of the Month exhibit by the Institute Archives and Special Collections highlights watercolors painted by Eleanor Manning O’Connor ( Architecture, MIT, 1909). The watercolors are from the Archives’ collection of the Records of Howe, Manning & Almy, an architectural firm started by Lois Lilley Howe (MIT, 1890) and later joined by O’Connor and a third MIT alumna, Mary Almy. The collection includes reports, paintings, drawings, blueprints, photographs, diaries, notes, and correspondence illuminating the lives and work of the three MIT alumnae. The materials are available for research in Room 14N-118, Monday through Thursday, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, with 24 hours’ advance notice.

Happy birthday, William Barton Rogers!

Posted December 7th, 2007 by Lois Beattie

William Barton RogersMIT’s founder, William Barton Rogers, was born December 7, 1804. Rogers, was a noted geologist and educator who had a vision for a new educational model. He began to organize his plans for a “polytechnic” institute as early as the 1840s, and he pursued his ideas until MIT was finally founded in 1861.

Learn more about William Barton Rogers and the founding of MIT on the web site of the Institute Archives and Special Collections. You are also welcome to visit the Archives in 14N-118, Monday through Thursday, between 10 am and 4 pm.

Archives’ December exhibit: MIT’s first Ph.D.’s, 1907

Posted December 3rd, 2007 by Lois Beattie

Robert Sosman, Morris Stewart, Raymond Haskell

The Object of the Month exhibit of the Institute Archives and Special Collections is about the three men who received MIT’s first Ph.D.’s, their supervisor, and the lab he founded in 1903—the Research Laboratory of Physical Chemistry. Left to right in the photograph are Robert B. Sosman, Morris A. Stewart, and Raymond Haskell.

Browse more highlights of MIT’s history on the Archives web site, or visit the reading room, Building 14N-118, Monday through Thursday, between 10 am and 4 pm.

Fall 2007 issue of BiblioTech hits newsstands

Posted November 8th, 2007 by Heather Denny


Read about MIT Libraries’ news in the latest issue of BiblioTech.  In this issue:

Get a PDF copy of BiblioTech or subscribe by emailing your name and address to

Archives exhibits documents from the Harold Edgerton manuscript collection

Posted November 1st, 2007 by Lois Beattie

Sonar chartFor its November Object of the Month the Institute Archives and Special Collections displays a sonar chart and other records of Harold “Doc” Edgerton’s search for a Spanish Armada wreck of 1588 in Tobermory Bay, Scotland. Earning an Sc.D. in electrical engineering at MIT in 1931, Edgerton spent the rest of his life at the Institute as teacher, researcher, and head of the Stroboscopic Light Lab. His papers, which include documentation of his development of high-speed photography techniques and equipment for underwater exploration, are available for research in the Institute Archives, Building 14N-118.

Vail Balloon Prints to be Digitized

Posted October 31st, 2007 by Heather Denny

balloon2small.jpgThanks to the generosity of Thomas F. Peterson, Jr. ’57, the MIT Libraries will begin a project to digitize its Vail Balloon Print Collection.  The prints are part of the Vail Collection, originally collected by George Dering, and purchased and given to the Institute in 1912 by Theodore Vail, former president of AT&T and member of the MIT Corporation.

Consisting of over 1200 items, the collection is replete with wonderful images providing visual documentation of man’s vision of flying vehicles and human flight.  Images range from the fanciful to depictions of real events, such as the balloon sent up by the Montgolfier brothers in 1783.  Broadsides, articles, and clippings recount the history of man’s efforts to fly over the last three centuries, relating or commenting on individual efforts – some celebratory and other detailing the fatal results of failures.

The digitization of this premiere collection of prints will allow the world to better access these treasures; it is also a critical first step in their long-term preservation.  The project will also serve as a model for future digitization projects within the Libraries.

Dewey Library Hosts Exhibit in Memory of E. Cary Brown

Posted October 9th, 2007 by Katherine McNeill

In celebration of the written word of E. Cary Brown, former Head of the MIT Economics Department, Dewey Library for Management and Social Sciences (E53-100) is hosting an exhibit of his selected writings from October 10th through October 22nd.

E. Cary Brown, a leading expert on fiscal policy and the economics of taxation, passed away in June of this year. He was a member of the Economics Department from 1947-1986 and its Head from 1965-1983.

The exhibit includes selections of Brown’s work, including books, book chapters, journal articles, and working papers. Highlighted are two of his most influential papers, “Business Income Taxation and Investment Incentives” and “Fiscal Policy in the `Thirties: A Reappraisal.” Come see this work alongside archival items documenting his time here at MIT.

For more information on Brown, see the memorial statement on the Economics Department web site.

Archives spotlights the role of MIT’s James R. Killian in the US response to Sputnik, 1957

Posted October 1st, 2007 by Lois Beattie

Sputnik 1 mockupThe 50th anniversary of Sputnik is observed in the October Object of the Month exhibit of the Institute Archives & Special Collections. After the surprise launch of Sputnik by the USSR in 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed MIT’s James R. Killian the first Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. Killian chaired the President’s Science Advisory Committee (PSAC), which was instrumental in initiating national curriculum reforms in science and technology and in establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Sputnik 1 mockup – NASA image

Archives displays an 1869-70 MIT entrance exam in September

Posted September 4th, 2007 by Lois Beattie

Algebra test croppedNo formal entrance examination was required in MIT’s first few years, but by 1869 applicants had to pass a qualifying exam in four subjects: English, algebra, geometry, and arithmetic. For its September Object of the Month the Archives is exhibiting the exam in its display case in the hallway across from 14N-118 and on the Web. Take the test, check your answers, and find out more about MIT’s history on the web site of the Institute Archives and Special Collections.

MIT catalogs going back to 1865, examinations from the nineteenth century and later, and a variety of materials relating to students, professors, courses, and other subjects are available for use in the Archives reading room, Building 14N-118, Monday through Thursday, 10 am to 4 pm.