Videos

Locked letters and instructional videos created at MIT featured in an exhibit at The Hague

Posted November 19th, 2014 by Heather Denny

Letterlocking collageLocked letters from the 17th century have been brought to life in videos, and as reconstructed replicas, as part of the exhibition Courtly Rivals in the Hague: Elizabeth Stuart and Amalia von Solms in the Historical Museum of The Hague. MIT Libraries’ conservator, Jana Dambrogio was consulted on the exhibit for her expertise in the art and science of letterlocking.

Working with MIT colleagues, Brian Chan, from the MIT Hobby Shop, Artist in Residence Martin Demaine, producer Joe McMaster with Academic Media Production Services, and Ayako Letizia, Curation and Preservation Services conservation assistant, Dambrogio filmed six videos – four demonstrate how letters were folded and secured shut to be “locked” as a form of secure correspondence in the 17th century, while two others demonstrate how ink and coded messages were used. Watch the videos.

“We are fortunate and thankful to have at MIT two paper-folding experts who collaborated with us on this project,” Dambrogio said. Chan portrays secretary Constantijn Huygens in the video that recreates the tiniest spy letter known to exist. Demaine, as Secretary Sir Francis Nethersole, scribes a letter for Queen Elizabeth to sign using a complicated built-in paper lock to secure the letter shut.

“We hope the videos help to show how these writing and security technologies once functioned in the past, and how they connect to a larger information security tradition spanning 10,000 years in cultures throughout the world,” she said.

The exhibition, Courtly Rivals, based on Dr. Nadine Akkerman’s publication by the same name, explores the tense relationship between two of the most influential women in the Dutch Republic during the 17th century – Elizabeth Stuart, sometime Queen of Bohemia and her former lady-in-waiting Amalia von Solms, who became Princess of Orange in 1625. Both vividly asserted their courtly and political identity by writing letters. Elizabeth’s corpus of over 2,000 letters shows she was an astute politician, with a vast network of kings, queens, generals, ministers, church leaders, courtiers, and spies. Amalia’s correspondence has just come to light, but it appears she was no different. Both ladies, their secretaries, and their correspondents resorted to intricate methods to lock their letters shut.

One hundred replica locked letters made at MIT were given to attendees at the Hague’s première of the exhibition. The videos and the replicas made by Dambrogio will be featured along side original letters in the exhibition.

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.

null

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!