MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections

MIT Exhibit at
World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893
Excerpt of the "report of the exhibits made by the colleges of the Commonwealth at the World's Columbian Exposition." Report of the Massachusetts Board of World's Fair Managers. Boston, 1894.

Other MIT connections: Sofia Hayden, class of 1890, won the competition for the design of the Women's Building at the world's fair. Ellen Swallow Richards oversaw the Rumford Kitchen, another project of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The college exhibits occupied space in the educational section of the Liberal Arts Department in the south gallery of the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building, adjoining the space assigned to the public schools of the Commonwealth....

The amount of floor space assigned to the several institutions was about as follows:--
Harvard University, 4,500 square feet; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1,100 square feet; Amherst College, Tufts College, Williams College and Clark University, 75 square feet each; and the colleges for women, 375 square feet.

The apparent purpose of all the colleges was to show as fully as possible the educational facilities afforded by them and to give to the investigator an opportunity to acquire all desirable information concerning their equipment, courses of study and methods of instruction.

...occupied two alcoves, one on either side of what was not inaptly called College Row. At her east side was the elaborate display of Michigan University, while on the west were Harvard, Princeton and Columbia. To say that she filled this important position creditably is to understate the truth, for there was a system and completeness in her display that excelled in many particulars the exhibits of the older institutions. The most careless observer could not fail to get some knowledge of the character and extent of work done by this school, while the student had everything at hand which could aid him in his researches.

MIT exhibit
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Exhibit
Report of the Massachusetts Board of World's Fair Managers.
Boston, 1894

The thirteen courses were represented in such a manner as to show facilities, methods and results of instruction. A striking portion consisted of large photographs, of which nearly three hundred were of exterior and interior views of buildings, vistas of drawing rooms and laboratories, views of groups of apparatus and of single important pieces of apparatus, together with views of students at work. A set of charts gave complete information concerning the distribution of students geographically, the residence of graduates and studies in the several courses.

Not many of the higher institutions of learning showed students' work. The Institute of Technology, however, was a notable exception in presenting a large amount of this work, including drawings from the regular class work in the several courses, partly framed and hanging on the walls and partly in winged frames. There were also drawings accompanying the theses submitted by students at the end of their courses, in proof of their competency to make original designs or investigations of professional merit. Here also were bound volumes of engineering drawings; full sets of pieces in carpentry, forging, pattern making and the like, made by students of mechanical engineering as a part of their regular course. A separate four-page circular to be had from the custodian gave an account of the instruction in the mechanic arts: chemical products prepared by the students in the laboratory of industrial chemistry and a collection of yarns dyed in different colors or shades by the students in industrial chemistry; one hundred and thirty-two theses as originally presented and without revision by the members of the graduating class of 1892.

Another striking feature of this exhibit was a set of portfolios containing a detailed and fully illustrated description of the methods of instruction and of the equipment of each of the departments of the Institute, representing the administrative methods of the school, the organization of its libraries, the arrangement of rooms in the various buildings, the apparatus employed for heating and ventilating, and student life at the Institute.

Visitors were likewise deeply impressed by a collection of books and pamphlets used in instruction, which books and pamphlets have been prepared with direct reference to the work of the Institute by its own teachers, the larger part of which have been printed for the use of its students without formal publication. These aggregated several thousand pages, with a large number of plates and illustrations constituting a collection without a parallel in academic literature.

Among interesting secondary features of this exhibit may be especially mentioned the Lowell School of Design, covering patterns for wall papers, carpets, etc.

In apparatus, typical pieces were shown in civil and mining engineering and biology. A three-phase motor constructed by students in electrical engineering in 1892 was deserving of special mention. The Institute had also a special exhibit, in connection with that of the other land-grant colleges, in the Agricultural Building.

The courts of the Institute, as indeed of all our educational institutions, were visited by vast numbers during the six months of the great Exposition. The large majority, of course, simply wandered through, looking about for something curious or striking; but many hundreds of earnest students of science and technology, superintendents of schools, teachers and others, visited this exhibit for the purpose of careful and protracted examination, receiving therefrom instruction and inspiration.

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