MIT Reports to the President 1995-96


The MIT Museum accomplished two important goals toward building a stronger base for current and future operations. The Museum's Advisory Board was expanded from 18 to 34 members, with greater and more diverse representation by alumni and members of the MIT community. With generous support from the Provost and the Associate Provost for the Arts, the Museum extended its internal and external computing and communications capabilities by acquiring computers and software for staff members with administrative and collections management responsibilities.

The Museum enhanced its visibility through increased media coverage in FY96. Featured in stories on radio, television and in local and national magazines, the MIT Museum was dubbed an "urban outpost for the truly techno-hip" in The Boston Globe Calendar. The Museum also tested a new method of outreach: placemats distributed for use at local restaurants drew crowds of new visitors to the main exhibition center.

One of the Museum's most popular programs this year was "Larry Gonick Week." With funding from the DeFlorez Fund for Humor, the Museum brought internationally renowned cartoonist Larry Gonick to the Institute for a one-week class on communicating difficult technical subjects with cartoons.


Through the generosity of 32 donors, a number of notable items were added to the Historical Collections including: 16 mm films from the Educational Council representing early MIT/WGBH collaboration and period admissions pieces; a LINC computer used by the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary's Eaton-Peabody Laboratory from 1964-92; a glass tube from the laboratory of Louis Pasteur given to MIT in 1932 and passed to the Biology Department; a braille embosser and hip simulator representing the work of Professor Robert Mann in Mechanical Engineering's Newman Lab for human rehabilitation engineering; the W. B. Elmer '22 collection of Voo Doo magazine; a class ring replica, representing MIT, flown on the NASA space shuttle Atlantis in November 1995; oil portraits of Professor Ellen Harris, MIT's first Associate Provost for the Arts and Rosalind Denny Lewis (wife of Professor Warren K. Lewis), who inspired MIT students with her enthusiasm for music, and in whose honor MIT's new Music Library will be named; and the personal photograph collection of Professor Francis O. Schmitt of colleagues and students, along with other memorabilia documenting a significant era of biology education at MIT.

The Museum also officially acquired the Harold E. "Doc" Edgerton Collection through a generous donation from Mrs. Esther M. Edgerton, the Harold E. Edgerton 1992 Trust, and the Harold E. and Esther M. Edgerton Family Foundation. The collection is comprised of original negatives, motion picture films, videotapes and memorabilia belonging to the late MIT Professor who developed multiple applications of the strobe light during his long career and is famous for his stop-action photographs that changed the way we see the world. Through a grant from the Edgerton Foundation, the Museum has digitized all of the still images in the collection onto Kodak PhotoCD.

Use of Historical Collections materials continued to be constant, with an average of 100 reference inquiries received per month, and frequent reference assistance provided to the Alumni Association, News Office, and Office of the President. Materials were also loaned to several museums, professional societies, and cultural organizations for exhibitions.


The Collections staff undertook a major revision of the Collections Management Policy as the first step in the production of a comprehensive Collections Management Manual for the Museum. Work was also begun on two other components of the manual: a section on procedures consisting of step-by-step details on performing various collections management functions, and a guidelines section to provide staff with current information on collections management-related topics ranging from the tax deductibility of charitable donations to the US Copyright Law and its relationship to Museum acquisitions, loans, and reference services.

The Museum's World Wide Web site ( continued to expand, bringing in approximately 350 virtual visitors to the Museum every week. New features introduced include the "TechTest," an on-line quiz on MIT's history, illustrated with images from the Museum's Historical Collections. In addition, the MIT Museum Shop took its catalog to the Web, providing customers with the ability to order merchandise on-line. Development of the Museum's Web site was one of the topics of discussion at a session on

World Wide Web technology at the Fall 1995 New England Archivists meeting held at Clark University.

The Museum continued its relationship with the Museum Computer Network (MCN) in FY96, serving as the Office of the Program Director and working with both MCN and the Smithsonian Institution to implement an archival program for the organization. MCN, a nonprofit organization of professionals dedicated to fostering the cultural aims of museums through the use of computer technologies, serves individuals and institutions wishing to improve their means of developing, managing, and conveying museum information through the use of automation, and supports cooperative efforts that enable museums to be more effective at creating and disseminating cultural and scientific knowledge as represented by their collections and related documentation. The Museum was represented at MCN's annual conference in San Diego, California and also at a joint spring meeting of the New England Chapter of the Museum Computer Network and New England Archivists.


The addition of a major collection occurred in FY96 when the Museum, with the support of the Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, acquired the archives of The Architects Collaborative (TAC), founded by Walter Gropius in Cambridge in 1946, and one of the most influential firms in recent American architectural history, with important associations with MIT and Harvard. Another recent acquisition were the drawings of Horace E. Stowe from 1872, which are key pieces to the understanding of the teaching of architecture at MIT during that early period.

The processing of collections continued with intern and volunteer support provided by Lestra Litchfield, Kimberly Mims (an M.A. candidate at the Architectural Association, London), Kate Matison (a Ph.D. candidate at Boston University) and Hua-chu Yen (an M.A. candidate at Tufts University), who completed work on a project funded by the Institute of Museum Services to survey and rehouse 15,000 drawings in new flat files. Kate Matison also began work on an inventory of the Eduardo Catalano Collection.

Kimberly Shilland, Curator, and Kimberly Mims organized the exhibition Samuel Chamberlain '18: A Centennial Celebration at the Museum, and three exhibitions at the Wolk Gallery at the School of Architecture and Planning (with the assistance of the above mentioned interns and volunteers).

Several donors provided important support to the Architectural Collections, including Martin E. Zimmerman '59, who continued to help fund the curator's position; Robert C. Dean '26 and Narcisse Chamberlain, who made gifts in support of the Chamberlain exhibition; and TRO/The Ritchie Organization, which established a fund in memory of Lawrence Partridge '60.


The Haffenreffer-Herreshoff retrospective cataloging and microfilming project continues to be the primary collections management activity within the Hart Nautical Collections and the project will be completed in August 1996. The Curator will present a copy of the microfilm record to Halsey Herreshoff '60 for the Herreshoff Marine Museum on the occasion of their 25th founders dinner in August.

With income from annual general contributions and plan sale fees, the Hart hired Ocean Engineering senior (now a graduate student in OE) Jacqueline Brener in February to assist the curator ten hours per week. She is working at the Museum part-time this summer and intends to continue working while pursuing her studies. The Hart received partial funding from the Department of Ocean Engineering for a summer Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) student, Amanda Underwood, Course XIII, who is working on a half-hull model measuring project using a digital three-dimensional coordinate measuring machine. This project is the result of a Mystic Seaport Museum grant from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training. The MIT Museum and the Smithsonian Institution are partners in the grant.

One new exhibit, Schooners and Whalers: Watercolors by Benjamin Russell, was mounted at the MIT Museum.

John A. Lednicky '44 was again a generous donor in FY96. A friend of the Hart Nautical Collections, Michael McMenemy of Palo Alto, CA, made a gift toward the purchase of an engineering copier and a plan cataloging/microfilming project involving the Davis-Hand Collection. We are currently seeking additional funds for these projects. John K. Dema of the US Virgin Islands commissioned a scale model of the 1903 Herreshoff America's Cup yacht Reliance for the Hart Nautical Collections in October 1995. This model is under construction and will be delivered and donated to MIT in 1999.


The Museum embarked on an innovative holography project in September 1995 with a challenge grant from the AT&T Foundation's New Experiments in Art and Technology initiative. The grant and additional gifts from the Council for the Arts at MIT, Mrs. E. Rudge Allen '48, A.R. Arulpragasam '77, and the Lowell Institute will help fund Light Forest, a new, permanent work for the Holography Collection, and a related education program. Light Forest, the creation of Betsy Connors, an artist who teaches in the Spatial Imaging Group of the Media Lab, will be a large-scale holographic rain forest installation that uses sophisticated technology to create visual and audio effects. The education program to be offered in conjunction with it will examine holography as an artistic and scientific medium and teach how a hologram is made, as well as provoke inquiry and discussion about environmental issues related to the rain forest. Light Forest will be installed in October 1996, and the education program will be available to teachers and K-12 students then.



Schooners and Whalers: Watercolors by Benjamin Russell, October 1995-July 1996. These rare watercolors of majestic whaling vessels by Benjamin Russell (1804-1885) are among the most accurate representations of whaling ships produced by 19th century artists.

Samuel V. Chamberlain '18: A Centennial Celebration, October 29, 1995-June 9, 1996. Organized by Joan Loria, Kimberly Shilland and Kimberly Mims, this exhibition featured more than 75 Chamberlain drawings from the Museum's collection.

Open Strings for e: Search on the Journey, March 22-September 30, 1996. This collage of poetry, journal entries, photographs, drawings, models and stained glass chronicles the 25 year career of MIT Professor Jan Wampler as architect, teacher and activist.

Renewal and Metamorphosis: Russian Photography from the Late Soviet Era to the 1990s, June 25-October 29, 1996. This collection of photographs on loan from The Navigator Foundation includes the work of 68 artists active from the 1940s to the present.


The Image of Boston: Perception and Change in the Modern City, September 21-December 29, 1995. Curated by Lois Craig, former Associate Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, this exhibition examined changes that occurred in Boston's central city over a 40-year span. Images captured by Nishan Bichajian in the 1950s, which documented a study directed by Gyorgy Kepes and Kevin Lynch, were juxtaposed with contemporary photographs of the same sites by architectural photographer Peter Vanderwarker.

Richard Bertman: Sculptor, January 25-May 3, 1996. This exhibition featured whimsical sheet metal, steel rod and carved wood sculptures created by noted Boston architect and MIT alumnus Richard Bertman.

Glass: Linking Art and Science, June 3-August 2, 1996. Mounted in conjunction with the 26th annual Glass Arts Society conference in Boston, this juried exhibition features the work of nine contemporary glass artists whose youth, technical expertise and aesthetic investigation of the medium have placed them at the forefront of the glass art genre.


The MIT Museum was the setting for 45 functions that drew 2,979 guests in FY96. These events included receptions and dinners hosted by a number of academic departments, Resource Development, other MIT offices, and outside corporate clients.


The MIT Museum Shop introduced the successful Stochastic Discount to the MIT community this year, establishing its reputation as "the best deal on campus." At the Shop's two stores at 84 and 265 Massachusetts Avenue, MIT ID-holders may roll the numbered dodecahedron and deduct the percentage shown from the purchase price of everything they buy. Sales in both stores exceeded annual projections.


Three long-time members of the Museum staff retired in June 1996: Warren Seamans, the founder and Director, who served in that position for 25 years; Joan Loria, Director of Exhibitions, who joined the staff in 1974; and Barbara Linden, Functions Manager, a member of the staff for 23 years. The Museum staff greatly appreciates the contributions, loyalty, and dedication of these three colleagues.

MIT Museum Staff

MIT Reports to the President 1995-96