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Date: February 11, 2009
MIT Museum Launches Unique Anniversary Project
“Do-it-yourself” curators are invited to tell their stories of life
at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
CAMBRIDGE, MA — February 11, 2009 — What people, objects, places or ideas best represent Massachusetts Institute of Technology?
The entire MIT community is now being asked that question, and the answers will help to build an innovative exhibit at the MIT Museum that will celebrate the Institute’s 150th anniversary in 2011.
Building on the success of social networking sites and collaborative science communities, the Museum has launched a new kind of exhibit-building experience. Students, faculty, staff, alumni and any other interested parties (even those with no formal MIT affiliation) may nominate historical or current artifacts for the anniversary exhibit using a new website designed to attract nominations, comments and votes. People, places, things or ideas may be proposed to illustrate MIT’s extraordinary history, culture and contributions to society.
“The MIT 150 Exhibit is an opportunity for the entire community to help select objects that represent what the Institute is all about," says John Durant, Director of the MIT Museum. "Picking 150 artifacts that together capture the spirit of MIT—what a challenge!"
The exhibit website, at http://museum.mit.edu/150, is the primary way to nominate and comment on artifacts. The website will showcase all nominated objects on an ongoing basis. Individuals may also act as "do-it-yourself" museum curators and comment on other objects nominated for the exhibition.
During the summer of 2009, website visitors may begin voting on their favorite artifacts, helping to narrow down the field for a selection of 150 meaningful and compelling objects that will be displayed at the MIT Museum beginning in early 2011. (Smaller groups within MIT then will make the final selections.) Additionally, visitors will be able to suggest candidates who can offer particularly insightful and colorful comments on those 150 artifacts.
"MIT isn’t one story—it’s many stories,” says Deborah Douglas, Curator of Science and Technology, who is spearheading this new approach. “There are many great storytellers in the MIT community, and the Museum wants to hear from them.”
“To stay relevant, museums must embrace new media and new narrative styles to tell their stories,” Douglas says, and the exhibit’s collaborative approach takes a pioneering step in that direction. “Museums such as ours normally are very protective of their prerogatives,” she notes. “To the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever said ‘We want you to help pick the artifacts that go in the exhibit, to help us tell the stories about those artifacts, and to help winnow down the selection.’ This is a real experiment, and for a curator, it’s unbelievably scary and exciting.”
Douglas emphasizes that while the physical exhibit displayed at the Museum will be limited to 150 items, the ongoing web exhibit will feature all nominations. “It will be a permanent virtual exhibition of these stories—a Facebook for MIT’s treasured objects,” she says.
For more information about the MIT 150 Exhibit, and to see what already has been nominated, go to http://museum.mit.edu/150.