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Press Release

January 19, 2010150 MIT Museum
Eric Bender

Josie Patterson
MIT Museum

MIT 150 Exhibition Declares Winners in Popular Vote

Results help MIT Museum staff choose artifacts for MIT 150th Anniversary Exhibition in 2011

Cambridge, MA - January 19, 2010 – The people have spoken: The most popular nomination for the upcoming MIT 150 Exhibition is the Baker House Piano Drop.

As MIT alumni and aficionados know, the Piano Drop is held at least in theory on the last day in which students can drop a class during spring semester. Denizens of Baker House drag an actual, but non-working piano to the top of their six-story dormitory. Then they push the piano off the roof, and monitor its fall in an extremely precise, statistically monitored, educational way.

The Piano Drop led the list of about 400 objects nominated online in an open process for the MIT 150 Exhibition competition. This non-binding referendum is helping MIT Museum staff to select objects for the Institute’s sesquicentennial exhibition, which will open at the Museum in January 2011.

The exhibition website opened to the public for nominations last spring. Between November 1 and January 1, visitors were asked to vote for their 10 favorite nominations. Thousands of votes were counted and the complete list of winners can be found at http://museum.mit.edu/150/results.

You can already see keys from a Piano Drop, along with artifacts for several other high-scoring nominations, on display at the MIT Museum in Cambridge, MA. Among the artifacts is the class of 2011's Brass Rat ring, the only object already picked for the anniversary display. In the coming months, Museum staff will make the final curatorial decisions about what is to be featured, and how the physical exhibition will look. The virtual exhibition will remain open to all visitors on the website, who can continue to nominate objects and tell stories about their experiences with MIT, and more generally with engineering and science. Later this year, all comers will be able to submit stories orally via the website and at the Museum.

The MIT 150 project has been successful in collecting anecdotes and comments about objects such as the Piano Drop. The Drop “is a combination of dorm spirit, harmless destructiveness, and the willingness to do something difficult just for the sake of doing it," as one alum remarked. This combination gave the Drop wide appeal in voting for MIT 150 Exhibition objects. Also, it didn’t hurt that Baker House alums organized a get-out-the-vote campaign on its behalf.

A similar campaign boosted the showing for the MIT Glass Lab, which placed a very respectable third. “I went to one of the MIT 150 design workshops, and I got really excited about what the MIT 150 Exhibition is planning to do,” says Peter Houk, director of the Glass Lab.

“The Glass Lab encapsulates some of the really good values of MIT: working with tools, exploring hands-on and collaborating in teams in a productive way,” Houk explains. “A large number of people are connected with the Glass Lab and proud of it. Sending out a request to vote for the MIT 150 nomination seemed like a good community-reinforcing act.”

Community is what the MIT 150 Exhibition is about, says Deborah Douglas, the Museum’s Curator of Science and Technology. “In addition to showcasing the Institute’s remarkable history, culture and achievements, the Exhibition has allowed us to run this innovative project in public engagement, which is very much in the MIT tradition,” she says. “We’re very pleased with results so far. It’s a great start to a permanent online collection documenting MIT history.”

To add your own MIT memories and opinions for the Exhibition, please visit museum.mit.edu/150.

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