MIT Reports to the President 1997-98


The MIT Museum collects, preserves and exhibits materials which serve as a resource for the study and interpretation of the intellectual, educational and social history of MIT and MIT's role in the history of modern science and technology. Museum staff engaged in a number of activities in 1997-98 in support of that mission, serving 25,077 visitors and over 1,000 researchers.


The MIT Museum Collections Committee successfully completed its first full year of operation, working with Collections staff to provide recommendations on new acquisitions to the permanent collections. In addition, the Committee examined a number of collections-related issues such as deaccessioning policies and the relationship between the Museum and the Institute Archives and Special Collections. The Committee will continue to address collecting concerns in FY99 and has increased its meetings to six per fiscal year.

Accessions into the permanent collections totaled 16 for FY98. Some notable acquisitions include: 1,275 study prints of photographs by Harold E. Edgerton; three bronze sculptures by former Architecture Professor Richard Filipowski; two Bitter magnets used for research in the Francis Bitter Magnet Laboratory; nine early production-run holograms made by McDonnell Douglas; an EG&G Model 549 Microflash used in high-speed photography; and four maritime paintings from the Liverpool school. In association with the exhibition Unfolding Light: The Evolution of Ten Holographers, the Museum purchased the hologram Photon Drawing Series: A Drop of Light by noted Japanese artist Setsuko Ishii.

Forty loans were made to and from the Museum in FY98. For the exhibition Unfolding Light: The Evolution of Ten Holographers, 18 holograms were borrowed from artists in the United States, Canada, Japan, and England. There were four lenders of works by Giovanni Battista Piranesi and Baldassare Peruzzi to the exhibition Piranesi in Perspective: Designing the Icons of An Age. A model of the USS Cochrane, on loan from the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, continues its long-term display in the Hart Nautical Gallery. Outgoing loans included the reinstallation of oil portraits of William Thompson Sedgwick, Samuel Cate Prescott, and Bernard Emerson Proctor in the Division of Toxicology and of John Thompson Dorrance in the lobby of Building 16. The Museum renewed the loan of a portrait of David Watson Taylor to the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division. In addition, staff began a survey of loans from the Collections to Institute offices in an effort to better inventory works installed on campus.

The Historical Collections continued to receive heavy use by 669 MIT and outside researchers in need of reference and photographic information. Two hundred sixty photographic copy images and seven audio visual copies were furnished for historical use,and 62 use agreements were issued. Some notable MIT projects for which the collections were used include President Emeritus Howard Johnson's memoirs; a history of blacks at MIT that is being written by Clarence Williams; an exhibition organized by the Association of MIT Alumnae (AMITA) to mark the 125th year of women graduates; and the Building 20 celebration. Also, reproductions of paintings, photographs and works on paper from the Collections were licensed to Forest City Development for display in the new University Park Hotel at MIT. Items from the MIT Historical, Architectural and Hart Nautical Collections will be hung in guest rooms and public areas throughout the hotel, providing visitors with a unique perspective into the history of the Institute.

The Museum's World Wide Web site continued to receive hundreds of hits per week. Recent additions to the site include an on-line version of the Museum's Collections management policies.


The Architectural Collections at the MIT Museum have experienced tremendous growth in several areas during 1997-1998. Use of the Collections has increased dramatically with 82 telephone inquiries, 37 e-mail requests, and 28 researchers who used the Collections on site. It is anticipated that this growth will continue.

In addition to answering requests for information and conducting research on various aspects of the Collections, the curator continues to collaborate with other Institute departments on special projects, such as curating exhibitions for the School of Architecture and Planning's Wolk Gallery, developing an exhibition on Alvar Aalto's Baker House for the 1999 rededication and working with Rotch Library, the Institute Archives and the Council for the Arts.

Collaboration outside MIT has also been extensive, including work with Harvard's Loeb Library on The Architects Collaborative archive, development of public programs with Mount Auburn Cemetery and providing exhibition and collections information for the Museum of Modern Art, New York City; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Vose Gallery, among others.

The most important undertaking of the past year was the opening in December of Piranesi in Perspective: Designing the Icons of An Age, a selection from the Italian etcher's 1778 series, the Vasi Candelabri, Cippi, drawn from the Architectural Collections. The related public programs alone attracted nearly 400 participants. Among notable acquisitions were additions to the Professor Richard Filipowski (1923- ) Collection, which now comprises MIT student work, sculpture, models and works of art on paper. Finally, thanks to the generosity of an MIT Dean, architect William Welles Bosworth's large watercolor view of the new Cambridge campus (ca. 1913) has been conserved and maintained for future generations. This drawing is not only significant within the Architectural Collections, but is an important artifact, key to understanding the history, development and aspirations of the Institute in the 20th century.


During the past year we continued to target significant research collections that require better access tools and preservation conditions and to raise funds to undertake cataloging and preservation microfilming of these important materials. Work on the Davis-Hand Collection was recently completed, and a guide is being produced and will be available for sale later this summer. We have raised $5,500 of our $10,000 goal for the George Owen `1894 Collection Project, most of it from Course XIII alumni who were George Owen's students. We expect this project to be fully funded by August and to begin work on the collection this summer. The Guide to the Haffenreffer-Herreshoff Collection, published last year, has been in demand by researchers and over 500 of 2,000 copies printed have been sold. The work of graduate student interns has also helped to increase control of the collections. In April 1998, Jalien Hollister produced a 21-page condition survey of the Bethlehem Steel Collection as part of a Simmons College Library Science course requirement. This survey will be most valuable in developing plans to process this important collection, the largest of the Hart Nautical Collections.

A portion of a new, permanent MIT Ocean Engineering exhibition opened in the Hart Nautical Gallery on June 3. This exhibit deals generally with the ocean sciences and the importance of ocean engineering technology to these fields of research. The main part of the exhibition will showcase MIT research and will be installed in the Hart Nautical Gallery in early December in celebration of the Year of the Ocean. The production schedule for the Reliance full-hull model, commissioned for the Museum by John K. Dema, has been changed to allow for dedication of the model as a central feature of an America's Cup exhibition that will open at the Museum in June/July of 1999. The model is currently under construction as part of a model making display at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, ME.

John Lednicky '44 once again made a generous annual gift that has been used to support part-time staff working with the curator on cataloging, reference and exhibitions. Without question the most important event of the year was a major bequest from Malcolm Burroughs, the Museum's long-time friend and Advisory Board member, to establish the Malcolm S. Burroughs '20 and Lucille P. Burroughs Fund to benefit the Hart Nautical Collections. Four major ship portraits were also part of this extraordinary gift.


With increased support, including a most generous gift from A.R. Arulpragasam '77, the Museum's Education Program was able expand its services to teachers and K-12 and college students during the past year. Otto Loggers was hired in November on a consultant basis as the new education coordinator, and since then he has worked with 83 groups (60% K-12, 28% college, 12% adult) totaling 1,747 individuals. He has developed a number of special programs including holography mini-courses that were offered during IAP; math activities for K-12 students that were presented during the February school vacation week; a printmaking course in conjunction with the exhibition Piranesi in Perspective: Designing the Icons of An Age, that was offered during the April school vacation week; and professional development programs for teachers, youth counselors and MIT student volunteers. This summer we are very pleased to have a Fellow from the Public Service Center, Walter Holland '01, working with us for ten weeks to help develop two new, one-week, intensive programs for K-12 students that focus on holography and stroboscopy that will be offered during the summer school vacation period.


On the Surface of Things: An Exhibition of Images in Science and Engineering, featuring the work of Felice Frankel, MIT Artist-in-Residence and Research Scientist at the Edgerton Center, was on view from July 15 - November 2, 1997, before traveling to six venues throughout the United States.

Unfolding Light: The Evolution of Ten Holographers, a traveling exhibition organized by the MIT Museum and guest curator Rene Paul Barilleaux, opened on September 20, 1997 and ran through February 22, 1998. It will travel to museums throughout the United States through September 2000.

Piranesi in Perspective: Designing the Icons of An Age, curated by Kimberly Alexander Shilland, opened on December 4, 1997 and was on view through June 14, 1998. Two lectures, a gallery talk, walking tour, and April school vacation programs for K-12 students were presented in conjunction with the exhibition.

Never Stop Learning: The Life and Legacy of Harold Edgerton, organized by guest curator and Edgerton scholar Joyce Bedi, opened in the Fall and continues as a long-running exhibition in Strobe Alley.


The Museum Shop's catalog and mail order sales are the most profitable part of the business, followed by in-store sales at the shop at the Museum. For the last several years, foot traffic and thus sales in the shop at the Student Center have decreased significantly, so we decided to close that shop on June 30, upon the termination of our lease. During the coming year we will expand the display space in the Museum Shop in order to enhance sales there and we will investigate direct catalog sales via the Internet. We are also engaged in discussions with Forest City, the developers of the new hotel at University Park, about having a Museum Shop presence in the hotel's lobby shop as another means to increase sales and encourage visitation to the Museum.


A search committee to hire a new director was appointed by Professor Alan Brody in Spring 1997. Chaired by Professor Harriet Ritvo, the committee worked diligently through 1998, and their efforts culminated in the appointment of Jane Pickering, who will assume the position of director on August 3. Ms. Pickering is currently senior curator at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, where she oversees their four museums, and was previously assistant curator of zoological collections at the Oxford University Museum. Mary Leen, who has served as acting director since July 1996, will resume her position as associate director with responsibility for fundraising.

More information about the MIT Museum can be found on the World Wide Web at the following URL:

Kurt Hasselbalch, Mary Leen, Kara Schneiderman, Kimberly Alexander Shilland, Michael Yeates

MIT Reports to the President 1997-98