MIT Open House Follows a Long Tradition
On April 30, 2011 MIT will hold an “Open House” as part of its 150th anniversary celebration. Opening our campus to visitors was an MIT tradition that began as early as 1922, when the Steam and Compressed Air Laboratories and Machine Tool Laboratory welcomed students and their friends under the auspices of the Mechanical Engineering Society. The second Open House was held on April 27, 1923. On this occasion, the whole Institute was open for inspection to “technical and business men” and nearly 1,000 guests attended. After that, it became a regular event (interrupted by World War II), held biennially until the early 1980s.
As we revive this tradition in celebration of the sesquicentennial, the objects of the event reflect twenty-first century priorities: to educate visitors about the work we do, to say thank you to our neighbors and host city, and to demystify MIT in general, presenting our research and education as exciting and accessible in a “science fair” atmosphere.
The Open House will take place from 11 am to 4 pm on Saturday, April 30, 2011. This is also the first day of the Cambridge Science Festival (CSF), which regularly draws crowds in the thousands; we can expect attendance at the Open House to be upward of 15,000. Given the K–12 focus of the CSF, the Open House is also an opportunity to attract young people from Cambridge, Boston, and New England to our fields. We are making special efforts to include minority students and those from disadvantaged schools who might not ordinarily be exposed to such an event.
A planning group has been set up under the leadership of Professor Paul Lagace and Elizabeth Cogliano Young, associate dean in the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education. You will hear more from that team in the coming months but in the meantime, I’ll address some frequently asked questions about the Open House.
We invite all departments, labs, centers, student clubs, and other special interest groups to create programming. Alumni of your department may ask to be involved with your program and we welcome their participation. If your group would like to participate, please appoint a representative with whom we can coordinate. Contact information is at the end of this article. Here are some programming suggestions:
Some have asked how to participate if they have experiments in progress or if there isn’t much to see in their labs. Be assured that you do not have to use your own space to participate in the Open House nor do you have to suspend regular operations or endanger delicate work. We are planning exhibition areas in which many DLCs and groups may set up activities, and we encourage you to get in touch with the Open House planning team who can help reserve appropriate space.
The Institute Events will supervise the organization, staffing, publicity, and management of the Open House. As is done for Commencement, volunteers will be recruited from the campus community to assist guests and answer questions. Volunteers may include alumni, staff, and students; please note that hourly paid staff who work as representatives of MIT on the day of the Open House, whether in your department or as visitor service volunteers, must be paid at their regular rates or overtime, if applicable.
Individual activities will be staffed by their planners. Please plan to have people from your own department monitoring your space if it is open; you will be responsible for recruiting the faculty, staff, and students needed to present your activity.
DLC representatives may e-mail the Open House planning team: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We seek your interest in what promises to be an extraordinary event. By showcasing MIT, we aim to inform the public about the purpose and impact of a research university and to inspire the next generation to join us in our work.