On January 8, 2011, The The MIT Museum
opens the new Thomas Peterson 57 Gallery with a fascinating exhibition highlighting 150 years of the rich history of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As MIT enters this anniversary year, a wide range of events, exhibitions, symposia and open houses have been planned to celebrate MITs contributions to the world.
First of its Kind
The MIT 150 Exhibition is the first of its kind at the MIT Museum to be curated with the aid of the "collective intelligence" of the MIT community. The collaborative process in which nominations were sought, and votes tallied, yielded unexpected insights and ideas that spoke to the founding presidents vision of getting your hands dirty in the pursuit of truth. As MITs first president, William Barton Rogers believed that teaching science should be a hands-on proposition, and, because of that revolutionary idea, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been able to grow and thrive throughout three centuries. The MIT Museum is proud to open the MIT 150 celebration with this unique exhibition made up of stories and objects that members of the MIT community helped to select, collect and make available to the public, many for the first time.
Few educational communities have had such an extensive impact on life in America. From inventions in communication technology, to their role in designing cars, ships, houses, skyscrapers, microscopes and even the Google search engine, the scientists, engineers, urban planners, architects, inventors, and artists connected with MIT have shaped the way Americans live, work, play, and think about the world around them.
Deborah Douglas, Curator of Science and Technology at the MIT Museum, organized The MIT 150 Exhibition around themes that reflect the breadth and interdisciplinary nature of MITs greatest achievements. Visitors may consider the ways in which Boston and Cambridge have served as a living laboratory for MIT; the manner in which numbers - analog and digital, have moved the world to the computer age; as well as methods for improving the workings of the human body. Themes and artifacts will also illuminate how the humanities have infused scientific and engineering applications, while also explaining how MITs teaching culture and entrepreneurial spirit have influenced education, industry, and governments throughout the world. Engaging with this exhibition leaves one with a deep understanding of how the problem solving spirit guides so many at MIT to honor the founders vision of an institution that would and continues to revolutionize American higher education.
What Visitors Will See
Visitors to The MIT 150 Exhibition will find large scale artifacts a racecar, a wheelchair, and an outer space control system simulator, as well as simpler objects like the wooden model of the city of Boston used in the wind tunnel experiments that solved the not so simple problem of window panes falling from the John Hancock Tower when it was built in 1976. Visitors will also discover the old and the rare like the 19th century notes of Ellen Swallow Richards, MITs first female graduate student who was instrumental in creating the first water quality standards in America, along with the new a virus built battery recently shown to President Obama. And, visitors will come upon the controversial; faculty who provoked politicians on both sides of the aisle with their science and their opinions, and those who irritated their own institution, by proving, with data, that women were always given smaller labs than men. The history of MIT is an American story, and this exhibition offers a special opportunity to better understand the crucial infrastructure that created the foundation for Americas expansive growth in the 20th century.
The people of MIT persevered against all kinds of odds, and in this exhibition there are countless items that prove their dedication to learning and discovery. Their lives and the material culture here are expressive of MITs motto, "mens et manus" - "Mind and Hand." Their stories and the objects that represent them continue to inspire and to educate. In the words of MIT President Susan Hockfield, "the people of MIT continue to embody the restless searching spirit the spirit of inventional wisdom, and during this anniversary year we will highlight some of MITs most revolutionary results, and ponder the path to the future."