MIT turned 150 last year, celebrating to the tune of “inventional wisdom,” a phrase coined by the MIT150 Steering Committee to convey a blend of entrepreneurship and quest for knowledge.
Over the course of a semester, MIT held 150 days of festivals, open houses and various exhibits, many of which were open to the public. Here’s a look at some of the highlights:
MIT150 Museum Exhibit
Last January, the MIT museum kicked off MIT150 with a special exhibit of 150 items symbolizing MIT’s culture and history. Among the items were a reconstructed display of a piano for Baker House’s Annual Piano Drop and a “TECH is HELL” pennant over a Brass Rat to communicate IHTFP.
According to Deborah G. Douglas, exhibit curator, the exhibit was designed through the “collective intelligence” of the MIT community, allowing students, faculty, alumni and staff to submit nominations for items to include and eventually vote for the final 150 items.
MIT held its first open house in nearly 30 years last April, inviting the public to get a closer look at the Institute’s research and engineering and laboratories. The event — titled “Under the Dome: Come Explore MIT” — drew over 20,000 members of the MIT and Boston community, featuring exhibits in nine major themes, including Air and Space Flight, Engineering, Technology and Invention and the Sciences.
The planning for the MIT150 open house began back in 2005, after President Susan J. Hockfield’s inauguration. From demonstrations of the Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel (Building 17), to a UH 60 Black Hawk fly-in to Briggs Field, to the Baker House piano drop, MIT hosted 312 events in five hours.
“Everybody is excited about the opportunity to do this again,” said Paul A. Lagacé, co-chair of the open house, to The Tech in May. “Expect to see [open house] happening more often.”
Festival of Arts and Sciences (FAST)
Over the course of a semester, as part of FAST, the Institute commissioned and installed a series of projects that brought together elements of art and technology. Notable pieces included Dis(Course)4, an airy, aluminum, tunnel connecting the floors of the Building 3 stairwell off the Infinite Corridor, as well as voltaDom, a Gothic passageway of curved vaults joining Building 56 and 66.
In May, the FAST Festival concluded with FAST Light, a nighttime showcase of all the projects created over the course of the festival. Thousands attended the event, which featured glowing orbs floating along the Charles River, light displays on Harvard Bridge, and the raising of two giant inflatable stars over Killian Court.
The 150th Anniversary Convocation of the signing of MIT’s charter took place on April 10, 2011 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. David A. Mindell PhD ’96, chair of the MIT150 Steering Committee, called the convocation the “emotional center” of the celebration. The event culminated in the re-signing of the MIT charter — but this time, on an iPad.
Interspersed between speeches from President Hockfield, Professor Robert S. Langer ScD ’74 and Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75, were original compositions by MIT professors commissioned specifically for the event and performed by MIT musical groups.
Toast to Tech
In June, the MIT150 celebrations culminated in the Toast to Tech, open to the entire MIT community and guests. Almost 7,000 people attended the event, which included ice sculptures, a live band, and a 12-minute fireworks show over the Charles River. A particular highlight was the 1000-pound, 24 by 4.5 feet cake depicting iconic campus buildings and landmarks, such as the Stata Center and the Green Building. The cake was accompanied by 1000 blue cupcakes to represent the Charles River.
Overall, MIT150 celebrated the Institute in grand fashion — here’s to the next 150 years!