MLK’s legacy at MIT

On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, we look back to April 5, 1968 when MIT mourned Dr. King and called the campus to act for racial justice.

The April 9, 1968 issue of the MIT student newspaper The Tech reported on a special memorial service for the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. at 12:10 PM on April 5th the day after King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. King was a prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was known for his use of nonviolent civil disobedience. King’s tragic death, at the age of 39, shocked, saddened, and enraged people around the world. How did the MIT campus respond?

Tech reporter Steve Carhart (Class of 1970, SM 1972) stated that the event was “hastily organized” by “an ad hoc group of faculty, students and members of the administration” and seven speakers spoke to the nearly filled Kresge Auditorium. Carhart wrote that “MIT President Howard W. Johnson opened the meeting, then the other six read excerpts from Dr. King’s speeches.” The article quotes brief remarks made by the last speaker, MIT Professor Harold Isaacs, who had been a friend of Dr. King. The impromptu memorial was not recorded, as far as we know, but some documents were found in the IASC.

In the Office of the President and Office of the Chairman of the Corporation records of Howard W. Johnson, there are prepared remarks by Johnson and Isaacs and excerpts, without citations, of King’s speeches assigned to five of the speakers (AC-0118, box 198, folder 6 “King, Martin Luther, 1968-1976”).

According to the list in AC-0118 and the story in The Tech, the speakers were as follows:

1. President Howard W. Johnson
2. Mr. Robert Tinker (PhD 1970)
3. Mr. Gustave M. Solomons, Class of 1928
4. Mr. Stephen E. Straus, Class of 1968
5. Miss Maria L. Kivisild, Class of 1969, (no assigned reading found in AC-0118)
6. Prof. Willard R. Johnson
7. Prof. Harold R. Isaacs

Only Willard Johnson and Maria Kivisild (now Ogrydziak) are still living. Johnson is Professor of Political Science Emeritus at the Institute. Ogrydziak, the first woman president of the MIT Undergraduate Association, is an architect in California.

In his prepared remarks, President Johnson said King’s life and example called “for a self-searching response from all of us, as individuals, as institutions and as a nation.” Isaacs said: “The bullet that felled Martin Luther King came out of … the madness of racism … that we all share in some way or other” and he closed with: “The question is what we do about it, each one of us beginning with himself.”

An editorial in the same issue of The Tech also called for action. The editorial “Apathy, the students and Dr. King”, appears to paraphrase a quote from a King speech read by Gus Solomons at Kresge. The source for both is very likely King’s 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail“. The Tech editorial likens “‘white moderates, who would rather have peace and security than justice'” to MIT students who “would much rather have ‘peace and security’ inside the confines of this institution than work for justice outside the boundaries of the campus.” The editorial suggests that a recent ruling ending graduate student draft deferments from the Vietnam War would end complacency and force classmates “to fight (in one sense or another) for what he believes in.”

The Tech archives and other MIT publications, Institute records and faculty papers in the IASC document how the MIT community reacted first to Martin Luther King’s death, and then responded in the months and years after April 4, 1968 to Dr. King’s challenge to build the beloved community of equity, diversity, inclusion and justice.

-Myles Crowley


Your Archival Horoscope: Introduction

In an effort to post items from the MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections more regularly, I chose a theme for the year that I could post monthly about. I thought it should be a theme that aligned with natural changes throughout the year, something that would remind me to post, and maybe something that isn’t necessarily thought of as having much to do with MIT. It would be a somewhat random dive into the collections.

I decided to go with the theme of horoscopes, or more precisely the 12 constellations of the Zodiac. According to Wikipedia,

The zodiac is an area of the sky that extends approximately 8° north or south (as measured in celestial latitude) of the ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun across the celestial sphere over the course of the year. The paths of the Moon and visible planets are also within the belt of the zodiac.

In Western astrology, and formerly astronomy, the zodiac is divided into twelve signs, each occupying 30° of celestial longitude and roughly corresponding to the constellations Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces.

I searched the archives and special collections for the Latin names and English translations (Aries, ram) and was able to find something for each. Look for zodiac inspired posts appearing at the end of each month. First up will be Aquarius at the end of January.

For now, enjoy this gem from special collections titled The Zodiac which is part of a collection of materials on telegraphy donated to the MIT Libraries by Thomas F. Peterson, Jr. (class of 1957).


“The Zodiac” was the in-house journal for employees of the Eastern and Associated Telegraph Companies, and subsequently a liaison between the telecommunication staffs of Cable and Wireless Limited and its subsidiaries. Each issue features editorials, staff updates, photographs, drawings, poetry, and a much coverage of employee cricket matches.

Look for more zodiac inspired blog posts throughout the year, and please comment if there is a theme you would like to see highlighted in the future!

-Greta Kuriger Suiter

2018: A View from the Past

As we wrap up the year, here’s a view of 2018 from 50 years ago…

Toward the Year 2018 half title page

Toward the Year 2018 (CB161.T737)

50 years after its founding, the Foreign Policy Association took a look 50 years into the future with the publication of Toward the Year 2018 in 1968. This book features 13 chapters by various authors with their predictions for the future. These chapters cover a wide range of topics: weaponry, space, transportation, communication, weather, educational technology, behavioral technology, computer technology, energy, food, population, economics, and oceanography.

MIT Professor Ithiel de Sola Pool is the author of the chapter “Behavioral Technology.” In it, he predicts continued economic growth for all nations. His chapter discusses the use of technology for improved collection of social statistics, the advancement of drugs to control the mind, and a general loss of inhibitions. He also predicted that, “by the year 2018 nationalism should be a waning force in the world.”1


Looking at these predictions, one can see the glimmer of word processing software, YouTube, and smartphones on the horizon. Here’s a brief sampling of predictions from the book:

One would expect to find computers with a capacity on the general order of the human brain (but much faster) that could be carried in a shoe box, or perhaps in one’s pocket. 2

National response to the development of a technology that can effectively violate national privacy may take one of several forms. There may be a gradual abandonment of the concept of sovereignty with the formation of federations of contiguous states. Such a move would receive impetus from the future development of global technologies and control. An alternative response might be the abandonment of open, large-scale warfare as a means of securing national advantage and the adoption of methods for secret or covert wars. 3

Anyone… could fly to [the world’s] most distant point within eight hours and could conceivably rocket halfway around the planet within an hour. 4

In the handling of texts, computers will play an important role, which will include editing. After an initial keyboard operation, further corrections, additions, or deletions will be accomplished without retyping. This will extend even to justification and pagination in the preparation of documents of a quality comparable to today’s letterpress. 5

Man will control rain, fog, storms, and even possibly the climate. 6

One can visualize a world in which anyone anywhere might have ready access to great libraries and their books, to videotape or film libraries containing lessons on specialized topics…. 7

Perhaps the most complex cognitive process that will have been analyzed by 2018 is language. We will long since have learned how to program computers to put grammatical sentences together in meaningful response to verbal questions and translate these sentences into other languages if so desired. 8

Want to read more? Toward the Year 2018 can be viewed in the Institute Archives & Special Collections by appointment.

— Chris Tanguay

1. Ithiel de Sola Pool, “Behavioral Technology,” in Toward the Year 2018, ed. Foreign Policy Association (New York: Cowles Education Corporation, 1968), 95.

2. D. G. Brennan, “Weaponry,” in Toward the Year 2018, 9.

3. Gordon J. F. MacDonald, “Space,” in Toward the Year 2018, 34.

4. Najeeb E. Halaby, “Transportation,” in Toward the Year 2018, 45.

5. J. R. Pierce, “Communication,” in Toward the Year 2018, 51.

6. Thomas F. Malone, “Weather,” in Toward the Year 2018, 61.

7. Anthony G. Oettinger, “Educational Technology,” in Toward the Year 2018, 76.

8. Pool, 92.

Teaching Collaborations, Fall 2018

Emilie Hardman, Nora Murphy, and Myles Crowley worked with over 150 students and 15 members of the faculty in 14 courses during the Fall 2018 semester. We were pleased to collaborate with Nick Albaugh, Michelle Baildon, Tina Chan, Jen Greenleaf, Sofia Leung, Mark Szarko, and Ece Turnator on several of these classes.

These are the courses and the faculty:

  • 3.087/EC.S13, Materials, Societal Impact and Social Innovation (MSS), Ellan Spero
  • 11.S939, Cities of Contested Memory, Delia Wendel
  • 11.THT/4.THT, Thesis Research Design Seminar, Cherie Abbanat
  • 21H.103, The Ancient World: Greece, Eliza Gettel
  • 21H.281, MIT & Slavery, Craig Wilder
  • 21H.343, Making Books in the Renaissance and Today, Jeff Ravel
  • 21H.390, Theories and Methods in the Study of History, Ann McCants
  • 21L.014/21H.007, Introduction to Ancient and Medieval Studies, Stephanie Frampton and Eric Goldberg
  • 21W.021, Writing and Experience: MIT Inside, Live, JoAnn Graziano
  • 21W.825, Advanced Science Writing Seminar, Marcia Bartusiak
  • CMS 361.861, Networked Social Movements: Media and Mobilization, Sasha Costanza-Chock
  • STS.004, Intersections: Science, Technology, and the World, Deborah Fitzgerald
  • STS.088, Africa for Engineers, Clapperton Mavhunga
  • Digital Humanities programs at MIT, MIT Computation Center Project, Michael Cuthbert

We look forward to sharing our experiences in future blogs.

Nora Murphy

Catching up with collections (November / December 2018)

Processing update on Irving M. London accessions

Work continues on the Irving M. London personal archives (MC-0750) and the Harvard-MIT Program in Health, Sciences, and Technology records (HST) (AC-0490). The line between faculty papers and official MIT records can be a tricky one to define. I’ve been dividing papers from London’s office into these two collections.

HST records such as committee reports, write ups about the history of the program, and course catalogs have been added to AC-0490. I’ve also added a new series to this collection titled “Office of the Director, Irving M. London files.” This series includes a set of the Director’s chronological correspondence from 1969 to 1998, committee related materials, and administrative material relating to events, personnel, and program planning.

The London personal archives (MC-0750) consists of biographical material (including CV’s and publication lists), lab notebooks, a set of alphabetical files, notes on and from symposia and travel, professional organization related materials from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM – which London was a founder of, and is now the Health and Medicine Division of The National Academies), and material relating to business and patents.

— Greta Kuriger Suiter

This means something…

It’s been a busy month in the archives, and that has meant reviewing unprocessed collections! Here’s a fun folder title from the mix.

Folder labeled extra-terrestrial life.

Search for aliens in the Bruno Rossi papers (MC-0166, Box 21).

Besides having alien encounters, I’ve also been processing new materials. In November, I added 10 record cartons of materials to the Records of Assistant Provost Doreen Morris (AC-0530). The added content consisted of budget files for FY2010-FY2016; meeting minutes of the Research Support Committee, 1998-2014; and materials related to MacVicar Day and the MacVicar Fellowships. I’ve also been continuing to work on the Hal Abelson personal archives (MC-0743).

— Chris Tanguay

Web archives metadata and digitizing DNA

I’ve been working on developing a web archiving metadata application profile, so that we can describe our web archives collections in consistent ways and open them up to the public this summer. With help from colleagues I’m refining the document and hope to make it available sometime in the new year.

I worked on a number of small requests for digitization. One interesting project has been preparing to get the open-reel video tapes from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oral History Program, oral history collection on the recombinant DNA controversy (MC-0100). Not only an important topic that deserves to be migrated from at risk media, it was a trial determining if there were duplicate tapes as they have been migrated a number of times over the years from open reel to Betamax to VHS.

Also, I continued with getting all of our digital material accessioned, having created 13 accessions in the past month and a half for both new and legacy material.

Joe Carrano


Catching up with Collections (October 2018)

This is the first of a series of posts reviewing processing activities of the past month. 

Short letter from Jerome Lettvin to Carroll "Curly" G. Bowen of the MIT Press

Short letter from Jerome Lettvin to Carroll “Curly” G. Bowen of the MIT Press

Reviewing and Processing, Processing and Reviewing

This month, I’ve been balancing reviewing materials for patron use with processing new materials to make them available for researchers.  One fun thing discovered during collection review was the “Dear Curly” letter, which is now possibly my favorite piece of correspondence I’ve seen thus far – or at least this month. It is certainly the shortest. It can be found in the Jerome Lettvin papers (MC-0525).

I’ve also been putting in time processing the Hal Abelson personal archives (MC-0743). So far, I’ve been working with a group of subject files documenting the history and people involved with computing and artificial intelligence.

— Chris Tanguay

Figuring Out Digital Provenance

Much of this month was spent trying to figure out where some of our legacy digital collections came from or when they were digitized. Which is important to know if we’re going to preserve and provide access to them! In this process, I’ve been either adding locations to existing records of collections or accessioning materials with no record. This month I accessioned 6 previously un-accessioned legacy collections.

We also continue to bring in new collections. Notable examples include two new oral histories from the Margaret MacVicar Memorial AMITA Oral History Project and the videos of the Gender/Race Imperative, the series put on by Anita Hill during her time as an MLK Scholar at MIT (2017-2018) discussing the past and present of Title IX.

— Joe Carrano

Finding Bullet Journal inspiration in collections

This upcoming IAP I’m planning to participate in a Bullet Journal workshop (tentatively planned for the afternoon of Tuesday, January 8th!). Bullet Journals combine many aspects of traditional planners and journals in a way that appeals to broad audiences that wish to increase focus, productivity, and intent in their daily living. I plan to present some examples from the Archives to show historic precedents for parts of the Bullet Journal method. Features like keys, indexes, monthly and weekly calendar layouts, hand lettering and decorations, as well as daily reflections are common parts of bullet journals and can also be found in past practices like scrapbooking, keeping a diary or journal, traditional planners, and even work notebooks such as lab notebooks.


The above example of an index and hand numbering of pages in a lab notebook is part of a new transfer of records from the office of Irving M. London, the founding director of the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology (HST). Processing is just beginning on these records and includes many personal archives such as early lab notebooks from the 1940s to the 1960s as well as many documents from London’s time at HST.

— Greta Kuriger Suiter


Getting to Know Mattie Clear

Mattie Clear is the Reference Archives Assistant in the MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections and began graduate studies at Simmons College this semester (Fall 2018).

Portrait of Mattie

It’s Mattie!

When did you first think that studying archives management/history was for you?

It’s hard to point to an exact moment as my broad love of libraries and history has always been prevalent. I come from a long line of teachers (my mother is a kindergarten teacher with an affinity for children’s books and my grandfather was a high school US history teacher), so it’s no surprise that a love of reading and history was instilled from birth.

During the months leading up to my freshman year at William & Mary I hadn’t considered being a history major, though looking back the conversion seems inevitable. It was through my position as a Student Assistant at the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) at William & Mary that I came to fall in love with history again. I would remain in SCRC for 4 and a half years, first as a student assistant and later as an Archives Assistant processing collections, answering reference questions, helping teach classes, and curating an exhibit. My love of the previously untold histories, like those of enslaved women, began to blossom thanks to the collections I worked with and the classes I took. Within my first year, I declared History and Sociology as my majors and was enrolled in the National Institute of American History and Democracy’s Collegiate Program (NIAHD). NIAHD’s focus is on Early American History, Material Culture, and Museum Studies which allowed me to experience museums and the idea of public history in a way that I had not previously considered. The intertwined nature of my love of archives and history, resulted in my inability to choose which passion I would pursue in graduate school. Lucky for me, Simmons had a program that would allow me to continue learning in both disciplines… and well, the rest is history.

You’re not from here are you?

How’d you know? My accent? The terrified look in my eye at the mention of New England winters? I grew up in Chilhowie, VA, a small town in the Appalachian Mountains located at the base of Mt. Rogers (aka the highest point in Virginia and home to some of the prettiest views on the Appalachian Trail). This childhood explains my slight southern twang and my love of the outdoors.

Photograph from White Top Mountain on the Appalachian Trail (the peak beside Mt. Rogers), Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, taken by Mattie.

I spent my last four years in Williamsburg, VA where I received my undergraduate degree from the College of William & Mary. With this in mind, home loosely refers to Virginia as a whole.


Photograph from White Top Mountain on the Appalachian Trail (the peak beside Mt. Rogers), Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, taken by Mattie.

What has your first year at Simmons been like? Favorite classes? Surprises?

My first few months at Simmons have been an adjustment, but I am beyond excited to study there. In addition to the full course load, trying to navigate a new city/city living in general has resulted in a rather large learning curve. Prior to moving here, I had previously lived in Washington, DC for a summer while I worked at the Library of Congress, so thankfully I gained some public transportation navigation experience there. I am slowly but surely learning my way around and establishing a routine. With regards to classes, I’m realizing that I know more than I thought I did, but that I also have so much more to learn. I look forward to seeing where the next three years take me.

What was the last book that you read and what did you think of it?

I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t really have much time for pleasure reading these days. With this in mind, I have found myself re-reading old favorites. The most recent in this trend is Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. This book describes a feminist utopia composed entirely of women that is “discovered” by three European men representing the spectrum of male personalities. It is an easy and relatively quick read (~100), so if you’re a fan of utopias or Gilman I would definitely recommend it.

If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

This question is so hard because I love so many different types of foods. However, if I had to choose one thing, it would probably be some form of a burrito/burrito bowl accompanied by chips and salsa. This meal would allow for variation as a result of the wide array of toppings that can be put in a burrito. Additionally, burritos have everything you need to survive because of the protein, veggies, and dairy products present.

Mattie Clear