Category: Collection Highlight

Your Archival Horoscope: Pisces

Today we are celebrating Pisces (February 19 – March 20) whose zodiac symbol is the fish! Pisces is usually represented by two fish that are tied together and swim in opposite directions, but in this blog post it’s represented by the majestic perch fish. In the book Ichthyology vol. 1 The Perch Family, there are many examples of beautifully colored illustrations of perch. 

  • Multiples images of the cover, spine, insides, and on a shelf of The naturalist’s library. Ichthyology vol. 1 The perch family by Sir William Jardine. MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections - Noncirculating Collection 1 | QL615.J37 1835

Horoscope: Be inspired by the perch fish, don’t be afraid to let your true colors shine!

Other posts in this series include:

Your Archival Horoscope: Aquarius

Your Archival Horoscope: Introduction

Greta Kuriger Suiter


New Digitized Collections in DOME

In the past few months, three sets of content from IASC were added to DOME, the access platform for much of the MIT Libraries’ digitized materials! This included the Rules and Regulations of the Faculty, MIT Handbooks, and additional MIT Course Catalogues which bring the dates available up to 2005-2006 where the Course Catalog official website back issues leaves off.

Rules and Regulations of the Faculty

The Rules and Regulations of the Faculty spans the Institute Archives and Special Collections copies of the publication from 1879-2007. They establish the roles and responsibilities of the Standing Committees of the MIT Faculty, governs its legislative processes, and states its regulations pertaining to the academic calendar, admissions, registration, grades, degrees, and more. The Rules and Regulations of the Faculty also describe the processes via which they can be changed by vote of the Faculty. Parts also address important topics related to syllabi, midterms, scheduling assignments at the end of the semester, and final exams.

Do you qualify for the 1879 entrance requirements to MIT? I, for one, would fail the section on “the first two books of Voltaire’s ‘Charles XII’.” See the entire Rules and Regulations for 1879 here.

Image of MIT entrance requirements in 1879

Image of MIT entrance requirements in 1879

From page 7-8 of the MIT Rules of the Faculty, 1879. Call number: T171.M4199

MIT Handbooks

The MIT Handbooks consist of books with general information about the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus, local culture and social activities, and academics. The publications have various names and creators, The Handbook of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Social Beaver, This is MIT, MIT Today, How to Get Around MIT (HowToGAMIT) but generally provide similar information on how to navigate life in and around MIT.

Here is some advice in the 1913 handbook for what to do in case of accidents. If struck by lightning, this guide recommends dashing cold water over the person struck. I wouldn’t recommend following that advice today! Take a look at the whole 1913 handbook here.

Image of "Help in Case of Accidents" instructions given to MIT Students

From page 95 of the Handbook of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1913. Call number: T171.M42.S678

MIT Course Catalogues

The MIT Course Catalogue, also referred to as the MIT Bulletin and the MIT Course Catalog, is a rich source of information on the courses and programs that have made the Massachusetts Institute of Technology the major institution it is today.

Do you think you would be interested in taking “Communicating in Cyberspace” back in 1996? Read the full 1996 catalogue here.

Image of course desciption for 21W.785 Communicating in Cyberspace

From page 521 of the 1996-1997 MIT Course Catalogue. Call number: T171.M42

Your Archival Horoscope: Aquarius

Image of Aquarius in Zodiac no. 1 1906-1907, Thomas F. Peterson Jr. collection, TK5101.A1 Z63, MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections.
“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. The series is featured in the Your Archival Horoscope: Introduction post. “Aquarius” in Zodiac no. 1 1906-1907, Thomas F. Peterson Jr. collection, TK5101.A1 Z63, MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections.

To start off this Zodiac series with the sign Aquarius, I searched for “Aquarius” in ArchivesSpace (a magical system that holds descriptive data about collections in the Institute Archives and Special Collections). One of the two results was a review of The Age of Aquarius: Technology and the Cultural Revolution by William Braden from 1970. (The above image is from the series The Zodiac featured in the Your Archival Horoscope: Introduction post). The review is titled, “The dawning revolt against the controllers of our technology,” and is by Noam Chomsky. It was published in the Chicago Sun-Times on May 3, 1970, the same newspaper that Braden worked for as a reporter.

"Reviews: The Age of Aquarius," 1970. Noam Chomsky Papers, MC 600, box 137. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Institute Archives and Special Collections, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“Reviews: The Age of Aquarius,” 1970. Noam Chomsky Papers, MC 600, box 137. MIT, Institute Archives and Special Collections, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Chomsky writes that Braden has mostly missed the mark by focusing on technology as a negative influence on society and that he has taken on too large a task. “His subject is ‘the contemporary American crisis,’ many-faceted and severe. We are threatened, he suggests, by a ‘technetronic dictatorship,’ but also by a humanistic revolt against technology.”

Chomsky suggests that the real threat “to democratic values is concentration of power in the economic and political systems.” And that, “The technical intelligentsia serves this system by disguising the reality of power with a myth of scientific objectivity.”

Today we still struggle with the myth of scientific objectivity. It is easy to believe that technology exists and is created in a vacuum, but there is much current scholarship (for example research around Algorithmic bias) exposing this false assumption.


Not all is as it seems, and it is often much more complex than you know. Have courage this month to ask questions and listen more.

Further research:

  • For another perspective on Braden’s book, see the New York Times review
  • The Age of Aquarius is available through the MIT Libraries and is found in the catalog here.
  • At this time, parts of Noam Chomsky’s archives (MC-0600) are open for on-site use in the reading room of the Institute Archives and Special Collections. Specifically, his Lectures and Notes on Talks are available for access and use.

Other posts in this series include:

Your Archival Horoscope: Introduction

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).

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“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.

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


Summer Time

Hey, it’s summer time! Which means people are taking summer classes, boat rides, visiting with friends and family, traveling, reading for fun, and possibly protesting. Students at MIT have taken part in all of these activities and they are documented in the Collection on Student Life at the MIT (MC618).

This post is concerned with a specific summer activity – summer reading! Summer is often a time to read for fun and to catch up on the books that have been added to your “to read” list throughout the academic year. This was the case for students back in the 1890s as well!

A recent accession of materials from the 1890s included a summer reading list, a Tech Theatricals program, Class Day Exercises program and calling cards, and a photograph of the class of 1896’s 40th reunion gathering in Swampscott, MA.

Class of 1896 materials from the Collection on Student Life at MIT, MC618, Box 12.

Class of 1896 materials from the Collection on Student Life at MIT, MC618, Box 12.

The Second Year Summer Reading suggestions one-sided sheet includes selections from 25 authors.  Below is a transcript of the sheet with images of some of the covers and selected links to the full texts. Many of these books are available for download through Project Gutenberg, the Internet Archive, or HathiTrust. Notes not original to the source material are in block quotes. So, let’s travel back in time to when these were the hot new titles to read during the summer!



[This is not a course of reading, but merely a list of books suggested as suitable for summer recreation. It will be noticed that Dickens, Thackeray, De Quincey, Tennyson, Macaulay, Hawthorne, and in a word the classics, are omitted as being so well known as not to need mention. The works of Frances Parkman are left out for this reason, although they are strongly recommended to the class, especially On the Oregon Trail, The Conspiracy of Pontiac, and Montcalm and Wolfe. The two qualities which have determined the admission of a book into this list are that it is in itself worth reading, and that it is likely, so far as can be judged, to prove interesting to the average student in this particular class. There has been besides some especial reason for the admission of each individual work, as that it is historically suggestive, is especially well written, or something of the sort. The aim has been to choose books from contemporary authors, as far as possible; and poetry has been passed by on the theory that the majority of the class would not care for it as summer entertainment. That the proportion of fiction is so large is due to the desire to make the list an attractive one, and to the fact that the books are intended for vacation reading.]


R.L. Stevenson :

The Black Arrow.


Kidnapped by R. L. Stevenson on the Internet Archive

Kidnapped by R. L. Stevenson on the Internet Archive

David Balfour.

The Merry Men.

S. J. Weyman :

The House of the Wolf.

A Gentleman of France.

Rudyard Kipling :

Life’s Handicap.

Soldiers Three.

Mary A. Wilkins :

A Humble Romance.

A Humble Romance and Other Stories on Internet Archive

A Humble Romance and Other Stories on Internet Archive

A New England Nun.

T.B. Aldrich :

Margery Daw and Other People.

After slipping on a lemon peel and breaking his leg, Flemming has been ordered to remain at his New York City home for three to four weeks, confined to a couch…

Charles Kingsley :

Westward Ho !

Arthur Sherburne Hardy :

Passe Rose.

Anthony Hope :

The Prisoner of Zenda.

Q. :

The Splendid Spur.

From The Splendid Spur intro: “A year or two ago it was observed that three writers were using the curiously popular signature “Q.” This was hardly less confusing than that one writer should use three signatures (Grant Allen, Arbuthnot Wilson, and Anon), but as none of the three was willing to try another letter, they had to leave it to the public (whose decision in such matters is final) to say who is Q to it. The public said, Let him wear this proud letter who can win it, and for the present at least it is in the possession of the author of “The Splendid Spur” and “The Blue Pavilions.” It would seem, too, as if it were his “to keep,” for “Q” is like the competition cups that are only yours for a season, unless you manage to carry them three times in succession. Mr. Quiller-Couch has been champion Q since 1890.”

The Blue Pavilions.

Thomas Nelson Page :

In Ole Virginia.

George Cable :

Old Creole Days.

“Ostensibly romantic in plot, the stories in Old Creole Days recount the adventures, love lives, and misfortunes of Creoles. Cable offers an enchanting portrait of an exotic, alluring New Orleans society, and yet his stories are more than paeans to a long-lost South. Beneath the surface lies a scathing social satire that explores the problems of the racially and culturally diverse antebellum New Orleans.” – Bond Thompson, Documenting the American South

Walter Besant :

The Chaplain of the Fleet.

Thomas Hardy :

Under the Greenwood Tree.

The Return of the Native.

Far From the Maddening Crowd.

One can just watch the movie today!

F. Marion Crawford :

A Roman Singer.


Sant’ Ilario.

William Black :

A Princess of Thule.

William Black’s Works book cover from Project Gutenberg

M.E.M. Davis :

In War Times at La Rose Blanche.


Charles Dudley Warner :

As We Were Saying.

George William Curtis :

From the Easy-Chair.

More Essays from the Easy-Chair.

R.L. Stevenson :

Travels with a Donkey.

An Inland Voyage.

Virginibus Puerisque.

“The essays promote a spirit of playfulness in defiance of both the hardships of human life and the restrictions imposed by bourgeois Philistinism. The volume did not sell well but had a good critical reception…” RLS website

Mrs. Anne [Thackeray] Ritchie :

Records of Tennyson, Ruskin and Browning.

Chapters from Some Unwritten Memoirs.

Mrs. A. Martin :

Home Life on an Ostrich Farm.

Home Life on an Ostrich Farm book cover from Project Gutenberg

Sir Walter Scott :


Francis Espinasse :

Literary Recollections.

Sarah Orne Jewett :


William Morris :

The Earthly Paradise [narrative poems].

The Land of the Glittering Plain [fantastic romance].

The Glittering Plain cover, Wikimedia Commons

Summary from Wikipedia: “The Story of the Glittering Plain (full title: The Story of the Glittering Plain which has been also called the Land of Living Men or the Acre of the Undying) is an 1891 fantasy novel by William Morris, perhaps the first modern fantasy writer to unite an imaginary world with the element of the supernatural, and thus the precursor of much of present-day fantasy literature. It is also important for its exploration of the socialist themes that interested Morris.”

Available for download via Project Gutenberg

-Greta Kuriger Suiter