Category: Instruction

Hacking Academic Collaboration with GLAM Edit-a-thons

Women in Architecture edit-a-thon October 2015 photo by Abhishek Suryawanshi

Women in Architecture edit-a-thon with authors Greta Suiter and Rebecca Thorndike-Breeze in center right, October 2015, photo by Abhishek Suryawanshi

Last spring MIT writing instructor Rebecca Thorndike-Breeze and myself wrote about our experiences hosting Wikipedia edit-a-thons and how Wikipedia itself influenced our collaborations with others.

From the abstract:

At MIT, librarians, archivists, writing instructors, and local Wikipedians have collaborated to host several edit-a-thons with the common goals of addressing content gaps on Wikipedia and offering the public and the MIT community (including students, staff, alumni and faculty) new ways to engage with the institute’s archives and special collections. As we organized these events, we observed other opportunities for librarians, archivists, and instructors to collaborate on classroom instruction and their own research projects. This article shares results from MIT’s GLAM edit-a-thons, and argues that approaching projects from the perspective of Wikipedia’s collaborative culture can enhance other kinds of academic collaboration.

The article is now available in the first issue of the new journal Wiki Studies. The journal is open-access and  peer-reviewed and features articles about Wikipedia and higher education.

The first issue consists of 4 articles:

Wikipedia as a Pedagogical Tool by Andrew David Virtue

Connecting Wikipedia and the Archive by Ann Matsuuchi

Hacking Academic Collaboration with GLAM Edit-a-thons by Rebecca Thorndike-Breeze, Greta Kuriger Suiter

Investigating the Gender Pronoun Gap in Wikipedia by Mehrdad Yazdani

In other Wikipedia and MIT Libraries news Phoebe Ayers and myself will be presenting on Wikipedia this Thursday during the Staff Sharing session (2pm in the DIRC) and there will be an edit-a-thon on Friday afternoon (1-4:30pm) also in the DIRC. Please stop by and help us celebrate Open Access Week by adding open access citations to Wikipedia!

Read more about the edit-a-thon on its Wikipedia meetup page.

MIT Libraries Open Access Week 2017 Wikipedia edit-a-thon poster

MIT Libraries Open Access Week 2017 Wikipedia edit-a-thon poster

Greta Kuriger Suiter







The 37 signers of MIT’s “Act of Association”

A research project by IASC intern Alexandra Bush – 19 July, 2017

During his work to promote the establishment of MIT, founder William Barton Rogers held a meeting on January 11, 1861, for those interested in learning more about his vision. Inspired by Rogers, 37 of the meeting’s attendees came together to sign the “Act of Association,” signifying their support of the Institute and officially associating themselves with the project. All who signed were prominent figures in the Boston area at the time, whether well-known for their business prowess or distinguished in the fields of science, history, or medicine. In addition, all shared an interest in promoting education in the industrial arts and sciences. The association of prominent men such as these with the foundation of the Institute gave it that much more clout as a worthwhile endeavor for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to support.


The “Act of Association,” minus 37 signatures

Notable signers include John Daniel Runkle, the second president of MIT, and Benjamin Peirce, the prominent mathematician. The lives and work of the other signers are similarly impressive. John Call Dalton, a surgeon, introduced the concept of humane experimentation on live animals under anesthesia and is touted as America’s first neurophysiologist. Robert Morris Copeland, a landscape gardener, was an avid abolitionist and accompanied Robert Gould Shaw on his first trip to Washington, D.C., to appeal for the creation of black army regiments during the Civil War. Ezra Stiles Gannett, a minister, spent his life writing discourses on faith and nonviolence before being brutally killed in a train collision in Revere, Massachusetts.


John Call Dalton, Robert Morris Copeland, and Ezra Stiles Gannett

After a few months’ worth of research, enough information was compiled on each signer of the “Act of Association” to create a short biographical sketch for each on a web page on the IASC’s MIT History web site.

This research on the signers of the “Act of Association” will provide a resource for a new course this fall, MIT and Slavery (21H.S01), taught by Professor Craig Steven Wilder and Archivist Nora Murphy. The class will examine the influence of slavery and race on MIT’s founding and early development, and the connections between slavery and the rise of the sciences and engineering. Information about the course and the larger MIT and Slavery project, can be found on the project’s web site.

Posted by Nora Murphy and Myles Crowley


Instruction IASC-style: March 2017

Each semester, IASC staff work closely with faculty to incorporate original materials and rare books into their curriculum. Some of our primary goals are to teach students how to find and work with these types of items and to familiarize them with the rich resources available in the IASC for their research.

In March of 2017, Stephen and Nora worked with four different classes, each class using different materials for different purposes. Each of the classes worked in the reading room of the Institute Archives and Special Collections at least once.

Photograph of "#226 Meal Time at an I.C.C. Kitchen, Upper Rio Grande." 1907/8.

Photograph of Panama Canal workers at meal time, 1907/8. MC-0051, b. 122, f. Panama Canal photographs 2/2. Courtesy MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections.

During a visit of the Seminar in Historical Methods (21H.390) class, students learned how to find organizational and personal archives within the IASC, and in other archives and special collections. Students engaged in several exercises to get first-hand experience working with original materials. In one exercise the students worked in small groups. Each group was given a folder with copies of original materials, each folder containing different materials documenting a slightly different, though related, topic. The groups were asked to determine the author, audience, time period, and subject documented. Another exercise let students understand the relationship between finding aids and boxes of material as each sought to find a folder in a box and then find it on the finding aid. Finally, Nora had the students, as a group, arrange 6 unlabeled images from different collections into chronological order, the dates ranging from the 1880s through the 1970s.

Pages of a Book of Hours.

Book of Hours. Kelly Rare Book Collection. Courtesy of MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections.

For Making Books in the Renaissance and Today (21H.343) which “explores the impact of new technology on the recording and distribution of words and images,” Stephen brought rare materials to classes throughout the semester. Faculty used the items to illustrate different styles of illustration, bookmaking, calligraphy, iconography, illumination, printing, and binding over the centuries. Faculty and students discussed each item: when, where, and how it was created in addition to the audience it was intended for and the intent of the person or entity who wrote or commissioned the item. Students had the opportunity to examine each item – some more extensively than others depending on the physical condition of the item.

Nora and Stephen showcased over 25 rare books, MIT theses, and archival documents related to the environment and the “New World” for Environment and History (21H.185).

Nora and Stephen shared information with the students about individual items, and the students were given time during the class session to examine them closely. Afterwards, each student selected one item, and will visit the IASC reading room during normal hours to examine it more closely in a project resulting in a 5-page paper. Among the items selected are an 1871 letter from John Muir to MIT President John Runkle, a Boston City Council report on unwholesome meat from 1871, an 1874 statistical atlas of the US by the US Census Office, a whaling log from the mid-nineteenth century, and several MIT theses.

The fourth class we worked with was Media in Cultural Context (21L.715), which considers the history of the book both conceptually and physically, “by means of some of its most resonant artifacts, past and present.” The students examined archival and rare book items brought to class during the semester by Stephen and Nora, including the oldest item in the collections (a cuneiform tablet). Other items included the Eliot Bible, William Barton Roger’s 1846 letter articulating his idea for a polytechnic school, and a 20th century fraternity scrapbook.

Many of the students in these classes will visit the IASC reading room several times over the course of the rest of the semester to work with materials they were introduced to in class. With Stephen’s departure, Nora will continue to work with the faculty for these classes.

– Nora Murphy