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MIT Museum: Where the history and future of Science and Technology collide

Written by Samantha Murray |

Where do you find slide rulers, polaroid’s, and historical research notebooks alongside holograms, kinetic art, and artificial intelligence technologies?

The MIT Museum in Cambridge, Boston of course!

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), located in Cambridge, Boston, is world renowned for its advances in Science and Technology, and of course for the infamous pranks the students pull every year. The MIT Museum, which showcases the history of MIT through to the most recent advances in Science and Technology, consists of a wide variety of permanent collections, as well as an assortment of ever-changing exhibitions.

I visited the MIT Museum back in 2014. One of my favourite exhibits on at that time was called 5000 Moving Parts. The kinetic sculptures were the perfect amalgamation between technology and art. One sculpture, consisting of many fine wooden planks, used motors to create a swaying motion in the planks, reminiscent of reeds blowing in the wind. This was accompanied by a projection of the sky on the wall behind the sculpture, transporting me right back to the wetlands of New Zealand. Other sculptures used magnets, flywheels, or even human energy to create motion.

Photo by Larry Miller via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The MIT Museum also houses an extensive collection of holograms - the World's largest collection. You can discover the history of holography, with examples of the very first holograms, which used reflected light, up to the present technology that uses laser light. If you’re feeling particularly brainy you can even delve into the physics behind holography. Not only does the holography look amazing, it has an abundance of applications in architecture, engineering, medicine, and more!

Although it looks like statue through a window, this was a hologram of Bob Marley, which had the actual depth of a pane of glass. This hologram of Bob Marley is on loan to the museum from Zebra Imaging. Photo by Chris Devers via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

For those of you venturing to Boston in the latter half of this year, I would highly recommend going to see The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, which opens on the 3rd May at the MIT Museum. The exhibition will feature the works of the Noble Prize-winning neuroanatomist Cajal, who was an incredible artist. He is renowned for his sketches of the microanatomy of the brain, which he created by spending long hours at the microscope. Althogh I may be biased, I imagine this will be an amazing exhibition detailing some of the earliest observations of the cells that make up the most complicated organ in our bodies. If you go... can you take me with you?!

Bonus tip: On your way out make sure to stop at the MIT Museum store, where you can purchase all sorts of fun nerdy memorabilia. Check out Sam's hoard below... the mug reads NERDY (nitrogen, erbium, and dysprosium)


About the Author

Samantha Murray completed her PhD last year, studying a large animal model of Huntington's disease. She is currently working as a research assistant testing gene therapies for Batten's disease. Follow Sam's adventures of Twitter and Instagram.

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