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MIT’s 2016 Celebrations: a Century of Calling Cambridge “Home”!

by E. Rosser


Killian Court, courtesy of web.mit.edu.
(Can you see why it’s the Institvte?)

For a century’s worth of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Instivte (as they like to call their school–take a look at the famous inscription in Killian Court, and you’ll see why!) has considered Cambridge “home.”  It’s hard to imagine that one hundred years ago, MIT went by the nickname “Boston Tech,” rubbing elbows with Trinity Church and Boston’s Copley Square.  When the promising technical school started to outgrow its city dwellings, however, then-President Richard Cockburn MacLaurin, the MIT Corporation, and their few but fervent supporters began looking for a fresh start, finally deciding to erect their new campus on the open plots of Cambridge.


A Souvenir Program from the 1916 dedication,
courtesy of the MIT Archives
After an impressive architectural race to erect the “New Tech,” the heart of the new campus was ready for business in the spring of 1916–nearly 100 years ago.  The only buildings constructed at the time were the “main group,” Buildings 1 through 10 surrounding the Great Court, which was not to be renamed “Killian Court” until three decades later.  The Institvte’s new home was dedicated in style from June 12th to 14th, 1916, with a weekend of banquets, class reunions, picnics, tours, and a final ceremonial crossing of the Charles River in an elaborately decorated barge.  With that grand arrival, MIT officially relocated to Cambridge, spurring 100 years of innovation that have made the city the incubator of science and technology that it is today.


This spring, on the 100th anniversary of MIT’s momentous move to Cambridge, the MIT community plans to match the revelry of its predecessors with the MIT 2016 Celebration.  From February 29th to June 4th, the Institvte will remember its humble beginnings in Boston in 1861, explore the challenges of carving out a brand new home across the river, recognize the years of discovery and technological development that has been fueled on- and off-campus, and speculate what further adventures the future might hold.  Some of the events include:


  • The  “Imagining New Technology” Exhibit at the MIT Museum opens on March 1st.  A brand-new exhibition highlighting the design of the new Cambridge campus joins other science, technology, and MIT history exhibits at the MIT Museum.  At the heart of the exhibit is a crowd-sourced 3-D printed model of the campus and its surrounding community, which will be dedicated by Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons and MIT President L. Rafael Reif.
  • A special Celebration Concert by MIT Music and Theater Arts on April 2nd, 7pm-9pm, in Kresge Auditorium.  Enjoy not only performances by the MIT Symphony Orchestra, MIT Concert Choir, MIT Chamber Chorus, and members of the Chamber Music Society, but the unique architecture and excellent acoustic design of Kresge Auditorium–its roof is one-eighth of a perfect sphere!  This concert is free, so no advance tickets are required to attend.
  • Explore all five tenets of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) at the Cambridge Science Festival from Friday, April 15 to Sunday, April 24–hosted at various locations around Cambridge!  This year marks two big anniversaries, since in addition to MIT’s Cambridge centennial, 2016 is the Science Festival’s 10th year.
  • MIT opens its doors to the community during the Under the Dome MIT Open House on April 23rd.  Countless departments, research groups, clubs, and activities are putting their most exciting work on display.  From learning Creme Brulee Chemistry with the Educational Studies Group, to driving a robot arm with the Research Laboratory of Electronics, there’s something to fascinate everyone under the Dome!
  • History will be recreated on May 7th during Moving Day, starting with the Crossing The Charles Competition.  The MIT and Cambridge community are invited to make the trek from Boston to Cambridge by bridge or by water, with Grand Marshal Oliver Smoot (MIT class of ’62) leading the procession starting at 2pm.  The multimedia presentation “Mind and Hand: a Pageant!” (echoing the famous 1916 pageant, “The Masque of Power”) will commence on Killian Court at 8pm, followed by an evening of community dance parties.
An artist’s rendering of “The Masque of Power.”  The Court was so full,
MIT was even selling tickets to watch from the roof and windows! Courtesy of the MIT Archives

The colorful history of MIT, the Cambridge area, and science and technology are wonderfully intertwined, and this spring’s anniversaries are the perfect way to weave your way through the fascinating threads of that history.  Come take a peek into a world-class lab, step into the shoes of an engineer, or just join in the festivities as we remind ourselves, just as President MacLaurin did in 1916, why we’re so proud to call our community “home”!

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Hello, everyone!  My name’s Rosser, and I’m finishing up my last year at MIT–a place that has grown very near and dear to my heart over the years, so I naturally can’t wait for the big celebrations!  I’m studying Science Writing and Mechanical Engineering, and trying to learn as much MIT lore and history as possible along the way.  Join me as I investigate some nifty questions about science and geek out about the upcoming Cambridge Science Festival!

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