Expand opportunities to explore the MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections library
As a student of Media in Cultural Context (21L.715) this past fall, I had the opportunity to visit the MIT Special Collections library a few times over the course of the semester, for viewings of specific rare books such as MIT’s copy of The Nuremburg Chronicle and for an extended research project. While the collection is open for the MIT community as well as outside researchers to view, I feel I speak for the undergraduate MIT population when I say that many students do not know the collections exist or that they are easily accessible. I propose for more opportunities to be available (more literature, CMS, STS, etc. classes) for a directed and curated way to expose more students to the treasures that can be found in the rare books collection. Technical classes may even be able to visit the collections to see Newton’s or other manuscripts in person, for example. A lot can be gathered from the way scientists laid out their thoughts through notes and diagrams. Also, increased promotion, tours, or events in the Special Collections library would encourage even more members of the MIT community to explore official records of the institute, and the variety of the rare (scientific) books and manuscripts MIT holds in its possession.
There is extraordinary value in learning about the preservation of books and their material histories over time. My experience with rare books and learning about how editions, volumes, and manuscripts were lost or transformed over time makes me appreciate the abundance and preservation of materials today, across all different types of media. It made me realize the importance of conserving print media, as well as electronic media (it isn’t as indestructible as it seems). The Special Collections library and experience with old books in particular, I believe, fosters awareness of the importance of modern libraries around us, and how it is becoming increasingly important to keep them relevant spaces for collaboration, knowledge and innovation.