A guided tour of the brand new MIT Museum

When the MIT Museum opened its new 56,000-square-foot area in Kendall Sq. final October, it was a time of public celebration. It was additionally a non-public level of pleasure for David Nuñez, SM ’15, who helped information the museum’s transformation as its director of expertise and digital technique.

Nuñez joined the museum in 2017, a couple of yr earlier than the groundbreaking for the brand new constructing, and says he had his work minimize out for him. “The museum didn’t have a option to promote tickets on-line. It didn’t have an incredible on-line collections search,” he says. “There have been quite a lot of important ways in which I felt the museum may stage up.”

Right this moment, it has reimagined the web expertise for guests, who can now flick through greater than 156,00Zero objects from the museum’s assortment and, sure, purchase tickets. It’s additionally unveiled quite a few in-gallery digital actions, starting from listening to private reflections on the Black expertise at MIT to writing poetry with the assistance of synthetic intelligence.

“There are over 80 totally different digital items, and plenty of of them are interactive not directly,” Nuñez says. “It was necessary to us to create a hackable museum you would put your arms into and use.”

Now guests cannot solely discover bodily artifacts from the Institute’s lengthy historical past of analysis and innovation but additionally acquire perception into the MIT neighborhood—together with generations of MIT alumni—by means of video and audio recordings that includes Institute innovators. “We wish to give folks a way of the human thread by means of all of the expertise and invention,” Nuñez says. 

Digital director David Nuñez, SM ’15 in the MIT Museum
David Nuñez, SM ’15, the MIT Museum’s director of expertise and digital technique, stands subsequent to one of many Whirlwind laptop’s 4K core reminiscence models.

The MIT Museum was based in 1971 to protect the Institute’s historic artifacts, and in the present day its mission is to make MIT’s analysis accessible to everybody; the brand new digital platforms are subsequently designed to allow much more guests to hitch within the MIT expertise. For instance, on-line guests can weigh in on questions corresponding to “What does it imply for one thing to be well-engineered?” And in-person guests can create private avatars that seem on the massive media wall on the primary ground, in an set up known as The Window.

“That is an expertise we created as a welcome and an perception into the MIT neighborhood,” Nuñez says, explaining that members reply a number of questions, and the generated information determines what every avatar seems like on the massive display. “It’s a illustration of you, however locally of those avatars on the wall. It’s saying you possibly can take part at MIT. Welcome!”

What do lots of the displays have in frequent? Alumni, who after all have been creating and shaping the Institute since its earliest days. Right here, Nuñez shares his insights on some notable alumni-
associated displays.

Whirlwind laptop 

One of many world’s first large-scale, high-speed digital computer systems, MIT’s Whirlwind was created within the early 1950s beneath the route of Jay W. Forrester, SM ’45, a professor at MIT Sloan.

Amongst different Whirlwind-related objects, the museum prominently shows one 4K core reminiscence unit. “It’s an enormous machine, standing taller than I’m,” Nuñez says, but in the present day’s cell telephones usually have roughly one million occasions extra reminiscence. “To face subsequent to this object is to comprehend that human arms needed to tie all these wires. People had been concerned in all these innovations.”

LIGO prototype

Developed by Professor Emeritus Rainer Weiss ’55, PhD ’62, and his college students, this 1970s prototype led to the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), a large-scale physics experiment that was finally capable of detect the gravitational waves predicted by Einstein’s Normal Idea of Relativity. The work earned Weiss the 2017 Nobel Prize in physics.

“The experiments that LIGO was capable of facilitate really feel like magic to me, as a non-physicist,” Nuñez says. “Are you able to think about what it was wish to be there once they discovered it labored? What an incredible second for humanity!”


One in every of first social robots designed to simulate social interactions, Kismet was created within the 1990s by Cynthia Breazeal, SM ’93, ScD ’00, who’s now MIT’s dean for digital studying and head of the Private Robots Analysis Group on the MIT Media Lab. Initially managed by 15 totally different computer systems, Kismet employed 21 motors to create facial expressions and physique postures.

“I’ve quite a lot of affinity for that exact artifact,” says Nuñez, who studied with Breazeal on the Media Lab. “It’s such a charismatic object; it’s one of many museum’s Instagram moments.”


Developed by Julie Shah ’04, SM ’06, PhD ’11, IRGO is an interactive robotic that museum guests may help to coach by means of artificial-intelligence demonstrations. “Our guests are taking part in actual robotics analysis,” Nuñez says. “That’s such a uncommon and particular alternative.”

Right this moment Shah is the H.N. Slater Professor in Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT and head of the Interactive Robotics Group throughout the Laptop Science and Synthetic Intelligence Laboratory. She shares her ideas on AI in a close-by audio gallery. Different alumni featured in that gallery embrace Professor Rosalind Picard, SM ’86, ScD ’91, director of the Media Lab’s Affective Computing Analysis Group, and Media Lab PhD college students Matt Groh, SM ’19, and Pat Pataranutaporn, SM ’20.

“We wish to have the ability to expose the truth that there are communities of individuals behind every part you’re seeing,” Nuñez says.

Coded gaze

Guests to the AI gallery can see the masks utilized by Pleasure Buolamwini, SM ’17, PhD ’22, to current a white face—moderately than her personal Black one—to facial recognition software program, which she discovered was much less correct for folks with darkish pores and skin. In her doctoral thesis, Buolamwini coined the time period “coded gaze” to explain algorithmic bias.

“You’d assume this gallery can be all in regards to the expertise and the way it works, however the level right here is to get folks to consider the social implications of the sort of innovation that’s occurring on campus,” Nuñez says. “If our guests can come away with plenty of questions, we’ll have performed our job.”

Minecraft Institute of Expertise

When MIT college students had been despatched house firstly of the covid pandemic in 2020, Jeffery Yu ’22 launched a venture to construct a duplicate of MIT within the video-game platform Minecraft, and college students collaborated on it from world wide. A video tour of the extremely detailed “Minecraft Institute of Expertise” that resulted is on view on the museum. “They re-created MIT from their lived expertise of this particular place,” Nuñez says. “It’s such a good looking illustration. You get this sense of caprice and play—this particular MIT feeling comes by means of.”

Alums can go to the brand new museum—and convey a visitor—without cost utilizing the MIT ID for alumni.