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Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Building 20 Documentation Project Images

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: AC-0473

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The collection contains photographs taken between April 1997 and March 1998 documenting the final days of MIT’s Building 20. No attempt was made to photograph every room, architectural feature, or denizen of Building 20. However, a conscientious effort to record a representative sample was made. Included are views of hallways, staircases, window frames, window boxes, beams, plumbing, wiring, unusual space modifications, offices, labs, classrooms, clubs, murals, and graffiti. Exterior views were taken from every direction, as well as from the roof and from elevated positions. All wings, courtyards, and entrances have been included. Some but not all students, faculty members, administrative staff, and blue collar workers are depicted.

The collection consists of 700 black and white negatives, 411 black and white 8" x 10" glossy prints, and 182 thirty-five millimeter color slides. In addition to the negatives, slides, and prints the collection includes contact sheets printed from the black and white negative strips.

Researchers interested in using the collection have several possible ways of locating a relevant image. The 411 black and white prints have been arranged by topic. Researchers who locate an image by searching through the prints will find a brief description and a number corresponding to the relevant black and white negative on the reverse side of the print. Requests for reproductions must include the negative's roll and frame number.

Researchers interested in knowing the exact month and year in which each image was taken should refer to the list of black and white rolls and shoot dates and the separate list of color slides and shoot dates

Each black and white print is succinctly identified in pencil on its reverse margin. These brief identifications give roll and frame numbers, location (name of department, lab, or hallway), and names of people depicted (if known). Fuller descriptions will be found in the negative list, arranged by roll and frame number.

Each color slide is identified briefly in pencil on the margin of its slide holder. Such information is limited to room number and slide number. Fuller descriptions will be found in the slide list, arranged in numerical order by slide.


  • Creation: 1997 - 1998


Access note

This collection is open.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.

Historical note

This collection is an intentionally created collection of images from a project on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to document Building 20, a rambling wood-frame structure located on the Vassar Street on the MIT campus. Building 20 was originally constructed in 1943 as a temporary home for war-related radar research during World War II. Although it was intended to be demolished six months after the end of the war, for over 50 years the complex housed and nurtured a number of MIT’s research and academic developments, including the Research Laboratory of Electronics and the Department of Linguistics.

In 1996 MIT announced that Building 20 was to be torn down in early 1998, to make room for a new building.The Ray and Maria Stata Building, building 32,opened in 2004, now occupies the space. As departments, offices and laboratories began to move out of the old building in 1997, funds were provided to support an archives project to deal with the records of the occupants. As part of the project, a photographer was hired to take photos illustrating the structure itself and how the space was used—to create a visual record of the architecture, facilities, ambiance, people, and activities in the last year of the building’s occupation. John Cook was the photographer, working with Institute Archives and Special Collections project archivists Nancy Heywood and Jeffrey Mifflin.

For further information about Building 20 see


1.5 Cubic Feet (4 manuscript boxes and 1 half manuscript box)

Language of Materials


Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.

Other Aids to the Collection

More detailed indexes to slides and negatives can be found in box 5 of this collection.

An alphabetical index by subject for the color slides as well as black and white negatives, should be useful for many research purposes. The alphabetical entries are followed by slide number or negative number, and a brief description of each image.

A numerical index by room number) for the color slides and black and white negatives. The room numbers (e.g., 20B-207) are followed by slide or negative numbers, subject (department, office, part of building, name of individual, etc.) and a brief description of each image.

Processing Information note

Some collection descriptions are based on legacy data and may be incomplete or contain inaccuracies. Description may change pending verification. Please contact the MIT Department of Distinctive Collections if you notice any errors or discrepancies.

Guide to the Images of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Building 20 Documentation Project
Ready For Review
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 August 25: Edited by Lana Mason for compliance with DACS single-level optimum requirements.

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US