Lighter, Stronger, Faster—The Herreshoff Legacy

Merit Award 2019

The Herreshoff Collection at MIT holds a vast resource of materials. The curatorial objective was to include all of the most important artifacts, drawings and models as well as life-size elements from the sailing world.

The allocation of space in order to create a coherent exhibition required a clear organizational strategy. The scope of the project also included: demolition, construction and casework drawings; overall layout, circulation and content planning; media and graphic design, technology collaboration, and creation of both large-scale display elements and tactile objects. The physical design and data-driven interfaces were carefully integrated as was the design of the graphic interface for access to the MIT Herreshoff archive. Other graphic work included the show logo, web presence, labels, diagrams and illustrations for hardware, interpretation and scale drawings.

Divided into four unique sections, the themes each necessitated a different type of presentation and delivery. Ranging from casework over six feet high to fragile drawings on parchment to full-size boat machinery and hardware, these archival materials required careful understanding in order to create the best methods of display.

The gallery space is a distinct destination of its own, but also serves as a passageway between the museum entry and other galleries. It is also used in the evening for events. These constraints on circulation and the configuration of open space added to the complexity of the work.

One of the museum’s prime goals was to present this exhibition in a way that was accessible and exciting for visitors who have never sailed nor have any maritime experience. The use of small, distinct areas within the larger whole allows people to understand each element of the discussion within the greater context.

The exhibition provides access to rarely seen artifacts, plans and marine art in ways that exceeds expectation. Interactive exhibits provide further insight into marine technologies and engineering in a way that has not been utilized before the museum as it personalizes the understanding of the design process and legacy to the unique interests of each visitor.

In order to bring home the curatorial objective of showing how minor changes in the Herreshoff boat designs could bring forth important advances in speed, the design team had to create materials that included scale models and other elements. The design brings together the authenticity of full-size actual boat construction with historical information via the use of models and illustrations that are easily understood, meeting a strong objective on the part of MIT to have students as well as the lay public follow even the more technical aspects of boat criteria and design.

The exhibit was successful, with visitors spending longer in this exhibition than they have in other shows in the same gallery and more visits from off campus than expected. In addition, the curatorial staff has been able to use this exhibit as part of outreach to assist with related fundraising. As part of a broader campus-wide initiative, the show has been able to spark related educational programing by MIT faculty and students.

Jury Comments: 

"Lighter, stronger, faster—the title says it all. And the design takes that spirit and deftly translates it into four dimensions. Every element of the design speaks of fluidity, movement, and directionality. In perfect harmony with these characteristics, the installation possesses an elegance borne of stripping it down to its barest essentials, thereby reflecting the most fundamental nature of its subject’s artistry and mastery of engineering."

"The restrained architectural elegance and simplicity of the space successfully ensconces the unique profile and sculptural beauty of Hereshoff’s revolutionary hull designs. The exhibit uses color and light, similar to a fine art gallery, to bring focus and study to the design of the vessels themselves and does not overwhelm the visitor with too much content or media."

Design Firms: 

Studio Joseph
Bluecadet
David Genco Inc.

Client: 

MIT Museum

Project Area: 

3,000 sq ft

Open Date: 

October 2018

Photo Credits: 

Thomas Loof, Bluecadet/Dan King (photography)

Design Team: 

Studio Joseph (exhibitions): Monica Coghlan (lead designer); José Luís Vidalon (senior designer); Derek Lee, Elnaz Rafati (designers)

David Genco Inc. (wayfinding): David Genco (principal)

Bluecadet (interactive experiences): Josh Goldblum (founder/CEO), Victoria Jones (senior producer), Kim Quinn (associate creative director)

Fabricators: 

South Side Design & Building (exhibition fabrication), Olsen Images, Inc. (graphics fabrication)

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