MIT Museum to relocate to Kendall Square and open in new location in 2021

Museum will occupy first three floors of 314 Main St. and have spiral structure

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The new MIT Museum that is set to open in Kendall Square in 2021 will feature The Exchange, a staircase that also functions as a space for gallery demonstrations, short talks, film screenings, and more. It will represent the significance of the museum as a "meeting ground for people from many different communities," the director of the MIT Museum said.

The MIT Museum will relocate to 314 Main Street in Kendall Square, between the MBTA Red Line Station and the Kendall Hotel. The new museum is projected to open to the public in late 2021.

314 Main Street is Site 5 of the Kendall Square Initiative, which consists of six sites being redeveloped for housing, retail, research and development, office, academic, and open space uses. The base building structure and core of the 17-floor building is currently under construction, according to Eric Höweler — a principal architect of the architectural firm in charge of redesigning the museum, Höweler + Yoon — in an email to The Tech.

The new museum will occupy part of the basement and ground floor, as well as all of the second and third floors. Other tenants of 314 Main Street will include the MIT Press Bookstore and the aerospace company Boeing, according to an article by MIT News in August 2018.

“The design and programming of [the new museum] has been approved and we are currently working on the documents that will be provided to the construction teams who will build the space,” Howeler wrote.

The 57,000-square-foot museum will be organized in a spiral which will begin on the ground floor and wrap around the second and third floors via two sets of spiral staircases. The staircase between the second and third floor, called “The Exchange,” will also serve as a space for gallery demonstrations, short talks, debates, film screenings, and more. It represents the significance of the museum as “a meeting ground for people from many different communities: MIT faculty and students, Kendall square entrepreneurs, Cambridge residents, visitors from around the world, and so on,” John Durant, director of the MIT Museum, said.

The new museum will have a 300 percent increase in space for programmatic, face-to-face activities with visitors. This includes two classrooms for educational workshops and a makerspace. “Museums are as important for what you do in them as for what you see in them. Especially here at MIT, a place whose motto is mens et manus, people come here not just to see things but to do things as well,” Durant said.

On the other hand, there will only be a modest increase in the amount of gallery space. “When you have large numbers of galleries, it becomes a burden because you have to renew them regularly,” Durant said. “We didn’t want so many galleries that renewing them would be an unrealistic burden.”

There are already plans for some of the galleries. The first gallery that visitors will encounter, which will be on top of the staircase connected to the second floor, is a synoptic gallery introducing MIT. The last gallery on the third floor will be a collections gallery “designed to showcase a representative cross-section of all the museum’s collections,” Durant said. It will also include digital access to collections not on display.

In between the first and last galleries, there will be galleries about life sciences and technology and computing and artificial intelligence.

According to Durant, MIT determined the capital cost of the museum to be $111 million. The museum has to raise half of that amount. In addition, around $15 million is needed for other costs, such as specialist digital technologies and new websites. Lastly, the museum would like to increase its endowment by $30 million in order to help fund running costs. “The museum [currently] costs more to operate than we can earn. The new museum will be even more expensive to operate because it will be larger,” Durant said.

Once the MIT Museum has moved into its new location in Kendall Square, it will retain 13,000 square feet of the original museum space for storage and management purposes. The museum is set to be completed in December 2020, but it will take six to seven months to fill it with galleries.