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Museum stages Ultimate Hack Week as exhibit closes

The MIT Museum's Hall of Hacks exhibition chronicling the Institute's rich history of wit and wizardry will close on March 4 following a weeklong observance called Ultimate Hack Week (February 27-March 4).

The show will be dismantled in preparation for a new exhibition about MIT culture, Designing Minds: The Making of MIT Scientists and Engineers, which opens June 7. The museum has exhibited hacks almost continuously for the last 10 years.

During Ultimate Hack Week, members of the MIT community will be invited to cast their votes for the "ultimate" MIT hack, record their ideas for "the best MIT hack that never happened," and submit suggestions about where on campus to enshrine the famous police carhack. Their responses will be recorded in MIT Museum's upcoming volume on hacks -- third of a series.

From snow-making in the dormitories to turbojets in the lecture halls, the longstanding tradition of hacks at MIT have been ingenious and outrageous. Some of the most popular exhibits in the Hall of Hacks show include the weather balloon that exploded on the playing field of the 1982 Harvard-Yale football game, the original "Nerd Crossing" sign, and "No Knife," the hack satirizing a contemporary art exhibition. The Hall of Hacks also features a selection of campus cartoons, T-shirts, and a complete history of the "Smoot" measurements on the Harvard Bridge.

One of the most popular artifacts in the exhibition is the police car that MIT students placed on top of the Great Dome in May 1994 -- complete with flashing lights, lifelike policewoman and a half-eaten box of donuts. The exhibition also documents other hacks constructed atop the MIT dome, including a working phone booth, a dorm room allegedly set up to relieve overcrowding in the dormitories, and a life-size fiberglass cow which sits amidst the other artifacts with a mortarboard on its head.

After years of research, the MIT Museum has collected the most clever hacks and pranks in two volumes, The Journal of the Institute for Hacks, Pranks, and TomFoolery, now in its third printing, and its sequel, Is This the Way to Baker House? A third book is in the works. Call the MIT Museum Shop at x3-4462 for details, or order on line.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 28, 2001.

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