The Francis Russell Hart Nautical Collections are among the oldest marine technology collections in the United States. Established in 1922 as the Francis Russell Hart Nautical Museum, it merged with the MIT Museum in 1982. Since its inception more than eighty years ago, the collection has developed into one of the most important archives of nautical technology in America.
The collections include materials relating to the technical history of New England ship and small craft design and construction from the mid 19th through the mid 20th centuries, as told through ship and yacht plans, books, full-, half-, and towing-tank models, marine art, photographs, shipbuilding records, and experimental/test-bed surface/subsurface vehicles. The collection also documents contributions to this field by MIT’s Center for Ocean Engineering (formerly the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering).
The Hart Nautical Gallery is located on the MIT Campus in Building 5 at 55 Massachusetts Avenue, a 10-minute walk from the MIT Museum. It is most easily accessed through 77 Massachusetts Avenue.
John G. Alden Collection
Yacht designer John G. Alden began his design career as an apprentice with B. B. Crowninshield (MIT Class of 1889) before leaving in 1907 to start his own Boston design office. When this long-lived business closed in 2008, its extensive archives were gifted to the MIT Museum’s Hart Nautical Collections. Niels Helleberg, a designer at Alden since 1971, cataloged and scanned most of the collection and created the Alden website and database, which he transferred to MIT.
John B. Herreshoff and his brother Nathanael (MIT Class of 1870) formed the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company (HMCo.) in Bristol, Rhode Island, in 1878. HMCo. became the most famous yacht design and construction yard in American history until its closure in the late 1940s. The family of HMCo. General Manager Rudolph F. Haffenreffer (MIT Class of 1895) donated more than 14,000 plans and related design records to MIT in 1961.
George Owen Collection
George Owen graduated from MIT in 1894 and was a professor in the Institute’s Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering from 1915 to 1941. From 1901 until his death in 1959, he produced over 200 designs of yachts and commercial vessels. He was a highly successful designer of Universal Rule yachts and an expert yachtsman. More than 3,700 plans, photographs, and models are detailed in the MIT Museum’s definitive guide to the Owen Collection.